Collaboration and Innovation: The Chaos of Change Doesn’t Have to Derail You! [Case Study]

Change can throw everything out of whack.

Even people.

Especially people.

Here’s a deep-dive into one company’s experience of how improvisational techniques were able to make collaboration a part of their culture.

The problem

The issue that came up within this company is one that is relevant for many organizations today.

In the past, whether a scientist, factory worker, sales person, or management, working hard and doing what you were told allowed you to have a long, steady career in the company.

For this particular organization, following orders was the standard.

But times changed and funding dried up for processes that were no longer viable.

These changes were essentially like a bomb going off for the employees.



The impact was great, emotions ran high and there was friction between management and employees.

The company needed help – and quickly!

The solution

The “change” resulted from management falling back to the “old” ways of doing things  –  giving direction and expecting people to follow those instructions without comment.

This mode of leadership was outdated and only exacerbated the problem.

The solution involved engaging in a five-part workshop to teach management improvisational behaviors and to get them to make collaboration an intrinsic part of the workplace culture.

Here’s what the workshop looked like and what it accomplished.

Part 1: The impetus for change

The senior management team – about 350 people – was divided into groups of 30 people.

Crucial to the outcome, the groups were always comprised of a mix of executives, distribution center leaders, science leaders and sales leaders.

Being used to control, it was initially difficult for these leaders to accept the importance of collaboration.

Role-play was used to show what it looks like to give up authority, and then those lessons were applied to the real-life situations the company was experiencing.

The managers quickly came to a realization: Once they gave others the trust and space to be a part of the solution, everything got better. Then, they were able to come up with creative answers.

Part 2: Implementing change management strategies

It was important that, following the workshop, the leadership implemented the new processes they had learned right away.

Then, 60 days after the workshop, there was a virtual reunion using video conferencing to follow up and check on progress.

The managers had the chance to share their concerns, questions and what was working. The leaders shared suggestions and advice.

The organization made one-on-one coaching and other resources available after the meeting to encourage managers to continue their journey of growth.

It was an eye-opener for many of the managers who were encouraged by the fact that other people were also experiencing struggles and successes while still making progress.

Part 3: Changing to innovation-mode

Accountability is a big part of the process.

After the video conference, the managers were instructed to make an internal cohort.

The leaders made a commitment to keep the learning going and making sure that the entire group was connecting to support each other, share ideas and advise each other on a monthly basis.

If someone started to fall into “control” mode, the others could help them get back into “collaborate” mode.

The result was new innovation for the company.

“Change is hard, but employing the elements of collaboration and improvisation can make all the difference. #improvtips”

Part 4: Evaluating change management

Four months after the workshop, an evaluation was done.

All the participants of the workshop evaluated themselves, their coworkers and managers.

Their employees were given the opportunity to rate their superiors on how well they were integrating collaboration into the everyday life of the company.

This made the employees feel like a real part of the team and encouraged them to do their best for the business because they felt like their managers were invested in them and cared about their ideas and opinions.

The bottom line

A company in crisis was able to turn their momentum completely around by integrating the principles of collaboration and improvisational techniques.

Instead of succumbing to the stressors of change, the organization was able to provide leaders with the tools they needed to successfully navigate a challenging time and come out the other side better.

Look for ways to collaborate with employees to find innovative solutions for challenges.

How has collaboration helped you as a leader?

This article is 100% written by a human named Karen Hough. She is the Founder & CEO of ImprovEdge, in the top 4% of women-owned businesses in the US, a 3-time Amazon bestselling author, Yale grad, wife and mom of three.