Art of Hosting and Applied Improvisation

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

There are so many ways to work with groups, build teams, and develop leadership. As a facilitator or trainer, how do you choose among them? Two practices we make use of in our consulting work are Art of Hosting and Applied Improvisation.

What is Art of Hosting?

Art of Hosting is a set of participatory facilitation practices and principles used to foster meaningful conversation and collective intelligence. Some of the methodologies used include World Café, Open Space, Circle Practice, and ProAction Café.

Participants looking at conversational offerings during an Open Space session with Occupy Wall Street

Participants looking at conversational offerings during an Open Space session with Occupy Wall Street

What is Applied Improvisation?

Applied Improvisation involves using interactive activities and exercises, often derived from the world of theater improvisation, for the purpose of developing skills in presentation, thinking on your feet, and working collaboratively.

Human Knot Activity with participants at a Board of Directors retreat

Human Knot Activity with participants at a Board of Directors retreat

Sometimes, when I’m participating in an Art of Hosting conversation, I get antsy and I want the pace to move more quickly. What would happen if our talking piece was a ball and we were standing in a circle and throwing it to each other like a hot potato while we discussed subjects of importance?

Sometimes, when I’m being led through Applied Improvisation activities, I feel like I don’t have a moment to think or delve deeper in a particular subject. What if while we were freezing into strange shapes we were also discussing a question that was important and meaningful to us?

There is much that each practice can learn from the other in terms of their differences. Here are a few….

A meeting agenda that includes both Art of Hosting and Applied Improvisation practices

A meeting agenda that includes both Art of Hosting and Applied Improvisation

Sense of time and energy. When you are engaged in an Art of Hosting conversation, you may feel like time has sloooowed down. There may be long pauses of silence. People speak with intention, and the conversational pace may be mediated by a “talking piece” held by the person who wishes to speak. With Applied Improvisation, time can feel very fast. You have to think on your feet, solve problems quickly, and keep moving. Energy is high, and speedy idea generation is key.

Locus of activity. Art of Hosting conversations happen among people sitting together. Applied Improvisation makes use of the full body. Art of Hosting conversations occur in mid-level vocal tones. Applied Improvisation makes use of a full range of human-produced sound: yelps, whispers, growls, howls, and of course the speaking voice.

Relationship to complexity. Embracing the complexity of group and organizational dynamics is at the center of Art of Hosting practices. There is a high level of comfort with not knowing what will emerge, and Art of Hosting borrows from and has developed various frameworks (e.g. Theory U, Cynefin, Chaordic Stepping Stones.) While Applied Improvisation activities are naturally based on not knowing what will happen next, the practice does not have an overt analysis of complexity within group processes.

Organizational application. Art of Hosting conversations are direct applications of organizational change and development. The conversations yield new insights, decisions, and directions that can be immediately applied. Applied Improvisation activities are most useful when a skilled debrief occurs that helps participants develop insights that they can apply to their work at a later time.

 

 

 


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