Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Spontaneity Development

Originally posted on September 21, 2013

There are needs for this skill set in a rapidly changing world. When once young people had been taught to simply follow directions, now they’re expected to not only think for themselves, but also innovate. We’ve discovered that the key to creativity is improvisation, and spontaneity development is improvisation training. For example, Justine Jones and Mary Ann Kelley are preparing a third activities book for publication by Meriwether, one that will be useful for building the kinds of skills that are being demanded in this 21st century world, where thinking and responding often needs to be “outside the box.”

Building on this, there’s a larger program here that needs support: People are afraid to improvise lest they make a mistake. Authors who write about warm-ups, experiential drama activities, and the like subtly affirm that this century is a good time to risk-take, to assert that most situations don’t require perfection, and in fact in complex systems, a cybernetic process is needed.

In working in highly complex systems, one cannot know precise right answers. It all keeps changing and the variables are too numerous and of so many types that they cannot be all anticipated. Instead, one begins to assume that certain tactics will turn out to be hugely or slightly mistaken. It cannot be avoided! It’s too complex. But you can build in that knowledge and build in also sub-routines for eliciting feedback and positively interpreting it so as to make corrections.

Really using cybernetic principles is really being open to feedback, or in theatre, “taking direction well.” This stands in direct contrast to getting all defensive. Knowing that complex systems now abound and that a strategy of improv builds in the aforementioned cybernetic process shifts the underlying paradigm. Trying to get it right the first time is released and energy shifts to creating systems that elicit feedback and correctly interpreting that feedback. Well, all this is wordy, but it’s all implied in a yes-and process.

I suspect then that spontaneity development is a major strategy for the 21st century, as “scientific method” was in the 19th century. This also spins off as “vitality enhancement” for seniors and a way to sell fun as not just slacking off and getting drunk and vegetating in front of the television set, but rather as a mode of engagement, flexible play, re-energizing.

This may need to be said many times by many people in many different ways, and repeated many times. Spontaneity exercises are not just for kids and it’s not about the techniques, but rather it’s about getting into the habit of seeking feedback and making ongoing corrections. Would that our politicians do likewise.

One Response to “Spontaneity Development”

  • David B. says:

    I agree! The important thing isn’t knowing The Answer, but knowing how to flow with the answers. I’ve said it before, but I credit my involvement with Creative Mayhem (a 1980s Palo Alto improv troupe made up of teenagers) as key in several of my successes.

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