Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lesson 3: Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth

Last night the instructor led off with the above Mike Tyson quote. He said the goal of many of the games we play in class is to get us to react instinctively - without thinking. The singing game was designed for that purpose and so is the game Bunny Bunny which we've played several times. (I'm not sure I can describe that game justice in writing)  We play these games every class, increase the speed each time, continually screw up, get coached and little by little get better.  Failure is a big piece of the improv learning process.  Last night I had a 5-minute scene – I don’t have enough fingers/toes to count up my blunders.  But that’s part of the point. It’s an interesting feeling when you’re starting to get comfortable with failing. 

 I spend much of my time as a product manager vetting ideas, collaborating on requirements, doing market research, etc. It’s about making the right decisions with using the right data. But when I think more about it, I also make dozens of decisions each week instinctively. Development hits a technical obstacle and has multiple solutions to go over/around it. Each of those solutions is made up of different costs, benefits and trade-offs. You make a decision on the fly to keep the project moving. I'm approached all the time with the question "what about this?”. There’s not enough time in the day to vet all of the decisions via research.  

The way you get better at making these day-to-day decisions is through experience and knowledge. The mistakes I made in the past applies to the future decisions. The hours spent visiting and observing customers in action allow me to pick up tidbits of information that are continually built upon and shape my decision making in unexpected ways.  I make a decision that is based on a lesson I learned from a customer visit 2 years ago – things that I’m not sure how I even remember…but I do.  Lesson 3 of improv was about taking the opportunity to learn every chance I get and being comfortable with the knowledge that you can’t always plan ahead. Also to remember to up the ante…and that failure is not always a bad thing. 

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