This improv exercise originally comes from the work of Keith Johnstone. Geoff and I picked up the exercise from an improv workshop with Neil Mullarkey of the Comedy Store Players, in London.


5-10 mins


2 people (standing up)


The pair must tell a story about something imaginary they did together, but one of the pair can only interact with the story by saying the word “no”. When the partner hears the word “no”, they must offer an alternative direction for the story which “delights” their partner. The story continues as far as it can within a 5 minute period.

Call stop – and swap roles.

Learning Points:

This improv game requires the primary storyteller of the pair (the one NOT saying no!) to continually search for alternatives possibilities for the story. This can equate to a customer who says “NO” during a product review. But from following up on the “NO” with some alternatives, this presents different options that we perhaps didn’t even know existed. The exercise proves emergent design and requirements can still come from a customer who doesn’t know what they want, until they see (or hear) something that they don’t want.