Inspired by Keith Johnstone’s Impro – Improvisation and the Theatre
, Tom Critchlow explores the analogies between the improv actor and the consultant in
- The Office is a Theatre for Work
- Optimism as an Operating System
- Generative Strategy
- Status Switching
- The Contrary Consultant
In the first post, Critchlow discusses the challenges associated with working as a consultant compared to somebody on staff. He suggests that the consultant is akin to an improv actor, forced to find ways to fit in at every opportunity. A part of this is associated with spreading ideas informally through the use of the client’s language, defending ideas not points and focusing on outcomes not debates.
In the second post, Critchlow explores the first challenge, to be a pleasure to work with. This comes in a number of ways, including providing routine solutions, balancing between front and back-stage, and creating a level of optimism.
I love this quote: “a problem is a point between two complex systems”
So, to reframe our initial statement about problems – the key when engaging clients is not to hunt for problems but to hunt for systems. (source)
In the third post, Critchlow talks about the use of the co-creation process to build on top of the ideas of others. This all comes back to capacity building, rather than problem solving.
A useful strategy is to interrupt routines from within.
the better way to interrupt routines is via a thorough understanding of existing workflows, processes and routines I’m reminded of the phrase amatuers talk strategy, experts talk logistics here. Most new capacities relate to an existing routine either directly or indirectly and the job of the consultant is to map the organization effectively to understand where and how we can interrupt to build new routines.(source)
In the forth post, Critchlow discusses the difference between topology and topography within an organisation. This includes the different forms of localised power, whether it be decision makers, gatekeepers and makers. The consultant exists outside of this.
I like to imagine the consultant as a quantum structure on top of a classical map (the org chart). While the map is fixed and tangible, the quantum structure behaves strangely and has bizarre properties like non-locality. This non-locality of the consultant brings with it an uncertainty with regards to power structures.(source)
Instead a consultant engages in fast status switching.
In the fifth post, Critchlow unpacks the power of the fool. He reflects on how you respond to a clients answers, the fine line of speaking truth to power and engaging in the disruptive act of fitting in.
It needs to be noted, playing the fool is about generative destruction not defensive destruction.
I found this a really useful series in thinking about how I work with different schools, adjusting to each as I go.