Agile has helped teams to collaborate and organize work better. That’s great. Better teamwork and better understanding of the work definitely helps a team to do right things. Agile has also lead the way toward technical practices such as Continuous Integration and Delivery, Test Driven Development and SOLID-architecture principles. Great, these things definitely help the team to do things right.
Then again, most of the time in software projects goes into problem solving and similar creative acts. Agile has relatively little to give on these areas. Currently, agile is not about creativity nor is it about problem solving.
This coaching circle session will focus on the creative core of software development: solving creatively novel, original and broad problems more effectively all the time. I will introduce some principles and tools I’ve found useful when helping people to solve hard problems and to find creative solutions.
The format of the session resembles lean coffee with predefined topics: Each topic will have a 20 min timebox. After the time has elapsed, the participants will decide whether they want to continue with the theme or move to another one. In addition to the actual topics, there will be a short introduction to the theme and an option for a traditional coaching exercise at the end.
Topics to choose from
- 9 windows. 9 Windows fits especially well for challenging debugging. It’s rather common that a developer gets stuck with a problem, because he seeks the solution from wrong place. 9 windows helps to systematically think other possible sources.
- Contradiction analysis. In technical planning, you frequently hear the words: “this is not possible”. The reason is often that from the developer’s perspective there is a contradiction: you need to do both A and not-A. The principle of contradiction analysis is to re-think the system, so that you can have A and not-A at the same time.
- Creative thinking toolboxes. The idea of a creative thinking toolbox is to help you generate options for the solution from the knowledge and material you have.There is large variety of different kinds of creative thinking toolboxes: SCAMPER, synectics, 6 thinking hats, 40 inventive principle and so forth. In coaching, a toolbox that is easy to remember works best. I personally use a modified version of SCAMPER.
- Translating fears and biases into risks and opportunities. It’s rather common that especially talented developers have strong and contradicting opinions on how things should be done. While you cannot really change people, as a coach you can make it easier for people to listen to the others emphatically, discuss technical decisions in a bit more constructive way and learn from the alien ways to think. Bringing a bit of empathy in technical debate is a highly effective way to create creative space.
Ari-Pekka Lappi is a hybrid philosopher-engineer at Flowa. He has over 10 years of experience on software development in various different roles, especially as scrum master, developer and software architect. He has published articles on the philosophy of games and is a member of professional art group Reality Research Center.