Beth teaching improv with health risk managers

Improv of the Month for Business Visionaries! January – “5 Things”

Improv of the Month Series

As discussed in the introduction to this series, integrating improv activities into your day to day work can be part of an organizational development effort to boost to morale, improve communication skills, build positive relationships and cultures. Please take a few minutes to review the introduction to learn more about setting up your process.

January Improv Activity – “5 Things”

How to Play

This activity can be played in a circle or in pairs.

Person A asks Person B to “Give me 5 things…” Person A completes this phrase with some sort of category like:

  • Give me 5 things that are green.
  • Give me 5 things that use gas.
  • Give me 5 things you keep in your attic.
  • Give me 5 things that you like about snow storms.
  • Give me 5 reasons for whistling while you work.

Person B responds e.g. to 5 things that are green:

  • Traffic lights.
  • Money.
  • String beans.
  • Sally’s eyes.
  • A green car.

Shana Merlin, improviser, teacher, and performer of Merlin Works demonstrates in this brief video!

Facilitation Tips

  • Starting out in pairs can feel safer to some people. Over the month, you might do it once in pairs and then graduate to a circle involving the whole team. From an organizational development perspective the experience with pairs will build those relationships while doing the activity in a circle will do so within the whole team.
  • Encourage starting out with simple requests and let the creative thinking gradually increase. Do this by instructing people to come up with categories that others will be successful with. Some people will be instantly comfortable with wacky categories, but could create anxiety in others. This kind of anxiety can lead to some people not sharing ideas with the group and may be part of what you fundamentally are seeking to change. Keep in mind, the idea isn’t to force everyone to have the same kind of creative thinking, rather to help people feel safe to connect with their own.
  • Invite responders to try not to think too much in answering and suggest that if they get stuck, they can make things up. (A green house, a green car, a green hat, a green martian, a green airplane would all be fine!)
  • Encourage the group or partners to be supportive of responses even if they are silly or even wrong. For instance, if Sally’s eyes are blue allow for the correction while keeping the game going. “How fun to learn about Sally’s eyes’, encourage brief applause, ‘nice job! Who’s next?” The idea is to have fun, be creative, get to know each other, not to be right!
  • Feel free to modify this to 3 Things. This will save a little time and be a little safer.
  • Consider doing this at the beginning of one meeting and closing another meeting.
  • Once you sense that people are more comfortable with the activity encourage or challenge the group to try more unusual categories. As practice with the activity and exposure to other people’s ideas, people will become more comfortable in thinking outside the box. This adds a whole new dimension of value to spending time with this activity.
  • Over the next few weeks consider initiating conversations at lunch or in the hall about what kinds of categories your team and their staff are coming up with.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open to how this shared experience is impacting the energy and morale in your workplace.
  • If you want, take a picture and write a short story about it. Maybe we’ll publish on the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab Blog. 🙂 Contact me for more info at!
Beth facilitating improv

There is a lot more to applied improv than meets the eye!

Contact Beth to learn more about teaching improv in healthcare or other businesses. And check out the exciting new methodology offered in Be Crazy workshops co-created by Liz Korabek-Emerson and Beth Boynton!

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