Improv skills lead to success

Improv and Gamification: Introduction

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You can divide improvisation into two rough categories: short-form and long-form. Short-form improvisation consists of games (also called “scenes” or “forms”) that last about 3-8 minutes and, generally, have specific guidelines to which the players should adhere. Many organizations, including ComedySportz and Theatresports (from which ComedySportz was derived, with the permission of Keith Johnstone), use team-on-team competition to enhance the audience’s experience. Winning a round gets a team points, which are compared on a scoreboard, and provide a clear metric for the state of the show.

Gamification, the practice of applying game elements to business and social activities, has become increasingly popular. Kevin Werbach of Penn’s Wharton School and Dan Hunter of New York Law School (and adjunct faculty at Wharton), two leading gamification proponents, wrote For the Win, a book that’s available inexpensively on Amazon through Wharton Digital Press. In their book, they describe how companies have gamified internal processes and customer/product interactions to add fun to what might otherwise be boring situations. If you’ve ever become mayor of a business by checking in on FourSquare, you’ve been gamified.

Werbach and Hunter go into significant detail on how gamification works, but I’ll focus on four points (mentioned on p. 44 of the book) over the next few posts. They are:

  • Motivation
  • Meaningful choices
  • Structure
  • Potential conflicts

I’ll tackle each point  from the perspective of an improviser who also spends time in the business world.

If you’d like to learn more about gamification, you can take Werbach’s Gamification course on The next section of the course starts on April 1, 2013, but he offered it in the Fall of 2012 and, with luck, it will be available again for readers who learn about the course after the current session ends.

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