creativity for agile teams

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Teams can be These slides are from the second session Mark Levison and I did at Agile2011(8/8/2011). Contact:, @mlevison, @rwbrown.


  • 1. Our key point: Your team can be more creativeWhy do you care? Creativity increases productivityMain takeaway: How creativity works and how younurture it on your team 1

2. In 2000 my daughter worked as an intern on the TV show Malcolm in the Middle.Her job was to pamper the writing team. Their job was to create a script for eachweeks show. They had 5 days to come up with and write 30 minutes ofirreverent, award-winning comedy. The bar was set high from before Day One.The script for the pilot won an Emmy award.The writers had their own work room. It had what you might expect aconference table and chairs, a small kitchen setup. It also had a deep pile ofbrightly colored carpets, bean bag chairs and boxes full of toys. The refrigeratorhad some unusual items in it at all times. My daughters job was to fetchwhatever manner of consumable any writer desired lunch from a specialrestaurant, 20 year Scotch, Korean Tacos from the truck near Dodger Stadium.They were pampered because they had to be creative on a deadline.Do you pamper your Agile teams like this? Likely not. But then they have a littlemore leeway in getting their work done two weeks and a variable scope basedon proven velocity. Do Agile teams need to be creative? Their goal is less open-ended than comedy writers but creativity is a great attribute for getting productdown well. A successful team is going to be creative. The ideal Agile workenvironment is conducive to creativity shared space, close collaboration, chartson the wall, good tools, clear goals. A team that does not feel creative is a teamin need of a tune-up. Are their ways to promote, nurture and enhance creativityin Agile Teams? That is what we are going to explore. 2 3. 3 4. 4 5. 5 6. 6 7. Some common answers: Lack of talent? Lack of imagination? Lack of motivation? No time? Culture? Upbringing? 7 8. Most significant inventions are based on the ideas andwork of many people. 8 9. Anyone can be creative given the right conditions. 10 10. Studies show that people under pressure will come upwith fewer useful new ideas. 11 11. Are you- right-brained or left-brained?- creative or logical? 12 12. Some common answers:- Useful- Novel- Feels new to me- Did not previously exist- Solves a problemCreativity helps with Problem Solving Refinement of Product and Process Invention and Innovation13 13. Each builds upon the other.14 14. How well did to work for you?We overuse the wrong parts of our brains. It is betterto create the right conditions for creativity. 15 15. To some extent it can. We will see some tools that help.But perhaps nurturing our innate abilities a betterapproach. 16 16. This one is easy. Our pre-frontal cortex can handle itwith little access to long term memory.Answer: VIIIFrom 17 17. This one requires a shift into language networks to finda match.Answer: SIX 18 18. This one requires a shift from the previous two into amathematical solution.Answer: IX6, a mathmatical expression 19 19. 20 20. 21 21. Left and right brain hemispheres are a bit different, butboth are used all the time. The left brain is a specialist.The right brain is a generalist. They work together allthe time.22 22. Our brains have 3 general parts based on evolutionaryprogress.- Old Brain (reptilian, autonomic, survival)- Mid Brain (mammalian, limbic, emotion)- New Brain (neocortex, language, speech, music,reasoning, thinking)23 23. Beeman 2004: 40% of word puzzles were solved usinglogical process. 60% were spontaneous insight (nological progression).The greater part of our brain us used for subconsciousthought, which is faster. There is much more capacity,too. 24 24. The Fedex Logo has a symbol embedded in it thatsuggests forward motion.If you do not see the symbol, note your emotional statewhile you look for it.Here is a clue: White space is not always empty.Answer: a right-pointing white arrow between the Eand x.25 25. Working memory is limited in capacity and processing isslow due to complexity and energy demand of theneocortex. Long term memory is vastly larger andinformation is compressed and coded, allowing forfaster access and searching. The hippocampus is thebrain organ that manages movement of informationbetween the two types of memory.26 26. What is happening in the neural circuits. When we takein new information, our brain looks for existing mapsthat match the concepts or experience. If one is found,the map is reinforced. If none is found, an impasseoccurs.This feels frustrating. If we try really hard tounderstand, our prefrontal cortex uses up a lot ofenergy and we get tired. If, instead, we can relax andthink about something else or do something physicalthat is not related, our subconscious brain continues tolook deeper for matching maps. If it finds none, itcreates a new map to represent the new information.This is called learning. 