Developing Imitative, Reactive, and Generative Improvisation Skills For School Leaders
By Nick Kovalcik
By Nick Kovalcik
If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it is that there is no script that we can follow on a daily basis, particularly in leading a school. As a result, the basic need to be able to ‘improvise’ effectively and thoughtfully is crucial. Simulations provide an exceptional tool to develop better improvisation skills for leaders. With three different improvisation skills, imitative, reactive, and generative improvisation, our focus is to build on the generative skill, while providing a simulated, authentic experience, especially if done synchronously or at least debriefed. If the simulations are played synchronously, this allows participants to work through both the Imitative and Reactive, allowing them to experience what happens both from the simulation and in interaction with their peers to build the Generative skill.
Improvisation can seem incompatible with most mature school practices’ well-defined processes. Many professional development training programs concentrate on improving leadership or technical skills rather than helping workers become better improvisers, and hiring teams seldom test for improvisation skills. Improvisation, on the other hand, is important for organizational agility. Principals and teachers who are good at improvising will be able to guide their schools through emergencies and paradigm changes, as well as the other obstacles that challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic brings. Simulations are not only a great tool for development, but also for making hiring decisions based on how candidates handle challenging situations and improvise while playing a simulation.
Collaboration appears to be a better route to Generative Improvisation, which simulations can help with organically, particularly if a district encourages building leaders to use the simulations with their teams. While competition is different in K-12, it is likely still present and can manifest constructively in the team building and experience of playing simulations. Many leaders are focused on increasing student performance, grades, and other factors, so although it is not always perfect, it can be positive.
You’ll be better able to think more creatively and on your feet if you understand improvisation. Simulations can be a lighthearted, yet critical approach to learning, and who couldn’t use a little lightheartedness these days?
Mannucci, Pier Vittorio, et al. “Improvisation Takes Practice.” Harvard Business Review, 11 Mar. 2021, hbr.org/2021/03/improvisation-takes-practice.