Monday, April 8, 2013

Lesson 1: Did I Really Decide To Do This?

Today was the first day of improv class.  The day started out innocuous enough but as it progressed the time getting closer and closer to 7:30pm, panic started to ensue. I quickly came to the realization that I indeed signed up and I needed to follow through. What seemed like a great idea 2 months ago was now here and of course it is on a Monday.

To cope with this I focused on things I could control like "What to wear?"  On the girly girl scale - I'm like a 2 (out of a possible 10).  So really that question amounted to was what color converse should I wear (grey, purple or black)? 

The fact that I'm writing this means I did survive and did not self-combust like I had imagined in my head. 

To better set the stage I need to provide you with just a little bit more about me and why improv is going to be a great thing.

  • While I am a bat crap crazy product manager, I'm not bat crap crazy in other aspects of work or life.  I have an accounting degree, I'm logical - I like to think before I speak.  Even worse, I don't want to say the wrong thing and look stupid.
  • And like most product managers, at work I have a million things going on.  Too many meetings and not nearly enough productive time.  While I claim to be a good listener, I find myself multi-tasking on conference calls - which really means I'm doing neither task well.

I learned many things today, but the two things that stood out: 1) that I need to get out of my head and 2) I need to learn how to truly listen.

We spent most of the two hours playing improv games, learning to react instead of thinking, learning to trust our peers and learning to listen.  We played games that in order for us to be successful, we had to be listening to each member of the group and build upon what each other was saying. I wasn't on my iPhone checking twitter nor answering the email while someone was talking.  Today when I tried to think two steps ahead, the games creatively came to a crashing halt because I wasn't listening to my team. 

While being logical and thinking things through is critical as a product manager its equally important to be creative so that the best possible solutions are explored.  When I tried to overthink things and come up what I thought was the "best" response in the game, too much time elapsed and the scenario came to an end quickly.  In improv a quick response is more important then what you may perceive as the "best" response. Being open and forthcoming with my ideas gave the rest of the team the opportunity to listen, react and make it better.

After 8 weeks, the class ends with us performing for an audience.  After the tons of missteps today, I can't imagine how I'm going to get there so quickly. But I will leave you with the thought that the instructor started us with.  Walk towards the fear.  You may end up rocking it!  If you don't - then you have something to learn from.  So it appears no matter what happens, I'll be fine.