Open Jam at Agile2017

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Walking from session to session at an Agile Alliance conference, you’ll see a cluster of tables covered in sticky notes & markers surrounded by chairs and flip charts. Whatever time of the conference day, you’ll notice several people will be hanging out there having conversations full of laughter and challenging ideas.


At times, Open Jam is so full of collaborating groups that it spills out of the designated area and spreads to the surrounding halls where people create wallware, i.e. large pieces of chart paper attached to the walls using blue painter’s tape. Ad hoc facilitation is rampant, with many techniques providing value to the various groups of participants actively engaged in seeking value. This value isn’t scheduled, published ahead of time, and predicted. This value emerges from the energy in the space.

Most mornings, you’ll find groups waking up over a Lean Coffee kanban board of follow-ons from the previous day’s sessions and the new day’s curious questions. If you’re like me and have trouble keeping all of the week’s knowledge in your head, this is a great place for processing!


Late afternoon and early evening is the time to keep an eye out for presentation karaoke (a.k.a. Powerpoint roulette or battledecks). Participants and on-lookers contribute potential presentation topics by writing them down and dropping them into a container where they are randomized (i.e. stirred vigorously). Brave volunteers then reach into the fishbowl for a topic, grab the mic, and begin speaking while incorporating unfamiliar slides blended from many different presenters’ slide decks. When I tried it, these slides auto-advanced pecha kucha style, so my time to be puzzled by each random image was limited. Hilarity ensued!


One year, the Open Jam space became a fun circle of storytelling and team-building activities that weren’t focused on a particular topic. This community bonding was one of my favorite experiences at the Agile Alliance conferences. These people are still my close friends and I look forward to seeing them at the gathering of agile tribes at the annual big agile conference.


Another year, a giant chart on the wall asked attendees to share reasons that agile would fail at their workplaces and in their organizations. Not all of these topics are comfortable experiences of agreement! We’re struggling with real-world issues together, and really that’s the best way to struggle. As Spider Robinson writes, shared pain is lessened and shared joy is increased.


Come share your pain and joy with agilists from around the world at Agile2017’s Open Jam!


P.S. If you want to present a real pecha kucha, check out our Lightning Talks track and sign up!

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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