Over time, the mind of an improviser goes through a change that  in many ways it mirrors the development of a child moving into adulthood. It also mirrors spiritual development so closely, improv studies could be a powerful tool for churches and youth groups.

It's probably a lot more complex than this, but growth as an improviser seems dependent on how one handles a conversation between three points: 1) the outside world 2) instincts, and 3) the heart. Take the word "heart" how you will, but I see it as an inward, feeling, considerate part of the mind whereas instincts are typically rougher and less polished until they are honed.

Basically, here's the three step. Click the links for some rough pictures that might be helpful to illustrate.

1. Immature = Person reacting instinctively and too quickly to the world, without consideration.

2. Developing = Person learning to slow things down and consider. Literally taking moments to heart and thereby, training the instincts.

3. Mature = Person with instincts in alignment with the heart. Now correct decisions are made quickly.

So step #1 is what we all want to leave. #2 is where we are. And step #3 is our overall goal.

So what this comes down to is a need to slow things down. To take the time and train the instincts to mimic the heart.
In improv, I see this done in the following ways:

1. Quick Drills: Exercises like 3 Line scenes give us the chance to put the instincts on trial and then to discuss them. The discussion needs to focus on both what was wrong and how to improve. Instincts are like children in that they learn through pain and pleasure. Fire hurts : Candy is tasty :: Vapid scenes hurt : Endowed scenes are fun.

2. Alphas: Everyone needs to hear the group's positive perspective. We all have our own, limited idea of what was successful. But when we as a group sit down and hear what other people found to be successful, a deep part of each participant is listening and learning. Basically, it gives us more eyes.

3. Instinct exhaustion. Before getting into a real exercise, play a game that requires lots of quick thinking and do it until your brain feels fried. Then maybe your instincts will take a nap and you can get your heart some stage time.

4. Slowing things down. Any drill or exercise that makes a person digest each moment, pause, pause, think about what they should say or do, pause... and then... maybe... maybe... react thoughtfully.... teaches us how to DO improv. It completely takes instinct out of the picture and puts the heart center stage. It's delicious.

4. Practice. Keep it up. Trust there will be many opportunities to learn. The more time you give yourself in action, the better you will become.