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Edited by Geoffrey Wood and Mehmet Demirbag
Chapter 14: Managing Improvisational Practice: The Tension between Structure and Creative Difference
14 Managing improvisational practice: the tension between structure and creative difference Holly Patrick, Gail Greig and Nic Beech 14.1 INTRODUCTION Improvisation has traditionally been part of many creative practices including writing, music, art and drama. More recently it has been recognized as an important part of managerial practice and lessons have been drawn from jazz music in particular (Weick 1998) which conclude that management ought to be more flexible, exploratory and accepting of diversity (Montuouri 2003). However, improvisation does not entail a complete absence of structure but operates with ‘minimal structures’ (Kamoche and Cunha 2001) in which there are creative tensions between genre rules and the freedom of the performer. Indeed, improvisation can develop subgenre rules which result in performers adopting patterns of behaviour that may be less diverse than is immediately apparent. This can be observed in, for example, improvisational comedy where there are informal rules concerning the treatment of subjects such as race and gender, or in jazz where players develop identifiable styles of extemporization. Hence, improvisation is a creative practice (Townley et al. 2009) that occurs in a place of interaction between freedom–structure and diversity–consistency. Therefore, we would see improvisation as an example of bounded diversity and understanding it better can help develop our concept of the relationship between novel action and established ways of doing things. In this chapter we explore the practice of theatrical improvisation (Vera and Crossan 2004) which is relatively under-researched compared to musical improvisation (Kamoche et al. 2003). In particular...
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