Three Improv Games To Get Your Team Out Of Their Comfort Zone

January 30, 2024By Views

By Dave Wendland, for Forbes Agency Council, as appeared on

I believe that overcoming limitations is a noble cause. It promotes self-development and growth.

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Going beyond your limitations can sometimes be scary, but the good news is that no one has to navigate this path alone. There are plenty of team-building exercises that can fire up imaginations and encourage you and your team to venture outside your comfort zones.

I’ve conducted workshops for those with a genuine curiosity and desire to push beyond traditional boundaries and watched these individuals transform and blossom before my eyes. As a former member (and leader) of an improvisational comic troupe, one thing that I’ve found tremendously valuable in these workshops is the art of imagination. Here are three simple improvisational games that encourage you and your teams to use your imaginations and move beyond your self-imposed limitations.

Three-Word Sentences
Concentrating on the words being communicated while paying attention to others during a conversation can be difficult for many. The three-word sentence game creates a framework that encourages an ongoing exchange and combines quick thinking with intentional dialogue.

The rules of this improvisational favorite are quite simple: Have a dialogue with someone else — or a group conversation — wherein each sentence can only contain three words. (Contractions are counted as one word.) The results can be explosively funny and certainly fast-paced. Try it at your next team-building event or even with your family, friends, or neighbors.

What Are You Doing?
Think of this as a version of charades where you are not trying to solve a puzzle; rather you are trying to trick your mind.

Here’s how it works: This is a simple two-participant game. The first player begins a motion (e.g., jumping up and down). The other participant asks, “What are you doing?” The player making the motion must then answer with an unrelated activity (e.g., chopping wood). The second player then begins performing the action that the first player named (chopping wood). The game continues back and forth until someone fails to come up with an action or makes a mistake.

What I like most about this game is that it combines physical activity with out-of-the-box thinking. Participants will soon discover that separating actions and words is not as easy as they think and that creatively stumping the other person can be quite fun.

Freeze Frame
The final game that helps people think beyond the obvious is called Freeze Frame. This game begins with two people at the center of the room performing some type of interaction. Then, someone from the audience shouts “freeze,” and the action stops. The person who said “freeze” then enters the center of the room and assumes the action that is being portrayed. However, it is their responsibility to transform the scene into something entirely different. The trick is that the action must resemble what is currently being portrayed and then they can quickly alter their positions within the framework of that interaction until someone else shouts “freeze.”

Here’s an example:

  • Two individuals stand in the center of the room with one behind the other pretending to mug them.
  • A person from the group shouts “freeze” and assumes the mugger’s position and continues the dialogue as a chiropractor pretending to adjust a kink in the other’s spine.
  • The players continue to transform scenes after each Freeze Frame.

The Benefits Of Pushing Your Limits
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” My late father, Robert Wendland, once described transformation in this way: Imagine an apple sitting on a kitchen counter. If you do nothing with it, eventually you will have a rotten apple sitting on your counter. If you, however, elect not to eat it in its current form, apply your imagination to create value by transforming the apple into something entirely different.

An article on Harvard University’s website lists the benefits of leaving your comfort zone and transforming yourself:

  • Growth and achieving your goals: Real growth occurs when you overcome self-imposed limitations.
  • Becoming more self-confident: Self-confidence comes from achievement. Small wins help you overcome challenges.
  • Expanding your horizons: New experiences can be very invigorating.
  • Becoming more resilient: Stepping outside of your comfort zone helps build your perseverance. Mistakes will be made—these are growth opportunities.
  • Discovering more about yourself: Trying new things helps you add new dimensions to who you are and who you will become.

Encourage yourself and your team to do something different today. Get outside your comfort zone and onto a path to discovery and growth.