Global Leaders Use Improv to Invite the Unexpected

Posted on November 5, 2014

Global Leaders Use Improv to Invite the Unexpected

Global Leaders Use Improv to Invite the Unexpected

On a daily basis, global leaders encounter situations with customers, with competitors, and with employees that they simply could not have foreseen based on their previous leadership experience. Important messages are often embedded in places where our eyes are not yet trained to look. According to Nobel Prize winner in Economics Daniel Kahnemann, our brains are wired to take decisions and judge situations based on what we have already observed (“What you see is all there is”), and fail to take into account the complexity of a situation, especially in an intercultural context. Typically, we expect it to mirror past experiences. This studied phenomenon of overconfidence leads to the neglect of relevant information or observations that we simply don’t expect.

 

In a recent workshop at the annual SIETAR (Society of Intercultural Education, Training and Research) conference, our Director of Global Learning & Development, Line Mørkbak, and Senior Director of Global Leadership Development at Mercy Corps, Kristin Hibler, challenged participants to invite the unexpected by guiding them through exercises that had their roots in improvisational theater, or “improv”. In improv, performances are created in the moment by the participants as the scenario unfolds in present time. Line and Kristin’s session, titled What’s the SCOPE: Enhancing Global Leadership through Improvisation, explored how improv can be used to enhance global leadership skills and capabilities. The foundation of this session is Aperian Global’s SCOPE Model, a global leadership competency framework made up of ten behaviors required to lead successfully in a complex global environment.

Global Leaders Use Improv to Invite the Unexpected

The improv exercise shown in the picture at the top of this page is called Lumberjack, one of several exercises the group engaged in. In Lumberjack, participants each go through the motion of being “chopped down as a tree” by other participants. Once “the tree” is falling, the tree/person signals through hand gestures and eye contact to someone else in the circle to take on the role of the tree next. In this way, the group enters an uncertain space where no one in the circle can anticipate when they might be selected to be next. They have to learn to go with the flow and be ready for something they can’t entirely plan for. This improvisational exercise is linked to the experience of global leaders who may rely too heavily on their expectations, which are based on previous experiences and cognitive bias. Improv teaches them an agility to be creative and comfortable when the unexpected arrives.

 

To Invite the Unexpected is to open oneself to discovering unfamiliar aspects of the local culture, market environment and diverse team members that are crucial to solving business problems.

Leaders who demonstrate this behavior inquire proactively about language, history, institutions, points of local pride, and existing strengths of a particular organization, in a way that builds bonds with counterparts. This approach also enables global leaders to identify and cultivate potential from unexpected sources.

Global Leaders Use Improv to Invite the Unexpected

If you are interested to learn more about how improvisational theater could help your global leadership skills, submit your email address and you will receive a free downloadable version of Line & Kristin’s presentation.

One last tip: Check your local theater schools for improv classes!

 

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