What is applied improvisation, anyways?
Since the beginning of humanity, applied improvisation has been used to help people, to collaborate, to understand what is happening around them and to cope with daily life. This rapidly growing concept and industry is now a field of academic research, business training, therapy, and education form. Here at The Unscripted Project, we use applied improvisation to empower teachers to bring improv into their classrooms and to equip students with the tools to build personal and professional success.
Applied Improvisation can be defined as:
the application of improvisational methods in various fields like consulting, facilitating (workshops, team trainings, meetings, conferences …), teaching, coaching, researching, generating or evolving ideas and designs, theatrical training and playing, medical and therapeutic settings or in social work.
Practitioners of applied improvisation facilitate workshops, for individuals or organizations, introducing them to these principles, tools, etc. via solo, paired or group exercises, activities and games.
In the field of psychotherapy, some therapists believe improv can be an effective complement to therapy because of the way it mirrors the patient/therapist dynamic. Both improv and applied psychology practices aim to increase personal awareness, interpersonal attentiveness, and trust. The relationship among members of an improv ensemble hinges on trust, as does the relationship between therapist and patient. A key tenet of therapy is the guarantee that the therapist will not judge the client for what he or she says. Similarly, improv’s “yes, and” concept is built on the implicit promise that no idea will be shot down. Performing improv also functions as informal exposure therapy for people who struggle with social anxiety or fear speaking in front of crowds. By putting people in situations that provoke their anxiety, they learn to combat, and help enhance their ability and desire to take risks.
Applied improvisation is also used in corporate training and development. Rather than being told what’s important, participants experience it, which makes it easier to learn how to actually live it. Participants do not just talk and listen to the importance of the skills they are learning, but they get to practice them, so they can be more effective immediately. Failure is a key part of any learning experience, because it is how we learn to make adjustments and determine what works and what does not work. Applied improv provides a safe environment for the participants to try new things and to fail in a low stakes environment. Applied improv creates a positive shared experience that helps build the relationships of the people in the room and the psychological safety of the team. In addition, applied improv is fun. People become more invested in things they find enjoyable and with exercises that are created to be entertaining, team members create authentic moments with the other participants.
Applied improv is taking concepts, ideas, and techniques from the world of improvisation and applying them to business, relationships, and life. It is effective, experiential learning that inspires, educates, and entertains. Applied improv is how we train valuable business skills such as communication, collaboration, innovation, problem-solving, and leadership. It is also how we instill a culture of growth mindset, build psychological safety, and embrace authentic leadership.
Simply put, applied improvisation is how we learn to be more effective at what we do in life.