How to Apply the Principles of Improv
for a Better User Experience (UX)


THRIVE recently hosted members of the Interaction Design Association – Atlanta (IxDA) chapter and Ladies That UX Atlanta at our design studio for a workshop on using improv in UX processes. Presented by Jim Karwisch and Mike Gorgone of ImprovUX, the event guided attendees through a series of exercises to learn about building a culture of innovative ideas through acceptance and openness in our organizations and within ourselves.

We were thrilled to open our studio space and engage with so many active User Experience (UX) professionals and students from the IxDA Atlanta chapter. The global user experience community is one that fosters strong ties among its people everywhere. We work together to serve the greater good and are accustomed to continually discussing ideas, struggles, feedback, and trends with each other through various channels. THRIVE is committed to the development and growth of our local Atlanta UX community, and the Improv UX Workshop was a wonderful way to mature this nascent relationship.

Beyond providing valuable space for connecting with each other and discussing ideas, the IxDA  workshop touched on several fundamental tenets of improv that are valuable to any organization looking to build a collaborative community, and cultivate a robust culture of innovation.

A culture of acceptance fosters trust and enthusiasm

“Yes, and…” should always be used in response to ideas over negative reactions. Negativity can make people averse to sharing any of their thoughts at all for fear that they’ll always be denied. By consciously collaborating, we can get valuable input from all members of the group and formulate some of our greatest concepts.  


Building trust with strangers by telling stories about 3 things in our bags.

Layering on others’ ideas keeps creativity flowing

Rather than limiting creativity and slowing the ideation process by constantly passing judgment and shooting down each other’s ideas, we can snowball and build each other up by starting our feedback with phrases such as, “What I like about that idea is…” This keeps people’s creativity moving without interrupting the flow of ideas.

Active listening is required

In order to accept and build upon our teammates’ ideas, we should listen fully to what they’re communicating before formulating any response. To maintain momentum during ideation, it’s useful to confirm with a colleague that, “What I’m hearing you say is…”

Failing fast is a natural part of rapid iteration

In design, as in improv, great ideas don’t appear out of nowhere in an instant. Good UX processes move at a rapid pace and don’t maintain an unwavering attachment to any one idea. Addressing human needs through experience design is wildly complex, and requires that we evaluate a myriad of ideas before concluding any particular one of them solves a problem best. Failing and improving are always required before any degree of success is possible.

“It’s okay if you start off on the wrong foot. You can start off on any foot…the important thing is that you’re moving.”

Many of the principles employed in improv mirror those we’re using everyday within THRIVE’s own UX practice. Building positive and supportive relationships among team members—especially in these early stages—is vital to evolving a culture of innovation and rapid iteration. What I like about that idea is that all we have to do is say “Yes! And…” to get started!

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How Can Improv Empower Breakthrough Innovation?

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