There are hundreds if not thousands of improv games that can be applied in workplace learning and development programs. There are also many wonderful resources online to get lots of ideas! One incredible source is the Improv Encyclopedia, as well at the Thiagi Group for excellent facilitation exercises & strategies. I wanted to include some of my favorite games and adaptations here for easy access! Behind each of the games is an improv principle or tenet.
Tenets of Improvisation
If these tenets are applied in the workplace, it leads to greater collaboration, increased authentic and positive connection, and overall higher morale.
Say Yes, and… add positively to the situation
This is the rule of agreement which is about respecting the ideas of others. To practice this rule, we start by accepting the ideas that are presented and add a new piece of information to move the offered idea forward. The AND encourages participation and also gives responsibility to others to contribute so that everyone is adding to the discussion.
Stay present—evaluate later
Staying present to each moment and refraining from planning allows for even more options and choices to make themselves known. This tenet is all about listening. Listening to understand rather than respond. By staying in the moment, we are more likely to be able to take in new information and see it as an invitation to make a new choice, inspire new ideas, and make positive changes.
Make your partner look brilliant and Serve the Bigger Picture
This tenet asks us to see what we can do to support those around us. When performing, we refer to this rule as serving the platform (story or scene). In other words, the actor makes choices to support the story as opposed to only serving his or her own need to do something special. The partner in improvisation is the other actor- in work it is your colleague, boss, report, or even the company itself.
Find the joy in failure: Be willing to make mistakes
Tina Fey, says it perfectly: “There are no mistakes, only opportunities.” One of key components great leaders have is the willingness to risk failure. They put themselves on the line for their vision and ideas. Being willing to make mistakes leads to innovation, creativity, and more joy in the work place. By strengthening each member’s ability to admit when they make a mistake, it allows for a greater potential of finding a solution faster.