3 Ways to Promote Collaboration on the Fly at Work


As an Applied Improv Practitioner, I am constantly studying barriers and limitations that keep people and teams from performing at their optimal levels. The need for “teaming” today is greater than ever. The “on the fly” nature of improv with the “collaboration mindset” provides a way to practice it.

For me, this is like uncovering a new exercise that isolates a muscle I need to tone but didn’t know how. While improvisation does and can teach the benefits of building a strong team (ensemble) over time, it can also teach the benefits of plunging into the unknown with people you do not know that well as if you’ve known and trusted them your whole life.

The process of improvising, creating something with someone else in a moment, strengthens a muscle that allows for spontaneous creation without judgment or thought. And while there may be times at work to create, solve a problem or build something with someone you know well and have a bonded with, other times you just don’t have the luxury.

In today’s workplace, the other times are more prevalent, when you must work with someone you may not know from a bar of soap, but the work still needs to get done. Either way, the ability to collaborate on the fly, bridges the gap between the speed of change in workplaces today and the organizational culture needed to support it.

How advantageous would the skill of "teaming" be in your work today? We’ve spent a lot of time talking about where the climate of organizations is today. Here are some ways you can begin promoting a collaborative, on the fly work culture:

  1. Create the Time and Space to Practice Adaptability and Thinking on Your Feet — By encouraging the practice of flexibility and making space for unstructured activities where people can fruitfully and inclusively exchange ideas, you begin to stretch the muscles of jumping in without hesitation. Have an “Idea Happy Hour” where people can express their craziest ideas without rules or structure. The more people learn to jump without hesitation or thought the easier collaborating on fly will be.

  2. Promote a Culture of a All of Us is Better than One of Us — Teams that recognize that nothing in business is a solo act and inclusive mindsets capitalizing on diversity of thought and talent is the key to innovation and creativity will be less likely to overthink a critical moment when there is a job to do.

  3. Promote Risk Taking — Teaming is a verb, an action that occurs quickly and without planning, there is a chance that mistakes and imperfection may happen. Cultures that promote risk taking are more likely to trust the process and go all in without judgment or fear of failure. Fear can paralyze progress and today’s climate cannot afford to stand still.