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Improv Foresight

Quotes from Miguel Pina e Cunha, Stewart R. Clegg, Ken Kamoche in their paper Improvisation as "real time foresight", Futures 44 (2012), pages 265–272

The concept of improvisation, while now recognized in organization studies, has been neglected in strategy studies. * page 1

Traditional foresight consisted of the planning/acting sequence, while improvisation conjoins planning and action. In this sense strategic analysis and strategic action is an ongoing process rather than a discrete activity taking place in specific moments. Improvisation facilitates adaptation and translates alertness into action. In fact, being alert is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for entrepreneurial action to take place. The ability to take fast action, even without the benefit of plans and with the available resources, i.e. through bricolage, may be an important source of competitive advantage in high speed environments. * page 4

Improvisation, on the contrary, is an ecological practice, i.e., one that values the specific environments in which it takes place. It involves fast and intuitive action, knowledge of what’s local and situational, of history and of context, rather than rationally planned and well documented abstract analysis. Improvisation may actually rest upon massive volumes of information treated by practical experimenters at every level but it is nevertheless local and situated activity, a process of trial and error * page 4

Regardless of the quality of organizational forecasts, there is space for surprise to result from emergence * page 4

In a world full of surprises the capacity to react must be considered a vital capability for the competitive capacity of an organization. * page 4

The neglect of improvisation in organization and strategy studies may be a consequence of the Western ontological privileging of explanation over action [48], whereas improvisation is about acting in context. In philosophical terms, it requires phronesis rather than theoria, wisdom in the moment rather than reflection beforehand * page 4

Rather than being the result of analysis and implementation of a carefully crafted plan, strategy is a collective process that creates action plans that do not assume that a particular input will produce a specific output and that are open to changes resulting from real time challenges. * page 5

Since fast-changing environments differ significantly from stable ones, how can they be managed? Several answers may be advanced. Diverse suggestions have been proposed, including the construction and maintenance of sensory and intelligence systems, the search for creative destruction, and the cultivation of connections. These suggestions aim to increase an organization’s resilience and its capacity to deal with the unexpected. To be able to implement the above principles, organizations need to establish a strategic vision and to decentralize decision making in order to create an infrastructure where improvisation can take place, informed by people ‘‘at the spot’’. Hayek argued that the ultimate decisions must be left to people who ‘‘are familiar with these circumstances, who know directly of the relevant changes and of the resources immediately available to meet them“ * page 5

The impetus for improvisation can also derive not merely from intuition and creativity but also from institutional pressures which become sources of crises and opportunities * page 5

Others have argued that the perception of the importance of events is a significant trigger of improvised action by people on the spot: when people perceive an event as important and requiring fast action, they are more motivated to take immediate action, i.e. to improvise, thus denoting the importance of time as a fundamental ingredient of improvisation. The way in which organizational issues are framed and interpreted may thus be linked with the decision to improvise or to ‘‘empower’’ people so that they can analyze and decide. The creation of enabling rules may also facilitate improvisational action: these rules support individual autonomy within the context of a shared purpose. Improvisation is thus more likely to occur in organizations that value autonomy, variation and a shared purpose. * page 5-6

Strategic improvisation, in fact, may be a skill that crosses disciplinary boundaries and articulates attention, action, and context. * page 6

Organizations whose members are willing and able to detect and respond to opportunities because they are empowered to do so may make better use of their improvisational capabilities, consistent with the suggestions that improvisation is about conscious choices people make, rather than random behavior, and that it entails the paradoxical capacity of preparedness for spontaneity * page 6

Organizations should be viewed as entities in perpetual flux rather than the stable reifications portrayed by structural approaches. To plunge into change, they should combine sensemaking with sensebreaking, the fine-tuning of current capabilities with the exploration of alternative futures, especially when these are expressed only through weak signals or a minor presence * page 6

future_fabulators/improv_foresight.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/19 07:43 by nik