27 27. This model comes from David Rocks 2006 book. It iscalled ARIA, an acronym for the 4 stages.1. Awareness of a dilemma a problem to be solved,we show concern. We are stuck in an impasse.2. Reflection staring into space while watchinginternal processes. Outer world has gone dim sounconscious can go to work.3. Insight aha! A new connection has been madebetween our existing networks that can accommodatethe dilemma4. Action Energy rises and we want to do somethingabout the problem. 28 28. During the impasse, our energy is low. If we can relaxand reflect, our alpha waves increase. These are thelow-amplitude waves that we experience when at restlike watching TV. When the impasse is overcome, thereis a burst of gamma waves high amplitude, highenergy waves associated with excitement. Weexperience the energy to take action. It is short-lived,though, so it is best to act quickly. 29 29. This exercise facilitates the ARIA model. By explaining thechallenge in words, the language and speech processingcenters of our brains are activated, bringing more neuralmaps into use. By reducing it to 5 words, the prefrontalcortex has less to do to hold on to the concept, opening upchannels to our subconscious. Then the use of wordsevoking deep thinking and intuition help to activate ourdeeper search mechanisms to draw upon our vast mentalresources.Here are some sample questions: If you stop and think deeply, do you think you know what you need to do to resolve this? What quiet hunches do you have about a resolution, deeper inside? How close to a solution are you? Which pathway to a solution would be best to follow?30 30. 31 31. Here are some common ones:- Smart Guy and follower syndrome- Know-it-all- Silos- Brainstorming- Group think- Critical thinking-MorePhysical: poor health or dietPersonality: cynicism, critical outlook, pessimism,conservative, controllingEmotional: fear, lack of faithGroup: distrust, disagreement, disrupted flow, conflictPerspective: rigid, narrow, controlled, logicalEnvironmental: time pressure, external reward32 32. This is our list.33 33. Studies show that pressure does not help. The oldphrase Necessity is the Mother of Invention is moretrue in the long run than in the short run.34 34. TO be creative, we need to have our basic necessitiestaken care of and feel safe to speak in the presence ofour collaborators.35 35. These are from Dan Pink in Drive. Also Rock has a similar model SCARF for groups.36 36. Eustress = good stress.The prefrontal cortex needs just the right amount ofstress to be at peek performance. That means the rightbalance of dopamine and norepenephrine(noradrenaline). 37 37. 38 38. RelaxOne type of creativity can spark othersRemember a related experienceAsk questionsView, touch related objectsDo something simple to warm up39 39. It actually helps to tell yourself and your collaboratorsto Be creative!Visual stimulation helps think colored sticky notesand drawings.Physical, tactile, body-in-motion activities use more ofthe brain by a factor of a billion compared to workingalone with a computer.40 40. R: What a cute doggy.R: Mark, does your dog bite?M: No, he is pretty mellow.R: Hi doggy.D: RowfR: Ouch. I thought you said your dog didnt bite?M: Thats not my dog.Morale: the solution space may be different from whatyou assume.Avoid lightpost effect looking for your lost keys wherethe light is brightest rather than where you last hadthem.41 41. How many experiments did Edison make before hefound the right filament for the electric light? What ifhe had stopped at the first failure? Experiments tellus if our hypothesis is correct. We take actionaccordingly. Therefore failure is simply one type ofknowledge acquisition. 42 42. We think more creatively when we are having fun.Recall the TV Show writers room. For more, see 43 43. Let your subconscious do the heavy lifting. And sleepfor integration.Ohlsson in Rock p 79 says to deliberately do somethingelse to stop conscious processing at impasse.Zimmer: When your mind wanders, the brains defaultnetwork (self referential thought) is working with itsexecutive control system (prefrontal cortex) to reachdistant goals. New ideas may emerge and be surprising. 44 44. Create 30 circles.In 60 seconds, see how many you can turn into apicture.Going fast helps us to keep from editing ourselves(judging quality or cleverness) which slows us down.But the time pressure may reduce our creativity, too.So try 120 seconds.45 45. 46 46. This is a picture of the band Paul McCartney was inbefore Wings. ;-) Were they creative? Musicologists arestill trying to figure out how they did what they did inmany of their melodies. 47 47. 48 48. Wright Brothers were not the firstFulton was not the firstEdison was not the firstFord was not the firstDarwin 49 49. Flow for individuals is defined by MihalyCsikszentmihalyi (Cheek-sent-me-high) in Fl