When not to improvise

To improvise or not to improvise. What is the question?


I’m often surprised how people reject improvisational thinking and acting as if the only way to do it is always do it.
“You can’t always improvise!”
“Some things just need planning and strategy.”
Duh. Ofcourse. One of the things I hate most is improvising when you shouldn’t.

– Drive when you’re drunk. (Just say yes! Take risks!)
– Managing the bookkeeping. (Break the rules!)
– Organising an improvisation show. (Everything is possible! Even theatre without a stage or sound arrangements for a 400 pax audience. And hey, the artists are improvisers, right?)

There are tons of (levels of) situations that are not served by improvisation. What we mean by bringing improvisation in life and work is doing it in those situations where scripts are contraproductive. Or sad. Or poor. Or leading to boredom, stubbornness or even burn-out.
We often focus on how to improvise and the purposes of it. Let’s also pay more attention on WHEN to improvise.

I think people ask the wrong question in order to know when to improvise. They go: “Is there a script?” If there is one, they will follow it, even if improvising is a better option. And if the script is not adequate, they will complain about it for ages instead of doing something about it. The worst case is that there’s no script in a case where there should be one and they just improvise. With bad outcomes or waste of time as a result. I believe this often happens and it’s probably a main reason why improvisation still often goes with negative connotations in people’s heads.

So here’s another question:

Do I need a script?

With the word “script” used as any kind of rules on how to do something. It can be implicit, like an automatism, a habit or a cultural pattern. It can also be very explicit, like a guideline, a procedure or a protocol.