In this article, stringing together some obersvations about Louis CK and Mary Halvorson, Seth Colter Walls touches on the wellspring of collaboration.
He writes a little of the play that replaces rehearsal for true improvisers, of finding outlets of artistic practice where
“no one person is responsible for all the tunes–if tunes are even the order of the day. Such groups aren’t the ones that players use as reputational tent-poles; they’re the ones that successful artists keep going in order to keep the channel for new sounds open. It’s the jazz-world equivalent of Zach Galifianakis’s avant-chat Web-show “Between Two Ferns,” the sort of thing that happens in the background of an otherwise thriving career.”
Facilitation or Hosting practice is improvisation too. Every time I work with a group I go in as a jazz musician, with a set list of “tunes” to play, which in group work as in music is simply a way to divide time into portions that carry and enable a narrative to unfold. Sometimes the unfolding narrative necessitates that we completely change the tunes we were planning on playing. Just last week for example, the group we were working with had come through some hard work rather earlier than we imagined, causing us to jettison our entire design for something that could take them onward from this new place.
So where do you learn how to do this? When I wrote recently on disruption, I talked about how learning how to deal with that is a capacity that serves marvelously in the world. In some ways for those of us who work with groups for a living, we are lucky to have a world that goes according to its own plan. You don’t need to work hard to seek out places where things change faster than you can account for them. It may be driving in traffic, walking in a busy street, participating in sports or music or dancing, socializing and playing in groups. All of these are training grounds where you can practice sensing and changing the plan, where you can try new ways of unleashing groups intelligence as a leaders, as a follower, as a bystander, as a participant. You can try and fail without any dire consequences affecting your bottom line.
In short, see your social life as practice, and your capacity to work with groups will be richer.