This is a partner activity that gets learners to practice the skill of being resilient in the face of failure. We often hear the phrase “celebrate mistakes,” but we rarely give people the chance to practice that skill. This is also a great game to get people connected and having fun.
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A Few of my Favorite Things is a game that challenges participants to say their favorite thing as fast as they can that fits in a prompted category. This activity is about spontaneity and speed, not about getting things perfect. It is about building energy, warming up the mind, getting to know one another, and casting aside the part of our brains that judge whether ideas are perfect.
This improv activity primes students to be attentive listeners. It challenges them to listen, observe, and absorb everything from tone of voice, to hand gestures, to the plot of a story. Finally, it shows how personal stories are a powerful tool to establish a connection between individuals. This can be used to prime students before they head into the empathy phase of a design cycle.
In this activity partners hand each other imaginary gifts, open them, and justify why they are the perfect gifts. This improv activity gets teammates to practice sharing control, being generous, and building on each other’s ideas.
This activity requires participants to step out in the middle of a circle in front of the entire group and simply say the words, “I am [their name], and I am here.” Sounds simple, but it actually takes a lot of courage.
I’m A Tree is a classic improv activity that teaches individuals how to build on the ideas of others to create a scene with three images. It is also useful as a way of connecting a group and warming up not only the mind but the body as well.
New Choice is a classic improv activity where participants in a scene are prompted to quickly change what they previously said when a facilitator offstage calls “new choice!” There are many variations for how to play this game… in pairs, in trios, in performance scenes… but the core of the activity always remains the same. Someone quickly thinks of a bunch of alternatives to what they previously said, and a facilitator chooses which option the story continues with.
Portkey is a storytelling activity that gets participants to share personal anecdotes from their life. This game serves many purposes, but perhaps its strongest asset is that it connects participants to one another. It is also great to use when teaching empathy in the design research phase. Portkey is an activity that gets learners into an empathetic, story-based mindset. It illustrates how even the simplest of stories can reveal someone's authentic self.
In this activity, partners pass a prop back-and-forth, quickly taking turns pretending that the object is something other than what it actually is. For example, a partnership passing a pen might use it as a sword, a mini walking stick, a pole vaulting pole, etc. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible in the allotted time.
This improv activity is a great way to prime students to take on a Yes, And mindset. Participants get a lot of repetitions saying the actual words, "Yes, and" and will be surprised at the places they go when building a memory with their partner. Remember That Time We is also a fun way to get people connected to each other, as partners create an imaginary world through shared control.
This is a whiteboard illustration activity during which groups of illustrators rotate around the room adding to different canvases. In the end, teams return to their original canvas, see how it has changed, and tell the story of that co-created illustration.
Sound ball is an improv classic, and one of the best activities out there to encourage spontaneity, focus, and fun! There are endless variations of this activity, so once your group gets the basics down, have fun trying new things out.
In this activity, one partner makes three small changes to their neutral stance and their partner has to guess what three changes were made, based on their observations beforehand. Focus, attention, and observation is the name of the game.
The story spine is a simple formula for structuring a story. Almost every movie, book, or play you see will follow the story spine in some capacity. Pixar uses and teaches the Story Spine method, as do Disney and Lucas Films. It is the basic framework for a well-constructed story. In design thinking, stories are utilized to communicate complex ideas in a compelling way. Practicing storytelling is a vital design skill.
Three things is a game that challenges participants to say three things as fast as they can that fit in a prompted category. This activity is about spontaneity and speed, not about getting things right. It is about building energy, warming up the mind, and casting aside the part of our brains that judge whether ideas are perfect.
Word-at-a-time sentences and stories are activities that allow learners to practice attentive listening and shared control. The activity forces participants to be in the moment and to let go of the controlling desire to steer the outcome in the direction they want.
Yes, And! Party Planning is an improvisational exercise that demonstrates the power of building on the ideas of others, which is essential for a generative and creative brainstorm. By saying “Yes, And!” to each other, players experience how much further a group gets when team members support and build on each other’s ideas.
Zen Counting is a fun activity that encourages group awareness and allows participants to practice the skill of sharing control. The goal is for the group to count, popcorn style, to the highest number possible without any two people uttering a sound at the same time.