Soft Skills Development

What It Is

Applied Improv is a curriculum designed for soft skills and leadership development. It is improv in business, improv for business; an approach that puts the principles and techniques of improvisational theater to work in non-theatrical venues such as corporations, academic institutions, organizations, and professional groups.

Through participating in improv exercises and games, participants develop vital professional skills. It is a part of the growing international wave of nontraditional, arts-based educational programs being used to help people become better at—and happier with—what they do.

Applied Improv programs

Authentic and Dynamic Communication
How do you bring out the most vivid and honest parts of who you are? This program focuses on self awareness, conveying the importance of your message, and techniques for developing and maintaining self confidence. In addition, participants get better at paying attention and listening to others.

Negotiating the Creative Process
Innovation, adaptation, and problem solving all depend on and are products of the creative process. But how do individuals and groups feel comfortable in and get better at this mysterious and challenging process. This program strives to demystify creativity for participants and to get them to recognize their own creative potential as well as the differences between creativity and artistry.

Thinking on Your Feet
The essence of improvising is thinking on your feet, reacting in the moment. Participants become more present and responsive by learning techniques for focusing on the moment and recognizing and preventing the barriers that keep them out of the moment.

Seeing the Person Behind the Job
Participants play in this teambuilding program so they can work together better. It's hard not to see the humanity of others when you're laughing and creating with them. This program is especially valuable for groups that must work together via phone or internet because it creates a common experience that puts a face and person behind the voice or e-mail.

Customized Experiences
Where do you and your group want to go? Together we can design a mixture of the above programs or design one that addresses the issues your group is facing.

Applied Improv programs are experiential and focus on discussion rather than lecture. Their length is tailored to your desires, from 30-minute interactive presentations to in-depth seminars, retreats, and courses that can last anywhere from two hours to two weeks or even a semester, depending on your goals. And Applied Improv comes to you. All that’s needed is a room with chairs and space in which to move. I am the lead instructor and can bring qualified assistants, if needed, to work with groups of almost any size.

Where It Came From

Improvisational theater is, simply, acting without a script. The actor makes it up—the words, movement, character, and story—as s/he goes along. It is not to be confused with standup comedy, which is scripted. Indeed, it needn’t be comedy at all, as the Transactors Improv motto—if you laugh we’re doing comedy; if you don’t we’re doing drama—implies. Improv is a process of exploration that leads to unplanned discovery.

Greg Hohn
The Improf
Applied Improv grew out of my experience as a teacher and performer of improvisational theater. I joined Transactors Improv in 1989 and began teaching improv in the early 90s. What delighted and surprised me as years passed was that students would tell me that they were using what they had learned at work and at home.

They were becoming more creative, expressing themselves better, working better with others. They were spending less time being embarrassed and more time taking healthy risks. They were enjoying life more and simply being more vividly themselves. These were unexpected results of improv education—how apropos!

Refining my improv instruction with the goal of having it deliver specific applicable skills was the next step. Through exposure to and taking part in improv activities, participants would learn the interrelated skills required for good improv but without the goal of becoming improv actors. The tools would be delivered, the participants would be taught to use them, and we would discuss how and when they might be utilized in different environments. The curriculum debuted in 1998 and I became an adjunct faculty member at Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2000.

Just what are the tools, the skills of a good improviser? How are they used? It’s impossible to place them in order of importance just as it’s not possible or useful to avoid their interrelation.

What do you do when you don’t have a plan? How do you respond when something unexpected happens? What do you do when your plan becomes obsolete?

What’s really going on? Are you truly seeing and hearing or are you merely caught up in nonstop subjective interpretation? How does that relate to problem solving?

How can we become more confident? Or barring that, how do we pretend to be more confident, which, oddly enough, leads to more confidence?

We’re all creative. Years of teaching hundreds and hundreds of students has done nothing but make me believe that more firmly. People don’t understand creativity though and they think that they’re not creative because they haven’t written a symphony or sold a painting. How do we recognize and respond to the creative impulse? How do we bring these impulses to fruition?

It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. What are you saying? How can you make your communication more vivid, personal, meaningful, and persuasive?


How do we know what our gut is telling us? Why should we listen to it?

What messages are you sending with your body, your facial expressions, your voice, and even your breathing? What do you perceive in others?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? How do we become comfortable with vulnerability? Why is control an illusion? How do we recognize the difference between our own fears and what's actually at stake? How is it that commitment is risk?

How can you create a team? How do you subject your ego to the goals of the team and how do you get others to do the same? How do you get everyone trusting each other and working and adapting together? How do you weed out resistance to growth and change?

Thinking efficiently
You don’t need to think fast, you need to think well. How do you pick one idea from the stream of thought in your mind? How do you learn to slow down and trust process instead of worrying about outcome?

Response to Applied Improv has been nothing short of amazing, as you’ll discover from what people have said. It has been extraordinarily gratifying for me on a personal level to have others find so much value in something for which I have so much passion.

If you think your business or organization can benefit from Applied Improv, let's talk! Please call me at (919) 824-0937 or e-mail me at You might also like to read some of my essays on improv and its applications

-Greg Hohn

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