There is a reason educators love playing games. Games promote learning. One-way information sharing is passive and does not stick. According to Michael Schrage, a leading expert on the relationship between technology and work, "the "serious play" that leads to breakthrough innovations is increasingly linked to experiments with models, prototypes, and simulations. As digital technology makes prototyping more cost-effective, serious play will soon lie at the heart of all innovation strategies, influencing how businesses define themselves and their markets."
No surprise that Agile is linked to playing. The creative nature of Agile environment demands active learning and innovation. This is one of the reasons why agilists from around US and many other countries gather annually for the Agile Games conference in Boston, MA. This year I had a privilege speaking at a conference. Actually, not speaking (surprisingly to those of you who are frequent conference attendees, PowerPoint decks and one-way training sessions are not welcome guests at this event) but rather, leading a 1.5 hour-long innovation workshop creating shared learning and ability to take a new look at well-known Agile challenges and resolve them. However, I will write about my presentation separately while this blog is dedicated to my "aha" moments from the conference, which I hope you can apply to your organizations and Agile teams.
I decided to select my ten favorite "aha" moments from the conference:
1. In his outstanding keynote, Thiagi shared many ideas about learning and playing. Check out his web site for a ton of games and organizational change cards. One of his thoughts was that we frequently rush to complete presentation or cover all materials within the time allocated. Don't do it! People remember unfinished business best. Just stop where you are and leave your audience craving for more. This will promote their learning experience.
2. Move around the room as you present. Do not create intense learning vibe in the front of the room where there are no participants. Go around the room and make everyone feel that they are in the front seat.
3. Thiagi taught us many games ideas, and there are even more on his site. Check out this goal setting game or the "35" prioritization game (which was introduced at the conference by Yuval Yeret). My favorite one was writing a topic on cards (one statement per each) and having people walk around the room introducing this topic to each other, and then selecting a winning card. I would use "creative plagiarism", as Thiagi called it, and have participants exchange cards with each iteration.
4. Another great game introduced by Thiagi was to have an SME recite a topic for 3 minutes, and then have teams ask each other 3 closed-ended questions (if the chosen team member answers correctly, the team receive 2 points, another team member - 1 point, otherwise 0) and then 3 open-ended questions (competition between the teams is resolved with voting).
5. Another highlight was the session by Yuval Yeret where he introduced two question/answer tools that can be used for decision-making, knowledge assessment, consensus building, or prioritization. The tools are kahoot.it and socrative.com. Check them out!
6. There were several lego sessions. My favorite was the retrospective session with Ellen Grove and Mike Bowler. We were supposed to build a lego composition that represents our feedback about the conference and share it around the table. There was colorful and creative compositions involved to share many helpful ideas. I am planning to use it at work.
7. The podcast which closed the conference was funny, smart, and thoughtful. It was improvised right in front of us. By the way, there was a great Improv session at a conference led by Todd Charron - I did not have a chance to attend but I heard a lot of laughter from the room that was neighboring with the one where I attended the lego workshop. And it was a great challenge: there were so many interesting choices that selecting a session to attend was super hard.
8. At the second day keynote by Rich Kasperowski, we learned about "modern Agile" which includes open space, besides other items. Open and informal nature of Agile is the heard of success. Rich also taught us how to do a "check in" exercise - we all enjoyed the experience, and even used it in the following session, FeatureBan.
9. FeatureBan lead by Andrea Chiou was fun. We simulated kanban and established experiential WIP limits. Our team, WIPless, increased throughput from 4 to 9 cards in three 10-day games. I also heard a lot about Laura Powers' session about Agile brain and her "Scrum. Or Not?" game from other participants and about David Graver's excellent session. Too bad I was not able to visit all concurrent sessions in parallel!. Meanwhile check Laura's site, http://poweredbyteams.com/. Based on the matchmaking game "Hot or Not" - the game "Scrum or Not" is designed to conclude an introductory scrum training workshop. It gives the group an opportunity to test their knowledge in a fast-paced game where everything is not scrum, but it certainly sounds like it could be.
10. There were many great sessions and learnings at a conference. One of the themes was storytelling. Let me tell you my own "wow" story from the conference. On the first day, I wanted to buy a new book on open space. The books were sold for cash so I decided to withdraw cash from an ATM later and of course, day 2 was so full with great events that I totally forgot. When I realized that I need to buy the book towards the closing session, the book table was already dismantled. I told my neighbor at the table, Mark, that I am so upset that I missed the book, and - what a surprise - I found out that Mark was one of the authors, and he kindly promised to send me the book by mail. What a coincidence! But wait: this is not the end of the story. In the end of the conference, there was a book drawing for five different books, and I won. Can you imagine my feelings when it turned out that I got exactly the Open Space Agility Handbook that I wanted!
Tomorrow is the Open Space which marks the last day of Agile Games 2016. This was a great experience, and I am going back home to start preparing for Agile Games 2017!
Transformation agent with experience in business transformation including transition to Agile (Scrum, kanban, lean) and building scaled Agile and Lean organizations. Passionate about motivating people and building great teams.