In Praise of Unpreparedness

It wasn’t intentional, but because I came into my Scrum training session yesterday with a half-baked idea for a game, the participants were able to experience first-hand the Scrum approach to working with customers (like me!) who don’t know what they want. From that realization came an understanding about the importance of collaborative dialog with customers. Through actually doing it the participants learned about the importance of requesting clarification on vague requirements, making offers, saying “yes, and”, self-organizing towards solutions, driving forward by hindsight, and emerging great solutions through a careful balance of action and reflection.

And I came to understand, once again, that I can be in disarray, and actually use that state to unearth wonderful learning moments. It is not the game we play that matters, not the well-planned exercise, the beautifully crafted set of slides, or the knock-out lecture. It is the response in real time to those things where the deeper value can be found. If I accept I have no knowledge of what will happen when I embark on a training unit, then I open a world of learning possibilities to participants (and to myself). On the other hand, if I have a defined outcome in mind, I close down all those other possibilities. I manipulate rather than guide.

This is something I have long been aware of, and trusted in, but my failure yesterday to effectively formulate a new game gave me a new depth of understanding of the value of this way of working. I inadvertently created an environment where the principle of emergent design became manifest. Yet while created by accident, it was subsequently fostered very deliberately. And a new interactive Scrum game was created.

In such moments the joy of Scrum training can be savored.

4 responses to “In Praise of Unpreparedness

  1. Excellent. Thanks for sharing that. In my experience both as “trainer” and participant the most effective learning happened when the outcome of a game or exercise was open.
    Take care

  2. Pingback:

  3. Of course, it requires a deftly prepared mind to be able to do this. I have a similar perspective – I’ve gone into presentations thinking that if I have every angle nailed down, I will provide value to my attendees.

    Over time, I began to let a little flux, chaos – unpreparedness – into my sessions to let the participants direct the flow. Not only did my presentations literally lose 50% of their weight, they became more informative and lost a lot of text in favour of pictures, simple numbers, concepts, diagrams and the like.

    Out of curiosity, how did the game evolve from your initial expectations? What did the participants do?

  4. You were prepared by years of experience. We are back to creativity.

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