“Yes and…” 5 Ways Improv Comedy Can Teach You About Digital Analytics

Your hands start to tremble a bit. Your heart pounds just a little bit louder. The audience is waiting for you to speak and you aren’t sure what you are going to say. You don’t want to embarrass your colleagues, but you also don’t want to gloss over any glaring issues that require you to have a keen eye for observation.

Is this the feeling of being on a stage? Or is this the plight of the Digital Analyst?

The skills of an analyst require you to present your data in a clear and consistent manner, not unlike performing in an Improv comedy show much like Whose Line is it Anyway. Let’s do a deeper dive and see how we can take lessons from this world and apply it to your role as a digital analyst.

Improv Tip 1: Yes and…

One of the very first rules of improv is to say “Yes, and…” No matter what type of situation you find yourself in, work to put your colleagues first and avoid detracting from their point of view. Add on to their input and keep an open mind instead of shutting them down.

Improv Tip 2: Listen!

As an analyst you need to learn to listen. Really listen to what your colleagues are saying. What are their primary business goals and objectives? Avoid inserting your own opinion on the situation until you have given everyone a chance to voice their concerns and needs. Everyone not on the same page? Believe it or not, just your presence can cause a gentle nudge to having an analytics focused mind-set and help the team think through problems more objectively. Use the position of the analyst as someone who can mediate using data as your guide.

Improv Tip 3: Add History

In improv, you can assume the history of your colleague and create a backstory. When you deliver analysis, add some context to the report. Are there historical numbers your can use or industry averages to measure your success against? Otherwise, those 3 million page views may look impressive, but without context it is impossible to know what you are aiming for.

Improv Tip 4: You can look good if your make your partner look good

You may walk on stage with a notion of what type of character you want to be and exactly how you want to act it out. When it comes time to present, your colleague has no idea what is going on in your head and your performance is difficult to follow. With analytics, avoid trying to out shine your colleagues as the one with all the answers. You can empower your team to see the signal in the noise and help them come to conclusions previously buried in a mountain of data. It’s a win-win- win for you, your team, and your organization.

Improv Tip 5: Stay Positive, Learn to Adapt

Things will inevitably go wrong on stage and off it. In improv, players know how to take a situation that doesn’t exactly go as planned and turn it around. When you work as an analyst, making a hypothesis about why certain data is showing up is an essential part of the role. Sometimes, we may get things wrong. Analytics enable you to track things and ask questions no one may have been asking and lead you down a path that isn’t quite what you expected. That is okay! Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good and continue pushing the boundaries for what data can do for your organization.

This post originally was written for Growler Analytics, another project of Samuel Itin

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