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Improvisation means anything without preparation, from the impromptu DAR or manufacture. In common parlance, improvisation also means the spontaneous practical use of creativity to solve problems that arise.

The world views of nature-adapted and archaic cultures, referred to as “ wild thinking ” in ethnology, were essentially based on improvisation, in which fragments of experience were combined into a “ mythically distorted whole”.

Word origin

The verb improvisieren was borrowed in the 18th century from the Italian improvviso , which arose from improvviso in the sense of unforeseen, unexpected . The Italian word is based on the Latin im-pro-visus as a form of negation and the Latin pro-videre as to predict . The German words vision and provision are related to this .

Improvisation in conversation

The ability to improvise is an important prerequisite for working as an entertainer or as a television presenter , as a performance only comes to life when you can react to the respective situation. A well-known figure in this field was Hans-Joachim Kulenkampff , who succeeded in stretching his television shows by hours without boring his audience.

The Mülheim jazz musician Helge Schneider became known for stage shows in which he recited improvised stories and songs. Free association and improvisation is the most important element of his work.

Improvisation in music

Improvisation is understood to be the form of musical performance by individuals or an interplay of several, whose tone material and sequence of sounds is created in the execution itself and has not been fixed in writing beforehand.

Improvisation in dance

Under the influence of improvisation in music, e.g. B. by John Cage , the dance form Contact Improvisation emerged in the early 1970s . Contact improvisation involves dancing without fixed forms and without predictable movements. The physical reflexes therefore play a special role. Contact improvisation events (in contrast to courses, for example) are called jams, derived from jam sessions .

Improvisation in the theater

Improvisation is a fundamental part of actor training. And it is often used in a production in order to be able to approach a play in its initial phase. In addition, there have always been and still are forms of theater that bring improvisation to the audience. Historically, these are above all the impromptu comedy and the commedia dell'arte . Improvisational theater has been experiencing a renaissance since the second third of the 20th century and is enjoying increasing popularity. Associated with this is a development in which improvisation is no longer viewed as a substitute for the missing higher-quality text: improvisational theater is developing into an independent form that can produce expression and content in a way that author theater cannot.

Improvisation in organizational theory

In the organization of business administration the term improvisation is used in connection with case-by-case, unplanned regulations. In connection with the learning organization in particular, however, there are now also approaches towards improvising organization or the conscious use of improvisation in management. The work of Karl E. Weick (Management), Kathleen M. Eisenhardt (Organization) and Patricia Shaw (Management and Organization) should be mentioned in particular . The improvising organization is essentially a special form of self-organization . It depends on a flexible handling of risk calculation procedures as well as on spontaneous reorganization possibilities of the organizational structures and highly personalizable IT systems.

At the center of every management approach and every organizational theory is the question of the structuring of communication processes. Improvisation considers the perspective on status developed by Keith Johnstone - for the organization this consideration was u. a. made by Lehner and Ötsch. But storytelling (method) is also an important element in developing an organization's ability to improvise (see also Patricia Shaw).

Applied improvisation uses exercises from the fund of improvisational theater to support organizational and personnel development.


  • Hans-Friedrich Bormann, Gabriele Brandstetter , Annemarie Matzke (eds.): Improvising. Paradoxes of the unpredictable. Art - Media - Practice . transcript, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1274-5 .
  • Christopher Dell : Principle of improvisation. Bookstore Walther König, Cologne 2002, ISBN 3-88375-605-9 .
  • Reinhard Gagel: Improvisation as a social art. Schott Verlag, Mainz 2010, ISBN 3-7957-0727-7 .
  • Theo Jörgensmann , Rolf-Dieter Weyer: Small ethics of improvisation: of essence, time and space, material and spontaneous form. Augemus Musikverlag, Bochum 1991, ISBN 3-924272-99-9 .
  • Karlheinz Essl , Jack Hauser : Improvisation on "Improvisation". In: D. Schweiger, M. Staudinger, N. Urbanek (eds.): Music science at its limits. Manfred Angerer on his 50th birthday. Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Vienna a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-631-51955-9 .
  • Simon Rose : The Lived Experience of Improvisation in Music, Learning and Life Intellect Ltd Publication, Chicago 2017, 9-781-783-20673-5.
  • Wolfgang Stark, David Vossebrecher, Christopher Dell, Holger Schmidhuber (Eds.): Improvisation and Organization. Patterns for the innovation of social systems . Transcript, Bielefeld 2017, ISBN 978-3-8376-2611-7 .
  • Marin Thomas Michka Herondart: La Grosse Bite de l'Improvisation , Paris 2019, ISBN 978-3-471-66553-4 .
Special areas of application

Web links

Commons : Improvisation  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Improvisation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Claude Lévi-Strauss: The wild thinking. Translation by Hans Naumann. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1968.
  2. Duden: dictionary of origin . Mannheim 2007, Lemma improvising.
  3. Christian Zentner: Mein Kampf . Ed .: Christian Zentner. List Hardcover, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-471-66553-6 , pp. 256 .