Tales of the unexpected: Discussing improvisational learning

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Management Learning, 2015, 46 (5), pp. 511 - 529
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© 2014, © The Author(s) 2014. Improvisation has been treated largely as if it were a conceptual monolith: all improvisations are similar. We challenge this theorizing by distinguishing forms of improvisation in organizations (semi-structured, episodic, subversive, resistive) and by exploring ways in which these forms interrelate in improvisational sequences. Improvisation is not just something individuals do; it is a learned capacity that organizations can manage. We introduce the dimension of improvisational formality and informality, adding a political dimension to the study of the topic. By combining forms in process sequences, we organize the existing literature under a systematic perspective facilitating theory development via an integrative understanding of how improvisation produces learning.
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