A Game To Warm Up Creative Thinking — What if… Then.


In this article, you will learn a game that unlocks creativity and play in a group of up to 5 people. Ready to expand your prosocial toolkit?


When I researched improv, my mindset changed. I learnt that there was a philosophy, a framework. It was not just fun and games. improvisers think differently and practice principles. I soon realized I wanted to incorporate these into my own practice.

One of these core principles is Yes And: Build off another person’s expression, don’t block it. This principle is encapsulated by the distinction between responding to someone with ‘yes, and’ and with ‘but.’ When we respond with ‘but’ we’re fault-finding. Our curiosity is not active. Our cooperativity goes down. The speaker feels less encouraged to share more.

When we respond with ‘yes, and’ we are getting excited about, expanding on, and validating what has been shared. We approach the interaction from a place of collaboration, not competition or argumentation.

Argumentation is generally not prosocial. Exploration is.

I want to argue with people less. I want to give up my dogma and get curious about others’ experiences. Yes, And helps me do this.

All that to say, I invented a game based on this improv principle. I have used it with groups all over the planet. Here’s how to play:

  1. Person 1 begins with the following sentence stem: What if “event happened in our immediate situation”? 
    Ex. What if you heard a big explosion outside your window right now?
  2. Person 2 responds very concisely: I would “action.” Ex. I would run outside with a speaker and play music.
    Then, person 2 adds another layer to the story: What if “event happened”? Ex. What if everyone was already dancing and the explosion was a confetti cannon?
    Note, it’s best when each player responds with a single concept or response. Less is more.
  3. Person 1 (or 3) responds: I would “action”… And then adds another layer.
  4. And so on.

The story being created can involve one protagonist or two or three. Start by using one protagonist that everyone responds as. This means that all the players are pretending to respond as the same person.

When to use this game

This game is perfect for activating the imagination and playfulness of small groups. I usually play with groups of 3 or 4. This is a great game to open people’s minds for creative thinking. It’s a great warm-up.

When the game gets boring, change the game. Add a layer of complexity. Modify it.

And always remember: When someone wins, the game is over.

So **** competitiveness.

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