The Improvisational Facilitator

Excerpt from Tips & Tools for the Art of Experiential Group Facilitation, Second Edition

One of the aspects of facilitation I most appreciate is the ongoing creative energy and adaptation that it both requires and inspires. I enjoy experiencing live music, of all genres,
for the same reasons. Musical improvisation fascinates and inspires me—that moment when a musician departs from the notes on the page, plunging into a thematically relevant, completely spontaneous composition in relation to communicating with the audience.

Successful improvisation is the hallmark of a dedicated and seasoned musician who is immersed in the recordings of his/her chosen genre, accumulating more notes, chords, progressions, and ways to combine them. Scientists believe that through constant practice, these processes get pushed down into the subconscious, and the performer is able to free-associate (Martinez, 2010). When artists, writers, musicians, or any kind of language learners achieve fluency, they can later draw upon and recombine structures and phrases to improvise.

I see improvisation as an essential part of facilitation. As facilitators continue to practice and immerse themselves in the language, theory, and research of their field; learn various activities and strategies from others; and observe all kinds of groups and experiences, they hone this ability to improvise, create, and adapt. Improvisation has a lot to do with this experience, but also attitude—a willingness to experiment, learn and try new things, collaborate with others, and truly dedicate oneself to the field. Most importantly, successful improvisation in facilitation requires paying close attention to the needs of the group and working off of the amazing material they have to offer.


Martinez, A. (2010) “The Improvisational Brain” SEED Online Magazine December 14, 2010. Retrieved June 1, 2016

Stanchfield (2016) Tips & Tools for the Art of Experiential Group Facilitation, Second Edition. Bethany, OK: Wood N Barnes Publishing.

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