When you first begin to teach in the public school system, they tell you about systems you should have in place. That there should be a system for seating, a system for classroom management, a system for conflict resolution, and a system for teaching. Don't get me wrong, I like some systems. Systems are necessary in order to get things done. An ordered approach is vital to the successful completion of almost any task I can think of, but my love for systems ends there.
The difficulty with systems is that they encourage group-think. Which is great if there's a fire, but insufficient when faced with an emotional/human problem. Kids are not tasks to be completed, they are human beings and, as such, are too complex and unpredictable to be reduced to a bulleted "to-do" list. You can't apply a system to every kid and have it work every time;there are just to many variables. Some kids don't eat breakfast, some eat sugar for breakfast, some dodge a punch first thing every morning, some aren't so lucky. You can rattle on as long as you want about efficacy and best practices, but the bottom line is, you have to be a human being first and deal with what's happening in front of you, right now, in the moment. Systems are just not dynamic enough for that.
Of course, it's not just kids we're talking about here, it's all of us. People act the way they do for any number of reasons. Systems are just as fallible when it comes to dealings with your fellow adults as they are for the situations involving kids. The only real answer is to be present, listen, and then try to give what the situation calls for, and after that, be willing to improvise.
I think this not only holds true with people, but with materials as well. So often, I will do the round-peg/square-hole/must-follow-instructions dance, when, in actuality, I should be listening for what the project needs, what the materials are "asking" me to do.
So, the question of the day becomes: "Are there areas of your work/life on which you have imposed a system, where being present and improvising might actually work better? Is the systematic approach, in reality, holding a part of your creativity hostage?"
Let me know.