Practicing to perform


March 22nd, 2012

Those of us who have seen an improv group perform are sometimes in awe of the skills and teamwork a group of players can demonstrate when performing – in front of a paying audience, and with no script. ┬áIt’s no secret that they can do this because of the way they approach a performance, the rules that create a platform for what they do, and their willingness to practice together.

Most of us are also familiar with sporting teams. Whether successful or not in terms of winning, these teams also operate from a basis of rules and practice. They can at least play the game, even when pitted against a team that can play better.

Then we see groups and teams in organisations sometimes struggle to work together. There may be rules and structures and guidelines that support what they do (and sometimes hinder). The missing element may be practicing together.

And there’s also individual pursuits: yoga, music, tennis, juggling, driving, karate, weights, painting – just about anything I can think of requires some sort of practice, whether that be to build skills, to build confidence, to develop muscle memory, to be able to automatically jump into the task.

Yet some work seems to be different. A one- or two- or five-day course and you’re trained in something. Back at work there may be little opportunity to practice newly-learned or even long-held skills. There’s the real work to be done, pressure to perform, meetings to attend, deadlines to meet. Where is the practice that supports work skills, especially the practice that underpins skills that are highly sought after and rewarded? Skills of leadership, of communication, of teamwork, and personal interaction. Skills of participation, of awareness, of knowledge transfer? Is there space at work to practice, to do activities that hone these skills so as when they are needed it’s innate?

Where is the equivalent of the gym or the rehearsal studio at work?

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