Tove Frykmer, MSc

PhD Student, Lund University, Sweden
Visiting Scholar, CCRM


Improvisation has long been seen as an important element in crisis management. We believe that it will be more important in the future due to factors such as the complexity and interdependence in our environment; i.e., factors that constantly change the environment in which crisis management takes place. In addition, crises are increasingly transboundary in nature, i.e. crossing geographical, jurisdictional and political borders, as well as consisting of a series of related events, rather than single incidents with a beginning and an end. The characteristics of transboundary crises will require that a larger number of actors be involved (often with different motivations – incentive alignment) and a call for joint efforts.

We wish to contribute to a more stringent and clear academic approach to how collectives address and cope with managerial problems during emergencies and crises, and how capabilities for this can be assessed and enhanced. As a means to do so, we wanted to explore whether the capability to improvise can help us to understand collective performance in crisis management, with help of existing research in the area.

With the help of a thorough scoping study, we analysed existing theories of improvisation in search of useful material to answer our research question. Even though there are many contributions focusing on improvisation in crisis situations, we noticed that few of them deal specifically with collective performance, and even fewer are based on empirical studies. Also, we found existing theories on improvisation lack the level of detail and transparency we needed in order to understand and study collective performance in crisis management. As a result, we searched for useful theories in other fields that could assist us in creating a framework on improvisation as a means to understand collective performance in crises. However, this turned out to be fruitless. In our study of improvisation during the handling of a major wildfire in Sweden in 2014, we also found the concept was often misunderstood and possibly interpreted as something else in reality.

Given these circumstances, we asked ourselves whether focusing on improvisation was the right way to go, or if we should look elsewhere for ideas on how to study collective performance in crisis situations. During the scoping study process, we came across material on problem solving, which seemed promising way to frame collective performance in crisis situations. Also, during the handling of the wildfire, we observed that understanding what the problem was in the initial phase seemed to be crucial for the outcome, something that we later investigated. As a consequence, our next step will be to explore the problem solving process in the initial phase of a crisis, to be able to improve our understanding of collective performance.

Ms. Frykmer is a doctoral student at the Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety at Lund University, Sweden. She is also affiliated with Lund University Centre for Risk Assessment and Management (LUCRAM). She holds a M.Sc. in Industrial Management and Engineering from Lund University, and worked for several years in the private sector as a logistics consultant and project manager. In this position, she travelled extensively, working in Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, China and Australia, as well as in Sweden. After some years in business, she decided to pursue a M.Sc. in Disaster Management from Copenhagen University, which eventually led her the position as a doctoral student at Lund University.

Her broader research area revolves around a project called “Adaptive Command & Control and Collaboration Within the Swedish Crisis Management,” of which she is part. Her focus is on cognitive aspects of decision-making, specifically improvisation and problem solving in disasters. Currently, she is working together with fellow researchers on a paper on improvisation and problem solving as a means to understand collective performance. While at UCB, Berkeley is to perform empirical research based on this paper to understand the problem solving process.


Meeting Recording (link coming soon)

Meeting Presentation (link coming soon)

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