Summary: Generative AI improvises responses based on the nuanced interpretation of the intent of your request. By learning improvisation, you can become a stronger UX actor while “outperforming” to get better outputs from AI.
Improvisation skills can make you a better UX designer or communicator and help you get more from AI interactions. AI, particularly generative AI, relies on nuanced interpretations of user intent to provide meaningful responses. One unconventional yet highly effective way to improve your AI interactions and become a better UX designer or communicator is by learning the art of improvisation.
Improv is about responding fluidly to new information and scenarios. By being sharp in your improv skills, you can stay ahead of unexpected responses from AI interactions.
Beyond enhancing AI interactions, learning improv can significantly boost your communication skills, a crucial asset in UX design and various professional settings.
Benefits of improv
Let’s back up and review three benefits of improv as a 21st-century skill:
1. Confidently influence and express ideas
Improv helps individuals become more confident communicators and storytellers. By practicing spontaneous ‘pivoting’ and acceptance of anything that comes your way, you develop better influencing skills when working on UX projects or collaborating with colleagues.
2. Actively collaborate with stakeholders
In UX work, collaboration is huge. Improv teaches you how to bypass resistance from stakeholders by becoming a better listener and responding more strategically to offer more healthy collaboration.
3. Unexpectedly embrace ambiguity
Improv equips you with the ability to handle unexpected situations with grace and creativity. This skill is invaluable in UX, especially Service Design, where ambiguity is the default for navigating unexpected challenges.
Understanding the link between AI and Improvisation: By improving your improv skills, you can better guide and coach generative AI queries to get richer results, save time, and spark more creative output.
Sidenote: Ironically, generative AI is terrible at doing actual improv, however it’s conversational ‘on demand’ style uses improvisation. You can use this to your advantage.
Why this matters:
Generative AI like ChatGPT, requires human coaching. AI systems respond in real-time based on user inputs by generating an improvisational dance between the user and the large language model (LLM). AI performs better if your nudge offers intent and context clues. For example, “suggest tasty fruits” will yield different results to “suggest fruits lowest in sugar.” The more you can quickly pivot your inputs and reactions or redirections of AI, the more powerful and valuable the results will be. If the results you get from ChatGPT are off-track, it’s time to improvise!
By pivoting quickly, you can avoid useless or nonsensical AI interactions.
Adapting in real-time
Improvisation involves on-the-spot creativity and adaptation to changing scenarios. By honing your improv skills, you become more adept at adapting to unexpected AI responses and guiding the conversation towards the desired outcome. Without the “quick pivot” of improv, your AI outputs can run wild, wasting your time and leading you astray.
Improv can improve how you do UX, too. This topic will be covered in the Improv for UX Masterclass specifically.
User advocacy and Human-Centered Design
UX designers are tasked with creating interfaces that cater to users’ needs and expectations. To do this effectively, designers must understand user motivations and pain points and communicate those to stakeholders. To do this, UX and Service Designers fight for users’ rights, called User Advocacy. Improv emphasizes active listening and responding, a vital skill for managing stakeholders and advocating while facilitating UX processes.
How Improv techniques build better AI interactions
Improv helps UX collaboration with stakeholders and can be used to get the most out of your AI interactions. How?
1. Develop Active Listening
In doing improv, active listening is paramount. Similarly, “listening” carefully to the system’s responses (i.e. how it responded to you) is essential when interacting with AI. Generative AI offers co-creation, so you can pick up on nuances and adjust your queries accordingly. This way, active listening fosters a more meaningful and productive exchange with AI.
2. Embrace Uncertainty
Improv thrives on uncertainty, as performers don’t have scripts to follow. Similarly, AI interactions can be unpredictable. Instead of fearing uncertainty, embrace it. Use improv techniques like “Yes, and…” to build on AI responses, even if they deviate slightly from your expectations. Let AI expand your limited vision but work with it in a more fluid dance like improv actors or comedians do.
3. Build a Collaborative Story
Improv often involves collaborative storytelling. Apply this concept to AI interactions by engaging in collaborative narrative building. For example, if you’re using AI for a creative project, shape a cooperative storytelling process where you and the AI collaboratively shape a captivating narrative. This approach can result in more engaging and coherent AI-generated content.
Go deeper: Learn Improv for UX in this month’s Improv for UX UXIC Masterclass.
The UX Inner Circle is a professional learning community with a program of monthly events for UX researchers and designers, managers, and directors practicing UX and Service Design. We are a small group of currently 50 UX and Service Designers, Directors, and Researchers currently 100% working in UX. Attendees come from orgs like Harvard, Google, IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, Capital One, US Bank, healthcare, government, and non-profits. So why join?
- Refine or expand your current skills– push the boundaries of your learning.
- Get advice and guidance: Put a top-performing UX expert (Frank Spillers, CEO of award-winning UX firm Experience Dynamics and top instructor at Interaction Design Foundation) in your pocket. Stay connected with the latest on what Frank is thinking and prioritizing in UX and Service Design.
- Ask anything to other UXIC colleagues on a dedicated private Slack channel. Also, collaborate during monthly meet-ups (Masterclasses).
- Get a promotion at work or upgrade your skills, portfolio, or process knowledge. This is the #1 reason folks keep subscribing to the UX Inner Circle.
Ready to Join the UXIC?
Membership includes access to ALL monthly event recordings and more (going back 20 years of Frank’s UX career). 150+ recordings. Monthly live meet-ups (Masterclass topics) and workshops (every other month). Miniclasses (short webinars) and access to longer webinars Frank provides with his UX firm Experience Dynamics.
Financial inclusiveness membership: USD$49 per month for Nonprofit-Student- or you live in the Global South/ Emerging Market (.org; .edu)
Regular membership: USD$99 Individual per month
20% discount on Annual Price; switch anytime, cancel anytime.
***THIS EVENT IS FREE WITH UX INNER CIRCLE MEMBERSHIP***