Another Lesson from Improv Class

A few weeks ago, I finished a six-week intermediate improv class. The class had more of a focus on scene work and hard acting skills than I had anticipated, but that focus has given me a new clarity around putting deals together.

I showed up to the first improv class ready to do my best Belushi imitation and get people laughing but was challenged to not go for immediate laughs but rather to play a longer game and invest in generating much stronger reactions. Our teacher urged us to build a solid foundation in the scene before getting fancy. He told us:

Take your time. Get your bearings. Make sure you and your partner(s) are on the same page before you add the wacky stuff.

I realized how similar my advice is to clients trying to do innovative clean energy deals. Frequently, clients come to me with an idea that involves new policy, technology, and financing, all at once. I always push back and give a version of my “One Piece of Flair” speech about how deals should only have one innovative element right out of the gate.

Improv works the same way. Don’t start a scene with an immediate conflict, an oddball personality, and an earthquake at the same time! Establish the scene, and only when the scene is solid should you add elements, one at a time. In energy finance, work on the basics before you even think of innovating. When your basics are solid, add one thing at a time.

I know — the basics are rarely the fun part of the deal, and we all would rather work on the fun parts. Improv works the same way. I don’t instinctively want to take the time to get a rhythm going before I throw in a zinger. The catch is that the zinger is exponentially more powerful if we know who the people in the scene are and why we should care about them.

My takeaway — give yourself a little extra time to get the deal’s foundation right (credit, security, technology, partners) before you add the bit of flair you are hoping will dazzle the market.

When we set things up right and add our flair, it will truly shine.

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