What is Applied Improv?

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Applied  Improv

Improv, or Improvisational Theater, is a pure form of collaboration, creativity, and communication as a performance art. Applied Improv is the adaptation and use of improv games, exercises and activities in any context other than performance. There is a wide range of contexts that improv is applied including healthcare, wellness, therapy, training, communication, soft skills, K-12 education, and many others. Further, Applied Improv has a practical and sometimes specific outcome other than fun or entertainment.

Higher Engagement

Applied Improv uses games and exercises as the scaffold for learning. In some cases the game itself is a metaphor for the learning, in others the the game is a framework used to actively interact with the content. The act of play keeps the players engaged with the material for a longer period. By keeping people engaged with material and concepts for a longer period, more learning can happen and it happens in an active way that increases retention and learning.


Applied improv is based in experiential learning and intrinsic to that process is reflection. Daudelin* (1996, 39) defines reflection saying, "Reflection is the process of stepping back from an experience to ponder, carefully and persistently, its meaning to the self through the development of inferences; learning is the creation of meaning from past or current events that serves as a guide for future behavior." After each game or exercise the reflection process allows for the participants to find the meaning, extract the learning, and find their own understanding of the material.

* Daudelin, M. W. 1996. Learning from experience through reflection. Organizational Dynamics 24(3): 36-48.

Fundamental Principles

Theatrical and applied improv activities teach a set of fundamental principles that serve as a great model for using these techniques in other applications. There are several fundamental principles that underlie improv and have applicability in improv, work, and life in general* (Madson, 2001).

  • [intlink id="1365" type="post"]Yes, And...[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="1381" type="post"]Make your partner(s) look good[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="1371" type="post"]Celebrate Failure (make mistakes boldly)[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="1371" type="post"]Taking survivable risks[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="1376" type="post"]Storytelling is Collaboration[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="1374" type="post"]Make and receive offers[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="1460" type="post"]Listen[/intlink]

* Madson, Patricia Ryan 2001. improv wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up

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