The Improv Alive Story

Creativity Training Coach

Creativity Coach & Improv Alive Founder Julian Schrenzel

What would happen if someone brought the tools and principals of theatrical improvisation to the world of business in such a way that ordinary people could rediscover their extraordinary ability to communicate, to make decisions, and to lead?

This is the question I’ve been pondering since my first day of Improv 101 at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, one of New York City’s foremost improvisation schools for actors. My quest for an answer to this question has become the guiding vision for Improv Alive.

In order for a team of people to successfully improvise on stage, each actor must adopt and practice a few simple but powerful principles: Active Listening (listen with your whole body), approach everything that is happening in a mindset of acceptance and contribution (Yes And) as opposed to closing off (No, but..), silence your inner critic and own, celebrate and share failure.

Having come to improvisation from a career in IT and Technical training, it was clear to me that the skills needed to improvise successfully on stage are very much the same skills required to be successful working with other people in business. These principles are so basic, so universal, so easy, yet so powerful! I wondered why they had remained mostly un-adopted in the business world.

When I returned to Seattle in 2007, I began exploring how I might teach others the skills I had learned in improvisation in a non-scary, but engaging way. My first classes, which I taught through the Seattle Free School, consisted mostly of non-actor students including professionals from Microsoft, AT&T and REI. To my suprise I learned that the participants who seemed to get the most out of the sessions were the non-actor business professionals who were consistently finding abilities within themselves that they never knew they had. I was told over and over again how they wished that they could bottle this up and take it to their departments at work.

At some point between toddler-hood and adolescence, many people become conditioned to hide their mistakes and apologize when they don’t perform the way they think they’re expected to. They often forget the gift they were endowed with at birth. Creativity and Collaborativeness comes as standard equipment in humans. The trick to fostering creativity and collaboration in an individual or organization is to create an environment in which each person allows them self to rediscover their abilities. This is the highest mission of Improv Alive.

Improv Alive workshops are custom built for your team and bring powerful concepts and exercises from the world of improvisational theater (improv) to regular people who may never have stepped on a stage in their lives. Our workshops are perfect for teams of any size. We work with local and regional Seattle area consulting firms, credit unions and banks, public schools and universities, government agencies and today’s leading technology, beverage and apparel companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Nike and Boeing. Regardless the size of the team or role of the individual team members, we create a safe space for people to make mistakes, celebrate failure, and become aware of how they interact with, and react to each other, to make their workplace a place of collaboration and collaborative empowerment.

Like traditional team building, an Improv Alive workshop can feel a little bit scary. Stretching social boundaries with co-workers is not a comfortable thing to do, but unlike traditional team and skills building, our workshops empower participants to be open, authentic, trusting and confident. This is what Improv Alive is all about.

Welcome. It’s time to play!

Julian Schrenzel
Chief Spontaneity Officer
Improv Alive