Alastair Cockburn gave the opening keynote speech for the Agile Roots 2009 conference. He mentioned that the conference was a product of a local user group called the Salt Lake Agile Round Table. I looked it up and here is where you can find more information if you are interested:
If you live in Utah, you are very lucky to have a high powered group like this around. You can also find links to other agile groups in the area as well as their mailing list. There are a whole bunch of them in the Salt Lake area. I’m thinking I may have to create another one here in Seattle just for the fun of it!
Alastair started off with a story called “Gordon The Guided Missile” that was originally told by John Cleese. It is a marvelous tale and you can find it here:
The point of this funny little yarn is that making many little mistakes is OK. In fact it is necessary in order to make the adjustments necessary to succeed. As Cleese points out, you can’t say, “Well, I got that right, so now I’d better fix it.” It’s ridiculous. Cleese urges us to rediscover a sense of playfulness with our ideas that will allow us to be creative.
Now I don’t consider myself a particularly playful person. I can be downright stodgy at times. But I absolutely love creativity. Maybe that’s why I like software development so much. Writing code – what I like to think of as creating “castles in the mind”, requires us to create dazzlingly complex logical structures using only 1’s and 0’s.
So for me it comes down to this: If these ethereal software structures are a product of creativity, and if creativity is a product of playfulness, then we software developers need to get out and play more! And John Cleese, in his own wonderfully silly fashion provides some tips on how we might do this:
1) Admit mistakes freely. In our particular community of development process fanatics, this means that we need to create a safe environment where this can be accomplished. Scrum, XP and other Agile methods have “built in” this support for discovering and admitting mistakes.
2) Fight the tendency to identify with ideas. This is essential for fostering collaboration on a team. When we identify too closely with an idea it becomes harder to share it with others.
3) Create an atmosphere of tolerance of mistakes by becoming a model. Discuss your mistakes. Share them with others. Who knows? Your mistake could be the genesis of the next great idea.
The rest of the keynote was quite good, but “Gordon The Guided Missile” was definitely my favorite part!