Dr. Mary Tyszkiewicz (Dr. T.) is an innovation scholar who documents how small groups implement solutions in high-stakes events like accidents, emergencies and disasters. She has studied disaster survivors in the Philippines in 2013, disaster volunteers working in Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and Central American child migrants in short-term U.S. foster care in Texas in 2014-15. With social science research, she shows how small groups (16 or fewer people) who care and connect with each other find innovative solutions to urgent problems. She has discovered the 5-step Heroic Improvisation Cycle (Alert, Ready, Connect, Focus, Move), which describes abilities that small groups use to respond to high-stakes events. These abilities can be practiced with improv games in her Heroic Improvisation (HI) workshops. The improv games generate the feelings of high-stakes events, while practicing the small group abilities using low-stakes improv games. And it is fun!
Dr. T. has taught HI workshops to diverse groups of people like airline staff, child migrant caretakers, community emergency response teams, conference center staff, disaster innovators, disaster researchers, disaster survivors, disaster volunteers, emergency responders, indigenous tribes, homeless service providers, and school staff and university students in the U.S. and Philippines.
For 20 years, Dr. T. has prepared analysis for top decision makers in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She has taken all that knowledge post-9/11 to help everyone be more prepared for high-stakes events of any type. Her research is summarized in her forthcoming book, “Play for Real: How Small Groups Confidently Tackle High-Stakes Events.” She lives in Washington, DC and uses her Ph.D. education in Public Administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School everyday.