Improvisation Ideas for Fun 
Creative Thinking Problem Solving Activities...

Here are some improvisation ideas you might want to use for your next team building activity. Why? Because improvisation exercises can encourage innovative thinking and take interactivity to new heights.

As the video clips below demonstrate ...

But First, What is Improvisation?

Put simply, it’s an activity that revolves around performing without script or preparation.

Individuals learn the art of thinking on their feet and reacting to different stimuli.

It's all about spontaneity and taking people out of their comfort zones.

There’s a good reason the TV show ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ was such a rip-roaring success. It wasn't just funny and entertaining. The series gave a fascinating insight into how people handle the unexpected as a team.

improvisation ideas team building

mprovisation theatre includes everything from acting and singing to dancing, mime and reading.  There’s a strong comedy element involved. So it can be a lot of fun to do as a group.

And can be excellent for breaking down barriers in a lively, informal atmosphere.

(Photo courtesy of The Spontaneity Shop)

Some team building options are based around different improvisation exercises, rather than a theatre format.

But there’s much more to improv than conventional role playing exercises. Instead of being asked what they would do in a scripted situation, groups have to react to what’s happening in the moment.

People must be fully aware of their surroundings and listen to others.

Because of this, all improvisation exercises demand high levels of communication.

Here’s a clip to give you an idea of what’s involved in an improv workshop:

Activity Types

Let’s put it this way – you won’t want for choice! There are all sorts of different improvisation ideas that can teach skills specific to team building development.

Here are three examples:

Dialogue Games

These are great for teaching teams listening and communication skills. One such improvisation game is to limit the dialogue of at least one team member, while others participate by ‘judging’.

The long-running BBC radio series ‘Just a Minute’ is a brilliant example of this. There are four performers involved. They take turns to talk for one minute about any subject asked of them without a pre-prepared script. There must be no hesitation, deviation or repetition!

Other players have to listen and shout when they think the rules have been broken.

Scene-Based Activities

Improvisation ideas based around specific scenes are ideal for introducing the concept of change into a familiar setting. It could be anything from a daytime talk show to a wedding or a courtroom scene.

It’s best to select a recognisable scenario that every member of the group can easily relate to.

Then the team acts out something to do with the relevant scene.

Singing/Musical Activities

These are based around teams performing a musical number. It could be anything from rapping to singing out a scene in the style of a musical, opera or Motown band.

The options are literally endless. It’s also a very adaptable format. People can do duets, perform as a trio or quartet. Alternatively, it can be an activity in which the group has to sing en masse. This is an especially good way to encourage acceptance within a group.

Here’s a short clip of a singing game from the American version of Whose Line is it Anyway?

Short Improvisation Games

Improvisation games are especially good as warm-ups and icebreakers. There are all sorts of different types designed to develop listening, concentration, spontaneity and trust.

The ‘Yes’ game is a good place to start.

Get the whole group together for this one. When someone makes a suggestion, the others yell ‘Yes!’ and do it.

The Practicalities

Team building sessions involving improv can last an hour, a half day or an entire weekend. There are also one-day workshops to consider.

Improvisation ideas are ideal if you’re looking for activities that aren’t restricted by season, age or physical capabilities.

Anyone can learn to improvise. It just takes practice, a positive attitude and flexibility.

Planning & Running Your Own Session

To be honest, I’d recommend using a professional company to facilitate an improvisation session.

Unless you are experienced in implementing improvisation ideas and exercises, your workshop might fall a little flat.

Professionals will be able to create a positive environment that encourages participation from less extroverted members of your team. They are also likely to have experience in working with people from different cultures.

However, if you want to take the DIY approach, there are plenty of resources available.

An excellent place to start is this website which is stuffed with improvisation ideas. It has a huge resources section with links to heaps of other blogs, books and forums.

What’s more, all the content can be used completely free of charge!

Here are some factors you need to consider:

  • Venue – you need a space that allows people to move freely. You could of course get into the true dramatic spirit and use your local theatre.
  • Content – choose exercises that suit your particular business aims and team members. If you have people whose language skills are not strong (eg – English is not their first language), be sure to choose activities in which they can participate easily. 
  • Warm ups – make sure you warm up the group with short, fun improvisation games. This will help get your team receptive to the tone and style of a performance-based session.

Using a Professional Actor or Facilitator

The external route has one big bonus.

Professionals have plenty of knowhow and experience when it comes to teaching improvisation skills. They will also teach managers a thing or two about the role of improvisation in team building!

Professionals will:

  1. Design, plan and run the entire session for you
  2. Handle venue research and booking if required
  3. Suggest different improvisation ideas and explain what they can achieve
  4. Customise a workshop to suit your needs
  5. Steer the session in the direction you want it to go
  6. Host a mid-session feedback break. Groups get the chance to report on what they’ve learned so far, any difficulties they’ve experienced and how they think they are progressing.
  7. Handle the evaluation section at the end. This is a vital part of any teambuilding session. A well-run debrief reinforces what individuals have learned on their own and as part of a group. It also reminds them how they can use their newfound skills back at the office.

Costs vary widely for professionally run sessions, and depend on the size of the group and the experience of the facilitator.

You could be looking at anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Why Are Improvisation Ideas Good for Team Building?

Teams face all sorts of different challenges and situations in the workplace. The unexpected and unscripted has a habit of popping up and changing the whole ball game!

Improvisation exercises help teams deal with unusual circumstances as a unified force.

Here are just some of the possible team building benefits:

Understanding group behaviour – improvisation is an excellent indicator of positive and negative group behaviour. Do the players in each scene accept and embrace ideas and offers by others? Do they advance the scene using those ideas? Or engage in one-upmanship and challenge others?

Managing resistance to change – improvisation ideas are all about letting go of the preconceived. Individuals learn how to adapt to fresh situations in a positive environment.

High team performance– improvisation activities require intense communication and collaboration. They also teach all the skills people need to get along in a group situation. Teams that perform to a high standard connect in all sorts of situations, not just in the office.

Communication and trust – Teams have to learn to listen, share ideas and rely on each other.

what is improvisation theatre

Another benefit is that improvisation ideas can be easily customised. One of the best ways to adapt a session is to throw in a situation that’s similar to one groups may encounter at work.

However, this is improv! Put a twist in halfway through and see how teams react to being thrown a curved ball.

Maybe get the group to act out a scene whereby a normal team meeting is interrupted by the entrance of an unexpected guest?

Another way to customise a session is to use props. It could be anything from a tennis ball to a mop and bucket. Literally anything can be used. The props are used as tools for concentration, inspiration and creativity.

(Photo courtesy of The Spontaneity Shop, London)

Improv has much in common with business.

It requires teamwork and leadership. Change and challenges are to be expected. There’s a lot to achieve with limited time and resources.

Also, if you’re not having some fun along the way, there’s a vital element missing!

Successful teams and companies are flexible, innovative and able to make use of limited resources.

That’s what improvisation is all about.

For more team building ideas, see our index page of Corporate Team Building Activities.

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