All the world may be a stage, but in an age when more and more of us are dependent on providing great experiences, people still struggle with the concept of work as theatre. One reason may be that many of us think of elaborate Broadway productions when we hear the word theatre.
Formal theatre productions where everything is timed and scripted are one form of theatre: Platform theatre. The other forms are Improv, Matching, and Street theatre. Most of the work we do is a combination of all four forms.
YOU already do Platform theatre. Each of us has some part of our work that is scripted and practiced. The lines we deliver or the actions we take are always the same. This is not all bad, especially when compliance or consistency is important and stability is the goal. The pre-flight FAA safety announcements are scripted so as not to leave out details.
In Platform theatre, the actors rehearse to get the timing right. This is not unlike how you may rehearse a formal presentation or record a signature greeting on your voice mail. When you get it right it doesn’t sound rehearsed or staged any more than it does when film actors make us forget they are acting.
Stage actors find a way to make it fresh for each audience night after night. Southwest flight attendants are famous for finding new ways to get us to listen to pre-flight announcements … we need to be as intentional when we are in our Platform mode.
YOU already do Street theatre. Street theatre may look like it improvisation but it is actually a chain of carefully rehearsed bits placed in a unique sequence to engage and even manipulate others. Each performance is audience-led with some bits left out and others thrown in to create value for those watching or listening.
Think of the sales pitch you may have done with a colleague. Depending on the response of the buyer, you gave one bit and then your colleague jumped in with another. After the first few minutes, it is totally dependent on both of you delivering well-known routines in a unique sequence. The individual contributions are determined moment to moment based on your customer’s responses.
If you watch an experienced waiter, you will see a variety of well-rehearsed routines that never get used in the same sequence over the course of an evening. Good waiters try out new bits, keeping those that work and dropping those that don’t.
Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore in The Experience Economy refer to this repertoire of smaller modules used dynamically to stage an experience as an example of mass customization. This dynamic re-mix or Street theatre is a powerful way to meet customer needs.
In our current economy, we are all challenged to continue to try to understand more of what it takes to stage a great experience. The key is to understand there is a place in our work for all of these forms. The richer the mix, the better the experience.