It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from the Global Scrum Gathering in Lisbon – the first in-person conference I have attended post-COVID – so I thought I would diarise the event and share some of my thoughts on the time I spent there over a series of short blog posts. In this post, I will summarise…

Tuesday 17th October 2023 – Day 2

Open space. Historically, the second day of the gathering is usually dedicated to this truly, agile un-conference format whereby the agenda and programme is created “in-the-moment’ and attendees can naturally follow their interests and even submit ideas for conversations and sessions. Open Space Technology is not an agile creation, but the invention of Harrison Owen. Back in 1983, he observed during a conference he had organised that most of the meaningful conversations and active learning seemed to take place outside of the formal presentations.

As with Day 1 (and the conference in general) I felt the venue, a MASSIVE aircraft hangar, played a big part in the outcome of the open space, it was far too big for the number of attendees. The benefits of this large space, all of the breakouts spaces and marketplace were in one single room – but the downside was that the room was SO large that the acoustics made it almost impossible to hear people talking unless they were sat or stood next to you!!

Despite the impracticalities of the physical space, the attendees ploughed on through and began creating the programme for the day. Each session is announced to the attendees (via microphone luckily) with a brief title and description and then the speaker chooses when and where the session will happen on “the marketplace” – a physical wall in the room where attendees can gather to see which sessions are currently on and choose where they would like to visit.

For me personally (despite the poor acoustics) this was the most valuable open space session I have attended for a long, long time. That value was derived almost exclusively from one single open-space session called “Psycho-Neurocognitive Buzzword Bingo Slam!” which was proposed by Joseph Pelrine and Jasmine Simons-Zahno. The session was aimed at helping to demystify psychological terms and concepts, and encouraged attendees to ask any question about psychology which they have always been too scared to ask.

I have a keen interest in psychology these days (much more so than ever before) as many of the problems I see in organisations are people problems, and a knowledge of psychology helps me understand WHY those behaviours or patterns have emerged.

I loved the session that Joseph and Jasmine led, as they allowed myself and others to ask questions I had always pondered:

  • What is “psychological safety? And what conditions are required to create it?
  • What is “cognitive empathy”?
  • How does neurodiversity affect empathy?

I found the session fascinating, and the discussions also allowed me to weave in some of this learning into my own session on empathy, scheduled for the third and final day of the gathering.

It was great to meet Jasmine for the first time (and her baby in arms, Max!) and also to reconnect with Joseph, who I actually met for the first time back in 2006, when I was co-teaching with Ken Schwaber on the day I became a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). Joseph and I carried on the conversations over the conference lunch too!

The day ended with some (very noisy) drums in the conference venue while I made some last minute adjustments to my slideware for the next day’s session.

A quieter evening followed, with a quiet romantic meal with my good friend Nigel Baker to discuss some of our future plans around the Agile Licensing Library (ALL) but more on that soon!! Then back to the hotel for a drink or two before bed. One more day left – which is coming up in my next blog post!!

Paul Goddard - Agile Coach

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