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“The heart of improvisation (play) is transformation” – Viola Spolin.


Play in organizations is only occasionally about toys, games, and funny hats. When improvisational play is embraced as an organizational mind-set, there is, quite literally, play in the system.

This kind of play is necessary in a culture that must respond to change or be able to shift rapidly to take advantage of a new opportunity. Just as flexible structures weather storms much better than those that were not designed to shift in strong winds, organizations with enough play in their system survive and thrive in rapidly changing conditions.

There is also solid evidence that individuals and work teams are most effective when they have the flexibility to choose how to approach a problem or implement their plan (Zuckerman, Rorac, Lathin, Smith, & Deci, 1978). Play in the organizational system allows for dynamic engagement.

We’ve all heard the saying “All work and no play”, but the opposite of play is not work. Here are four principles of improvisational play that can help individuals and organizations to respond effectively to emerging opportunities and to generate new approaches in challenging times.


The ability to respond to the unexpected and unplanned using available resources.

Improvisational Play is not ad-libbing, but rather using everything in the environment to come up with a solution. Whether you are a start up, non-profit or any organization that has to accomplish a lot with little resources and time, an increased capacity for improvisational play can increase your organizations ability to deal with organizational change and develop agile leaders.


A lively awareness of possibilities.

Play gives us a heightened sense of our surroundings, which is essential for problem solving. This heightening of the senses increases our ability to explore possibilities and identify solutions. Increased consciousness and a greater awareness of our surroundings can help individuals develop their emotional intelligence by simply slowing down enough to notice what they are feeling and how others are expressing themselves.


A belief in one’s own and other’s abilities.

We are not likely to have confidence in our ability to generate those possibilities or have room to explore them in a system where there is no play.

One of the “rules of improvisational play are to  “make your partner look good”.  This is accomplished through making strong choices, which we refer to as offers or gifts. When we create space for play we help alleviate the fear of having our ideas rejected. When we alleviate that fear we increase our confidence to make strong choices within the context of possibilities.


The ability to recognize an idea and build on it

Arguably, the most important pillar of improvisational play is “Yes! And…” When we say yes to the offers that others make we are recognizing those ideas. It’s not about blind agreement. It’s about honoring the offer or idea that was presented by recognizing the potential within. But in order to truly collaborate, we must build upon the offer. Saying “and” means we are putting skin in the game, that we are equally engaged in identifying solutions and exploring new opportunities.

Each one of these principles is connected. Each one these principles strengthen the other. Each one of these principles can help transform your organization by creating a space for play.

If you’d like to hear more about how Play Storming can help transform your organization by creating space for play, fill out the contact form or call us at 502-645-6887.

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