Friday, October 4, 2013

Start Anywhere.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’ve been taking an Improv class - because I was dropped on my head as a small child. Not really, but you will need to read my initial post to find out why I signed up. A friend of mine recently sent me the book: Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson.

Recently I’ve accepted a new position within product management at my current company.  As any typical overly analytical person does, I decided to read some books in the area related to my new position.  I put the book my friend sent me on the back burner.

I started reading the Improv book last week and of course it was more relevant to my day job then the 2 leadership books I recently read.  I’m about halfway through the book and it has already made small impacts on my day-to-day, reminded me why I started taking Improv class and inspired me to write another post.

One concept it discusses is “start anywhere”. 

When dealing with a daunting task or one you just don’t want to do – just simply start anywhere.  The idea is that once you’ve started something, you will be in the middle of the problem/project and things will become clearer on where to go next.  Sitting there on the sidelines overanalyzing where to start doesn’t solve anything – you don’t have a good idea of what the issue is standing on the outside. (note: this approach does not apply to surgeons, pilots, etc.)

It doesn’t just apply to tasks/projects but our speech.  Typically when I’m in a meeting with many people, I’m constantly listening, thinking and trying to figure out the best place to jump in.  I over think it – by the time I figure out what I want to say – the conversation has moved on to another topic. I’ve also potentially filtered a good idea that others could have built upon.  Don’t hesitate – start anywhere and the ideas will start to build on themselves. 

I learned this very early in Improv  but somehow didn’t apply it to my day job.  In Improv someone yells out “parole officer” and in a split second I have to become a parole officer. I have to start – because what’s worse then saying something dorky is saying nothing at all while on stage.  When I do that in Improv – I’m starting anywhere and the juices start flowing as soon as I get out my initial ideas and words.

The other big take away so far is that I shouldn’t script things when doing presentations or speaking in front of a group.  Much to my dismay, I do end up speaking in front of groups all the time.  The idea is that when it’s scripted, what you’re communicating can come across forced or inauthentic and less engaging. Also when scripted, you’re likely to lose your train of thought and fumble if things change on the fly.   Rather then scripting, the idea is to formulate questions to help drive what you’re saying.  For example, if I’m presenting features/capabilities in a product roadmap presentation those questions I prepare might be:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What capability are we delivering?
  • Why is this feature important?
  • How does it help my audience?
  • When is the plan to deliver it?

When delivering the presentation, I’m simply answering the questions I made in my notes.  Try it – it flows relatively easy.

This is about trusting yourself and making the information engaging and relevant.

I’m off to Start Anywhere!


  1. Love this. BTW, Congratulations on your new position at Ultimate. ...Calvin

  2. Enjoying your blog - congrats on the long deserved promo!

  3. Few things delight me more than to learn that my little book has been helpful in real life situations. Keep on saying yes, starting anywhere and trusting your own voice. Brava! and congrats on your new position.