Tools for building a more collaborative product team – for product managers
This episode is sponsored by PDMA, the Product Development and Management Association. PDMA is a global community of professional members whose skills, expertise, and experience power the most recognized and respected innovative companies in the world. PDMA is the longest-running professional association for product managers, leaders, and innovators, having started in 1976. I have enjoyed being a member of PDMA for more than a decade, finding their resources and network very valuable. Learn more about them at PDMA.org.
PDMA invited me to their conference, which was in Orlando, Florida, to interview some of their speakers. This speaker presented on the topic Improv to Improve Your Team’s Creativity. How do you think improv can improve your product work and your group? We are about to find out.
Our guest is Seth Greenwald, aka Sherpa Seth. He’s a best-selling author, keynote speaker and popular communication coach for creative professionals and technical leaders. He founded Creative Warrior Secrets to help professionals be excellent communicators and increase their success. He holds degrees in Mechanical Engineering and has served as design lead and senior project manager for many of the nation’s largest engineering and construction organizations. Among other publications on communication, he hosts an online course called Improv to Improve Your A-Game Mindset.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:13] What do you mean by improv to help teams improve?
The improv TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? was my inspiration. I saw how they did everything on the spot, and I always liked laughing, so I wanted that for my team. In many large organizations, people are working in silos and never really collaborate. I wanted to help them figure out how to break out of their silos and improvise. I was always the guy hiding behind my laptop. I wanted everyone to go away and just leave me alone and let me focus. That’s not good when I wanted to be in the world with other people. I needed to learn how to speak to and collaborate with people.
I joined an organization called Toastmasters, and they taught me how to present, but I also wanted to learn how to speak with and collaborate with people when I’m not presenting. Whose Line Is It Anyway? was a revelation for me because they were so in-the-moment, focused, and working together. I didn’t want to be a comedian, but I did want to have fun with my team. I want to help you learn how to have fun with your team. That’s what I mean by improv communication.
Instead of going back to your laptop and solving a problem by yourself, learn to solve problems together in real time. Each team member is coming to the problem from their own point of view, and you have to force yourself to organically solve the problem with others in the same space and timeframe. It’s hard for a lot of people to do that. You have to trust what comes out of your mouth and be in the moment.
You need to listen fully and have a yes, and mindset. Go from a me go mindset—one person wins—to a we go mindset—we win together.
[17:38] How do we be in the moment and appreciate what others bring to the table?
You have to create before your critique. It feels good to judge, but before you critique you need to offer your creativity. There are stages of creative problem solving. The first stage is defining the problem. Make sure you’re solving the right problem. The second stage is divergent thinking where we come up with alternative options to solve the problem. At this point, we’re not judging each option yet. The third stage is convergent thinking where we choose a solution. You can’t mix up the creation stage with critique stage.
[25:39] What’s an exercise we could introduce at our next team meeting to help people have fun and be creative together?
Keep the words yes, and in mind. Yes means you’re listening. And is responding to and building on what you’ve heard. Saying yes, and prompts your brain to think in a more collaborative way. Do a yes, and exercise with your team.
My favorite acronym is Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM). That’s product management.
Action Guide: Put the information Seth shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Seth’s website
- Join Seth’s Improv2Improve Course and tell Seth you heard about it on the Product Mastery Now podcast to receive a discount
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.