Distributed improvisation: a systems perspective of improvisation ‘epics’ by led outdoor activity leaders

Margaret J. Trotter, Paul M. Salmon, Natassia Goode, Michael G. Lenné

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Improvisation represents the spontaneous and real-time conception and execution of a novel response to an unanticipated situation. In order to benefit from the positive safety potential of this phenomenon, it is necessary to understand what influences its appropriateness and effectiveness. This study has applied the system-based methodology Impromaps to analysing accounts of improvisation aimed at mitigating adverse safety outcomes. These accounts were obtained from led outdoor activity (LOA) leaders through critical decision method interviews. Influencing factors and interactions have been identified across all system levels. The factors most influential to leaders’ ability to improvise are ‘Policy, procedures and rules’, ‘Organisation culture’, ‘Training’, ‘Role responsibilities’, ‘Communication/instruction/demonstration’, ‘Situation awareness’, ‘Leader experience’, ‘Mental simulation’, ‘Equipment, clothing & PPE’ and ‘Terrain/physical environment’. To enhance the likelihood of effective, appropriate improvisation, LOA providers are recommended to focus on higher level factors over which they are able to exert greater control. Practitioner Summary: To enhance resilience in safety-critical situations, organisations need to understand what influences appropriate, effective improvisation. To elucidate this, the Impromaps methodology is applied to in-depth interview data. The Impromap affords a graphical depiction of the influencing factors and interactions across the system, providing a basis for the development of interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-312
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Accimap
  • Improvisation
  • led outdoor activities
  • resilience
  • sociotechnical systems

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