XP Day 2004

I'm a bit behind with my blogging at the moment - XP Day was a week ago now. But it was a great event, organised by practioners for practioners, and there were lots of people there to talk to and swap experiences with: Rachel Davies, Andy Pols, Willem van den Ende, Joseph Pelrine, Duncan Pierce, Clarke Ching (who gave an excellent talk on Goldratt's Theory of Constraints), Steve Freeman, Nat Pryce, Joe Walnes, Olivier Lafontan,Dafydd Rees, David Leigh-Fellows, Ben Mitchell, ... and the list goes on.
The highlight for me (and I suspect most people) was the mind-expanding keynote given by Dave Snowden on the first day. In a wide-ranging talk about "sense-making, networks and narrative" he discussed causality, order, complexity, heuristics, attractors, barriers, probes, and grameen banking: all in the context of people and their interactions.
Some of the nuggets he threw out were that:

  • people know more than they can say, and say more than they can write down - so if you want to capture knowledge then capture spoken words, not written ones
  • people don't believe that success is predictable but do believe that failure is repeatable - so if you want to learn from other people listen to their war stories and mistakes, not their successes ("trying to avoid worst practice rather then repeating best practice")
  • the "Law of 15-150" limits our ability to interact with other people - the largest network of people who will all trust each other is 15, and the largest number of acquaintances that you can sustain is 150
  • "human beings are not like ants" - they make first fit experiential pattern match decisions (not logical ones), they have multiple identities (e.g. father, son, husband, friend, coach), they impute intentionality where none exists, and they have free will
  • knowledge spreads by itself in densely connected social networks - so reduce the degrees of separation between teams if you want to create a learning organisation
  • managing the economy of knowledge flow (e.g. via mass narrative enquiry) is more effective than trying to manage knowledge itself
I hope that we (as agile practioners concerned with people and their interactions) incorporate some of these ideas and techniques into our work - at an intellectual level at least there seems to be enormous potential for creative fusion.