The Secret to Creativity: Improvise

By: Lisa Pertoso

One of my favorite experts, Gerard Puccio, a psychologist who heads up SUNY Buffalo’s International Center for Studies in Creativity, says this about the world today:

“We’ve moved beyond the industrial economy and the knowledge economy. We’re now in the innovation economy. Creativity is a necessary skill to be successful in the work world. It’s not a luxury anymore to be creative. It’s an absolute necessity.” If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to hear Gerard’s Ted Talk, it’s definitely worth checking out!

Thanks to the internet and the digital revolution, the world is changing faster than ever before, and I wholeheartedly agree with Puccio. But creativity isn’t something we were taught in school like math or reading, so how do we build these skills now, as adults?

The secret to being more creative is to go back to how we behaved as kids: we must play.


The secret to being more creative is to go back to how we behaved as kids: we must play.


In his book called Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, highlights scientific research that connects play to brain growth, thereby making us smarter and more adaptable. He defines play as doing something only because it brings you joy.

What brings me joy now, and has for the past 6 years, is improv comedy. Improvisation changed the way I saw the world and how I participated (played) in it. The skills and behaviors I learned from improv have shaped me into a more creative, empathetic and adaptable leader.

Here are 3 improv principles that will help you be more playful and more creative.

1. Play

Do something just because it’s fun. For me it’s improv, but for you it could be basketball, knitting, cooking, yoga, meditating, etc. Play is anything that gets you out of your analytical head and keeps you in the present moment.

2. Fail

Allow yourself to fail and make mistakes, and don’t judge others when they do too. Push past that uncomfortableness, laugh it off and move forward.

3. Say Yes, And…

Keep an open mind. Agree with others’ ideas and actions and treat them as reality. Then build them and add value.

Creativity is a muscle that every human being has, and to keep it strong we must flex it regularly. Join me and The Design Gym for some playtime at our upcoming workshop Improv for Design Thinking on June 14th. Can’t wait to see you there!


About Lisa Pertoso:

This week’s blog post is by TDG friend, Lisa Pertoso. In addition to giving us 3 tips for being more playful and creative, Lisa will be our guest trainer for The Design Gym’s June 14th workshop, Improv for Design Thinking. A little bit about Lisa: Lisa loves helping people be strong creative leaders. She designs and facilitates programs for individuals and organizations to explore creativity, embrace change, enhance collaboration, and communicate more clearly using techniques from improvisational theater. Her background is rooted in education, international relations, and following her fears. By day, she empowers people to change their own worlds as Hyper Island’s Education Director, and by night, she “makes stuff up” on the main stages of The PIT, The Annoyance, Magnet Theater, UCB and in dark bar basements where there is no stage at all.



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