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I recently had the pleasure of attending my first annual Agile Open Space, a unique event that allows attendees to create and manage their own parallel working sessions. Hosted by The Toronto Agile Community, the only setup for this event was an empty grid of timeslots, a list of stations posted on a wall, and a predetermined Agile theme. If someone wished to be a presenter, all they had to do was select a topic of interest and post their topic in an available slot. The idea that anything can happen was very intriguing and contributed to a positive peer-learning experience that was equally applicable to both early Agile adopters and Agile veterans.

This year’s Open Space kicked off with the attendees forming a large circle in the open space, with the organizers in the middle introducing themselves and explaining the logistics for the day. One point they explicitly stated was that it was OK for attendees to move on to other sessions at any time, even in the middle of a presentation. I found this quite interesting and discovered that this made for sessions focused on learning and adding value to the conversation. While attending a session, if you felt that you could be better served elsewhere, you were free to leave and join another session, or no session at all. As a presenter, even one attendee meant that person cared about the topic as much as yourself. It was all about perspective.

Topics ranged from the very technical, such as “The Importance of Functional Programming” to soft skills such as “Passion in Teams”. My chief motivation was to find new concepts or “Trys” that I could bring back to Intelliware. Although I came across several presentations with interesting ideas, some of them will require a fair amount of follow-up effort. However, I did find one that I can implement immediately, called “Getting to Know Your Team through Improv” and presented by Todd Charron of Planning for Failure. Todd introduced entertaining and engaging games that promise to quickly build comradery and empathy within a team. It’s a great technique to start building connections and Todd suggested that we try a game just before Stand Up, as a way to break the ice.

Despite the casual, semi-dynamic approach to the event, it was informative, fun and well-organized. Agile certainly has a place in many industries but the enthusiasm and passion of the attendees ran true to form.