Improving Your Creative Process Through Improv

It’s 3 p.m. on a Thursday and your creative director has just told you that the client needs new ideas by the end of the day tomorrow. The ideas have to be good and thought-provoking, and - oh yeah - funny, too. 

This happens to creatives all the time. In fact, it happened to me just the other day. When a rush job like this happens it can feel overwhelming and daunting to come up with ideas under a time crunch. And trying to be funny on command, well, it’s virtually impossible – unless you’re Ellen. I mean, come on, we’re creatives, not comedians. So, how do we create great ideas in a short amount of time? One way: Improv. 

Here are two reasons why including improv in your concepting sessions can help you come up with more creative solutions to your team’s toughest problems. 

Improv Hones Your Listening Skills 

Becoming a great listener starts with being able to catch non-verbal and verbal cues about how our clients and our co-workers think and feel. When we miss these cues, misunderstandings can arise and feelings of not being heard can occur. And let’s face it, no one wants that to happen. With improv, you and your team have to work together, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues, thus making your listening skills that much sharper. This technique is called active listening, listening without judgment and allowing yourself to be in the moment with your team rather than in your own head. 


Creative Team BrainstormingA creative team all working together 

Improv Builds Trust Within Your Team 

Improv also builds trust within your team, giving each member of your group the feeling that they can share ideas in a safe space without feeling judged. This criticism-free space allows great ideas to come to the surface because they’re not suffocated by worrying about what others may think or say. 

If your team is feeling shy about doing improv in front of the group, divide your team into pairs and ask them to write down the scenarios and dialogue that feels right for the project and client ask. 

Another way to warm your team up to the idea of standing up in front of the group is to try to do word association games first. Have everyone stand in a circle and have one person say a word. Then, allow each person a chance to build off that word by saying the first word that comes to their mind. For example, if someone says the word “cat” what’s the first word you think of? Whatever it is, say it. Exercises like this can help break the ice with your group. 

When to use this technique: 

Improv is a great technique to use when trying to develop video content for social media, TV, pre-roll as well as radio. 

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How it works: 

STEP 1: State the goal of your improv session 

Before you begin, make sure everyone understands the goal of the improv session. State the problem you need to solve and the end goal you’re trying to achieve. It’s also important to talk about who you’re trying to talk to, their wants and needs and demographics. 

STEP 2: Embracing The “Yes And” Method 

The “Yes And” Method is the key to a great improv session. Saying “yes and” when improving doesn’t discount your partner’s ideas, instead it builds off them, includes them and helps keep the dialogue going. The goal is to say “yes and” to everyone’s ideas - write them down - make notes on what’s great about the ideas - and then build off of it by shifting the idea just a little. Allow the ideas to shift and morph into new ideas. And while all of this is going on, take notes so that you can remember them later. After your session is completed allow the ideas to settle for a day. Then, come back as a group to weed out which ideas were good and which ideas were great. 

Interested in learning more about improving your creative process? Give us a call. We’d love to talk. 

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Rachel Wilson
Written by Rachel Wilson
Rachel is a strategic copywriter with a knack for telling brand stories that get people talking, sharing, tweeting and loving the brands she writes for like New Orleans Office of Tourism.

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