Improv Activities

Tenets of Improv

Innovation workshops use improv as an improvisational method to achieving cooperation.
Improv usually conjures up thoughts of comedic performances, but at its essence is being open to
receiving and building on other people’s ideas and creating something new together. A few
tenets you might want to use are:
• Let go of your agenda (be open to the group process)
• Listen in order to receive (“Yes,”)
• Build on what you receive (“and...”)
• Make your partner look brilliant (support each other)
• You can’t be wrong (go all the way to possibilities to discover feasible solutions)

Facilitators have found that starting sessions with improv gets participants physically and
mentally ready to focus on the work at hand. Interjecting improv exercises during the session is
also beneficial when members are getting stuck or tired with the process. These exercises can
also be used at the end of the sessions as a way to pull everyone back together and end on what is
inevitably laughter.

Improv: Circle Clap

A quick and simple exercise to establish connection and collaboration in the group.

Objective: Connect with your team.

Setup: Stand in a circle.

Demonstrate: We’re going to connect with the people next to us and send this clap around the
circle. We begin with one person turning to the person to their right, making eye contact, and
then both clapping at the same time. The person that received the clap then turns to the person to
their right and does the same thing, and so on until we pass a clap around the entire circle. After
one round, speed up the clap around the circle. Introduce concept of “woo hoo” when two people
don’t get a synchronized clap between them. Everyone in the circle raises their hands and yells
“woo hoo.” We are celebrating failure. You can’t be wrong.

Debrief: What was that like for you? Was it difficult to connect and synchronize your claps?
How did it feel when you skipped a beat and everyone yelled “woo hoo”?

Improv: Name Gestures

Introductions and group support sets the tone for group work ahead.

Objective: Build trust and support. Experience the impossibility of failure.

Setup: Stand in a circle. Shake it all out. Move around. Lead in some crazy sounds and

Demonstrate: Going around the circle, one at a time, each person will step into the center of the
circle, make a gesture, and say their name. Then the entire group will step into the circle and
repeat the name and gesture while the initial person watches. Then the person to their right does
their own gesture and so on until each person has stepped in, done a gesture, and watched the
group repeat what they did.

Tip: Let go of any planning what you’ll do on your turn. You can’t be wrong.

Debrief: How did that feel? What was it like to be supported and non-judged? How was it when
everyone did your gesture?

Reference: New Tools for Group Work, ISKME, Creative Commons license NC-SA