Below are a series of improv exercises sorted by what part of the design thinking process they are often used in conjunction with. Here is a downloadable version:
Table of Contents
Name and Gesture
Number of People: 2+
Description: Have your group stand in a circle. Ask participants to think of a short gesture that they will use when they share their names. Go around the circle, have people do show their gesture while saying their name. After each person, the group will repeat the name and the gesture. Once all gestures and names have been shared, select on participant to start. She will say her name and do her gesture, then pick someone else in the circle and say his name and do his gesture. This cycle of saying your own name and gesturing, then saying someone else’s name and doing his gesture continues for several rounds.
Three Things in Common
Number of People: 2+
Description: Have groups identify three interesting things that they have in common. To add an additional level of challenge, have groups identify commonalities without talking.
Takes Me To
Number of people: 3-5
Description: One participant starts by telling a story. Midway through the story, the participant stops on a noun, and points to another participant. The selected participant starts, “[noun] takes me to,” and tells a personal story related to a memory associated with that noun. The story continues until the storyteller stops at another noun, and passes the story to a new participant. The cycle of “[noun] takes me to” followed by a personal story continues for several rounds.
Number of People: 2
Description: The goal is for the pair to alternate counting 1-2-3-1-2-3... as fast as possible. For example, the first person says, “1”. The second person follows by saying “2.” Then the first person says, “3,” followed by the second saying “1.” Once the cycle is broken, or a mistake is made, the pair must start again at 1.
Variation: A particular number can be replaced with a gesture. For example, 2 can be replaced with a clap. So the cycle would be come: 1, clap 3, 1, clap, 3...
Number of People: 5-10
Description: Everyone stands in a circle. The goal is to recite the alphabet one person at a time, in no particular order. The catch is that if two (or more) people say the same letter at the same time, you have to start over from "A". It makes everyone be very aware of everyone else in the group. You have to really concentrate and look at everyone to make the decision of whether to chime in with the next letter.
Number of People: 10-25
Description: People pass around either a real or invisible ball making a sound as they pass the ball to someone in the circle, that person catches the ball making the same sound and then passes it to someone else making a different sound. You may introduce a second sound ball as the game progresses.
Variation: Instead of sounds, people have to say colors or some other category. The trick is that if one person repeats something that has already been said, that person is out.
Number of People: 15+
Description: People walk around the room briskly, without a particular direction. The leader tells people to identify one person (person A), without that person realizing. That person will be their worst enemy. Repeat, and the next identified person -B- will be their defender. When people resume walking this time, their goal is to be protected from their enemy by their defender, that is, to have the defender between them and their enemy at ALL times. When the leader yells freeze and asks how many people met the goal, and to point at the two selected people. Variation: person A is the damsel in distress and B is the evil mastermind. The goal is to be protecting A at all times
Variation: Person A is the Enemy, B is the the good person, and you are the defender. The goal is to be protecting A at all times by being in between A and B.
Rock Paper Scissors Tournament
(Taken from: http://www.facilitutor.com/gameDisplay.php?id=31)
Number of People: An even number
Description: Have your group break into pairs. Each pair plays Rock, paper, scissors in a 2 out of 3 format. The loser of the match becomes the opponent’s (the winner’s) "Biggest Fan". It's the job of the player that didn't win to cheer their champion on as he seeks out another opponent. Each time a player wins, he gets all the "fans" the losing player had. The game ends when one player has all the fans. This gets loud, rowdy, and is a ton of fun!
Also Known As: Biggest Fan
Define (more focused)
Number of People: 8-25
Description: In a circle, people say one word at a time in order; when the group feels the idea/sentence is complete they put their hands together and say "yes, yes, yessss"
Number of People: 2-4 people
Description: The purpose of this game is to have players build off of one another’s ideas. The game requires players to embrace the ideas offered by fellow players. The game starts with one player throwing out an idea. Subsequent players will respond with a “Yes, and” followed by an idea that adds to the previous player’s statement. For example:
Player 1: “Let’s go to the park today.”
Player 2: “Yes, and let’s bring some ice cream with us.”
Next Player: “Yes, and when we get there let’s go the jumpy house.”
Next Player: “Yes, and let’s all try to jump at the same time and see what happens...”
Variation: Before doing Yes And, do the exact same exercise but instead of saying “yes and” people must say “yes but.” Compare the two version as a group afterwards.
What Could Be Better Than That?
Number of People: 2
Description: For the first round one person will throw out any idea (e.g., let’s throw a party) to which the second person will ask, “What could be better than that” The first person then builds upon the first idea, and throws out a “better” idea, to which the second person again asks, “What could be better than that?” This cycle continues for a period of time, after which the partners switch roles; the question asker becomes the idea generator and vice versa.
Number of People: 2
Description: For the first round one person goes to an imaginary closet and pulls out an imaginary gift. She says what the gift is, and hands it over to her partner. The second person graciously accepts the gift, then goes to the imaginary closet and pulls out an imaginary gift. He says what the gift is, and hands it over to his partner. The gift exchange occurs through several rounds.
Variation: Rather than have the gift giver say the gift, have the receiver of the gift say what the gift is (e.g., Thank you for the ___________).
Number of people: 2
Description: Have your group break into paris. The first person begins with a lump of imaginary clay and silently shapes the clay to create a gift (any size or shape) for his partner. The second person graciously accepts the gift, then reshapes the clay to create a gift. The gift giving cycle continues for several rounds.
Number of people: 10-20
Description: One person begins a repetitive movement and a sound that goes along with it. The second person has to do a repetitive movement and sound that somehow connects to the first person. One by one, all participants add to the “machine”, creating a huge apparatus and symphony of sounds. You can make, for instance, a "peanut butter and jelly sandwich-making machine." The leader can slow the pace down or speed up until the machine disintegrates to end the activity.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.