Improv at DevOpsDays Baltimore

DevOpsDays is an awesome series of conferences, and I was super happy to get to talk about Improv at the first DevOpsDays Baltimore. I brought along two amazing improv comedy performers, Sean Ellis and Melanie Harker from the Washington Improv Theater.

On the first day, in the opening talks, we led a massive Rock Paper Scissors tournament with the entire conference.

Ok it was a little less intense than that. In our version, everyone finds a partner to play a match. The winner will go on to find another winner to play a match, and so on until only one winner is left. The “loser” of each match becomes the personal cheerleader of the winner.

Paul Frederiksen was our Rock Paper Scissors Champion.

But what did we all learn? Why did we do that?

At the basic level, it gets everyone up, moving around, and talking to each other. It’s a great way to bring up the energy level in a large crowd.

On a higher level it redefines what it means to lose and be a loser. The negative feeling you have from losing the game is replaced by the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself, and getting excited about someone else’s success.

How does this apply to DevOps? On our teams, we often have engineers and developers with different ideas on how to move forward with a solution. If someone’s idea didn’t “win” for whatever reason, those negative feelings can cause resentment, silo-ing work, and discourage people bringing up new solutions.

We have to remember that we’re all on the same team. Playing in Rock Paper Scissor tournaments may seem silly and fun (and it is!) but it helps reinforce core values of positivity, collaboration, and support.

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