• Alexandra Horn

Problem Solving Tips (Using Improv Techniques)

Dallas, Texas - Ahhh, problem solving. We all do it, every day, in some way, whether it’s a small issue easily addressed, or a larger issue in our personal or professional lives, it’s ever-present. Hence the ability to approach a problem and be confident you’ll come up with effective solutions is a valuable skill. With that, we’d like to look at a few problem solving tips from the world of improv that you can start to use with your teams at work (and in your personal life as well).



Every problem-solving formula has the same four steps, regardless of what method or approach you end up using. Those four steps are:


Step #1) Define what the problem is. How do you know there’s a problem? What is telling you this problem exists?


Step #2) What are ideas for how we solve the problem? What options do we have?


Step #3) Evaluating the options and choosing the solution that you deem to be the best.


Step #4) Executing the plan. Is it working or do you need to adjust your approach?


Problem Solving Tips Once you’ve defined what the problem is the next step is to come up with ideas for a possible solution.


Tip #1) Let it fly During the brainstorming/ideation phase, stick to just pure brainstorming. Don’t begin to critique or judge any of the ideas during this phase. Just focus on generating as many ideas as possible, regardless of how unrealistic some of them may sound…and don’t spend any time on critiquing, or judging the ideas. Just let them fly (make sure to have a method to capture all the data).

Tip#2) Flush it out After you’ve finished the ideation phase, now go through each idea giving it the “Yes, and…” treatment. This will allow you to expand on the full potential of the ideas, seeing what’s possible, where it could possibly go. Sticking to “Yes, and…” during this time keeps away all those tendencies to shut down ideas…you know the ones. When someone says, “we already tried that”, or “yeah, but that’s too expensive”, or ‘we don’t have the resources”, etc.

Put all that aside, and commit to “Yes, anding” your way through each idea.

(In our popular team building focused workshops we show groups how embracing “Yes, and…” will not only provide a new approach to problem solving, but will also significantly impact the way a group collaborates, communicates and supports each other).


Tip #3) Let go Improvisers have to let go of their own narratives and agendas in every scene and be open to where the scene flows based on the suggestion and choices of their cast mates (and audience suggestions). They can’t hold strong to their idea, pushing that forward regardless of what everyone else is doing. The scene will crash and burn.


The same holds true for problem-solving. Let go of your agenda and be open to the ideas of others. Look for opportunities to support the ideas of others (and they in turn will look to support yours), but wherever the discussion starts to flow, go with it. You might be pleasantly surprised where you end up.


If you’d like to learn more about the improv-based workshops we do with organizations throughout the Dallas-area, whether it’s a team building and collaboration focused workshop, or in the area of coaching your group on how to be more confident and engaging presenters, or working you’re your team to help them become more agile and embrace the unpredictable, handling change in the workplace.


You can connect with either of us: Alex at Alex@improvtoimprove.org or Kayce at Kayce@improvtoimprove.org

Alexandra Horn

Co-Founder

Kayce Kuntz

Co-Founder

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© 2016 Improv to Improve.  Dallas, TX

Photography by Mimi van Amerongen