The FIZ Story

Improvisational theater is, simply, acting without a script. The actor makes it up—the words, movement, character, and story—as s/he goes along. It is not to be confused with standup comedy, which is scripted. Indeed, it needn’t be comedy at all, as the Transactors Improv motto—if you laugh we’re doing comedy; if you don’t we’re doing drama—implies. Improv is a process of exploration that leads to unplanned discovery.

FIZ, formerly known as Applied Improvisation.org, grew out of my experience as a teacher and performer of improvisational theater. I joined Actors Improv Theater in 1989 and began teaching improv in the early 90s. What delighted and surprised me as years passed was that students would tell me that they were using what they had learned at work and at home.

They were becoming more creative, expressing themselves better, working better with others. They were spending less time being embarrassed and more time taking healthy risks. They were enjoying life more and simply being more vividly themselves. These were unexpected results of improv education—how apropos!

Refining my improv instruction with the goal of having it deliver specific applicable skills was the next step. Through exposure to and taking part in improv activities, participants would learn the interrelated skills required for good improv but with the goal of becoming ‘real-world’ improvisers in professional, academic, and social settings, rather than on stage. The curriculum debuted in 1998 and I became an adjunct faculty member at Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2000. I became a full-time faculty (currently clinical assistant professor) at KFBS in 2012 and taught in Theater Studies at Duke University 2008-13. In 2022 I was named one of the top 50 undergrad business-school professors in the country by Poets & Quants.

Just what are the tools, the skills of a good improviser? How are they used? It’s impossible to place them in order of importance just as it’s not possible or useful to avoid their interrelation.


What do you do when you don’t have a plan? How do you respond when something unexpected happens? What do you do when your plan becomes obsolete?


What’s really going on? Are you truly seeing and hearing or are you merely caught up in nonstop subjective interpretation? How does that relate to problem solving?


How can we become more confident? Or barring that, how do we pretend to be more confident, which, oddly enough, leads to more confidence?


We’re all creative. Years of teaching hundreds and hundreds of students has done nothing but make me believe that more firmly. People don’t understand creativity though and they think that they’re not creative because they haven’t written a symphony or sold a painting. How do we recognize and respond to the creative impulse? How do we bring these impulses to fruition?


It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. What are you saying? How can you make your communication more vivid, personal, meaningful, and persuasive?




How do we know what our gut is telling us? Why should we listen to it?


What messages are you sending with your body, your facial expressions, your voice, and even your breathing? What do you perceive in others?


Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? How do we become comfortable with vulnerability? Why is control an illusion? How do we recognize the difference between our own fears and what’s actually at stake? How is it that commitment is risk?


How can you create a team? How do you subject your ego to the goals of the team and how do you get others to do the same? How do you get everyone trusting each other and working and adapting together? How do you weed out resistance to growth and change?

Thinking efficiently

You don’t need to think fast, you need to think well. How do you pick one idea from the stream of thought in your mind? How do you learn to slow down and trust process instead of worrying about outcome?

Response to FIZ has been nothing short of amazing, as you’ll discover from what people have said. It has been extraordinarily gratifying for me on a personal level to have others find so much value in something for which I have so much passion.

If you think your business or organization can benefit from FIZ, let’s talk! You might also like to read some of my essays on improv and its applications.

-Greg Hohn, FIZ Program Director

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Transactors Improv