Improv in Silicon Valley

If you live in or near the Valley (or have heard of it) you’ve probably heard the Improv word tossed around.  Or maybe not.  But improv is vibrantly alive there.

For the past 15 years I’ve been bringing the power of improv to companies in the Valley and beyond.

If you’ve never experienced or seen Applied Improv, it’s different that what you think.

When most people think of improv they think of Whose Line Is It Anyway.  Very funny and fast.  Comedy.  So often the assumption is that it’s about being fast  and thinking on your feet.  And that is part of it.  The thinking on your feet part.  But only a small part.

We improvisers have a very interesting challenge: with absolutely no planning, we get to walk on stage with fellow improvisers and in the moment, create a story, or a play, or a scene, or a song.  And when we do it well, it seems scripted because it flows so effortlessly.

So why is this particular skill of  interest in the Valley?

I’d say 3 main reasons.

1)   It’s HIGHLY generative and creative.  You generally come up with things that you never would have found as individuals.  Great for innovation.

2)   It builds trust and connection.  You KNOW that everyone else has your back, and together you’re in service of the bigger picture.

3)   Everyone feels valued, competent, heard, and an integral part of the system.


There’s still a perception that improv is a fun, fluffy way to have a good time as a team.  And it is.  AND….  It’s WAY more than that.


Try it.

You’ll value it.

What makes Applied Improv so cool?

Yea, what IS it?

Let’s start with improv.  What’s this thing called “improv?”

At its core, improv is a communication skill-set.  It’s a skill-set that allows improvisers to walk on stage, and with NO pre-planning, create seamlessly and fluidly a story, song, play, or whatever, in-the-moment.  And not alone.  They co-create this with another person.  Creating seamlessly and fluidly in-the-moment with another person.  That’s improv.  It may be funny or serious, but it’s co-created with no planning.

How do they do this?  They listen.  They stay open and connected.  They build on whatever shows up in order to move the scene/story/song forward.

In order to do this, we practice certain skills.  These are the principles or tenets of improv.  Here are some of them:

~Listen in order to receive

~Build on what you receive

~Defer judgment/evaluation

~Make your partner look brilliant

~Stay open and present.

~Remember to close your mouth (see #1)

We improvisers practice this.  A lot.  And over time it changes who we are.  Not just what we do on stage, but who we are.  We begin to see more opportunities and not problems.  We become more inclusive and connective.  We know that there’s a “yes” that wants to be found.

And what is this “applied” business?

The “applied” part of Applied Improv is where we take these skills and apply them to other areas.  Like business.  We apply these skills to increase creativity.  Or give more compelling presentations.  Or lead in a manner that colleagues and reports feel valued, competent, and included.  Or create a culture of equality.  Lots of applications.

We begin with participants doing a bunch of improv exercises followed by focused debriefs.  This is where they practice these valuable skills in the “disposable” world of improv.  And like I said, it begins to change who they are. 

Then, through scenarios and role plays, we ground the new skills in the relevant area—meetings, or giving feedback, or presenting.

So the “coolness” is two-fold.

It’s really fun.

Because it’s so experiential, it actually sticks and works!

Try it.  You’ll like it.