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Have you blogged about #CULTUREcon?  Reply in the comments with a link!  More chronicles at André's blog and at FreeStandingAgility .

Thanks to Olaf Lewitz for the photos!

Here's what conference organizer and Agile Philly Maggie Churchville captured:

Dan Mezick-  How To Game Your Meetings

A game is a group activity with clear goals, clear rules, a way to track progress and voluntary players; Daniel Mezick, author of The Culture Game: Tools For The Agile Manager (, demonstrated how to structure any meeting by these parameters. He started the 20-minute talk by saying, “It’s mandatory that I be here but you’re here by choice, you may leave at any time. Our goal is to learn about applying game mechanics to meetings, and we’ll be here for 20 minutes.” During that time, Dan used an easel as a scoreboard, moving sticky notes with his talking points from a ToDo column to a Doing column and finally to a Done column as a way to give progress information to the listener. Dan’s premise is that we need a sense of control and progress to feel happy; if you put a game layer over any meeting you build in clearer goals and identifiable progress to help your “teammates” stay involved.

Games and happiness are related. Control, progress, belonging to a team and working on a large project that you can’t do alone, these are the things that make people happy at work. Meetings can be fun again by stating a clear objective, or goal for the meeting. Then, lay out a few rules, for instance, how long you will take, when to offer feedback, or the timetable for discussion, do these rules apply to everyone. Provide a way to show progress throughout the meeting, and let your teammates know that they may leave at any time.  

When individuals are free to decide whether to join any social opportunity they bring a motivation and eagerness that is absent under traditional, mandatory events. To get people to come to your meetings, Dan suggested sending a series or invitations, structuring your space so that people can mingle, and even offering  the choice of short courses to earn a badge, knowing that we feed off symbols and signs.

Explicitly structuring your meetings provides a working agreement that teammates buy into. As participants, we know what we are giving up and what we are getting from the meeting; we’re all in, we’re building a little culture, we’re situating ourselves in the same story, we are having strong and satisfying interactions, and we are happy. Meetings don’t have to suck.


Eric Raymond, Culture Hacking The Open-Source Movement

Cultures are defined by the language, jokes and myths they share. By editing the “jargon file” you shape the culture. Be aware of what “language maps” show about a given culture. For instance, jokes are extremely important because they subtly define what a culture values and fears; they reveal emotional substructure.

Technology in any form is enabled by stories because narratives are social ways connecting technology to people. The causality never stops.  Strong conversation around product creation maximizes the numbers of iterations. Decentralized and open peer review creates a better product. Re-branding and dropping ideological packaging influences the adoption of technology.


Culture influencers find a concept central to the culture and find the right label; they create something useful. Ultimately, what counts as success in culture hacking? When people begin using the names, places and stories you establish. Culture hacking stands or falls on its own success but in the end, you can only engineer a culture in a direction that it wants to go anyway.

Bob Gower, Agile coach w/ rally software.  Kicking The Habit

Much of what people do is habit, autopilot. If we change our habits we allow more bandwidth to be freed up for creativity.

To change a habit, understand what it does for you. Find deep gratitude that the habit gave you something you needed. Realize you can have this something fulfilled by other means. These are things in your control; make them a keystone habit. Habits have a trigger and a reward. The trigger is what starts the habit in action and the reward is the end result fromthe habit. Changing a habit is a matter of Inserting a new habit in between the trigger and the reward.

In business, they also have habits that they want to change, but they must understand the benefit cycle, or, the trigger and rewards. What habits should a business change?  Where should we intervene in a business?  In complex businesses all things impact all other things. Pay attention to what the individuals at the company have agreed to to be part of something important. They feel part of and cared for by company. What are the keystone habits that hold your group together. Retrospect  a very regular basis, Release your product often, measure people engagement.

The prologue to change is that you have to hit bottom. But we get to choose where our bottom is. The best thing an organization can do is hit bottom, make your troubles visible. You can begin to change your habits to rebuild the organization. Read Charles Duhigg, The Power Of Habit.


Michael Margolis, Get Storied.  The Power Of Cultural Storytelling

Culture and storytelling. What is our role as individuals in culture hacking /change. “When a culture is in trouble, it calls back the outsiders.” We are the outsiders/mavericks. The experience of being rejected/opt out of culture qualifies us, once we stop stumbling in the dark. The circle is at the heart of culture hacking. Culture is about boundary-setting, a line of what’s in /out, possible/ impossible, acceptable/unacceptable. Get in touch with the shadow of the cultural dynamic. We each see something different, frustrating to articulate it and try to get others to see what we see. We want to create new culture where we fit in, yet we are steeped in the stories of old culture and not fitting in.

“Jump Start Story Telling” why am I so emotionally invested in this work? What’s the riddle I’m trying to solve?  We all want to feel loving acceptance, by working together with people on something meaningful. We learn to appreciate the uniqueness of others when the connection is more important than the product.

We are hardwired to find ourselves in others…if you are permitted to get close to someone. Story telling reveals the invisible lines of connection, and allows other people to locate themselves inside the story. Build a big story where there is more room for people to locate themselves. Story of self (motivation), story of tribe (collective motivation), universal story that transcends (the thing that everybody wants.)

Before you can help others, you have to examine and understand your own story. You’ve been on a journey and now can help people- not from a place of obligation or virtue for helping, but from a place of humility and empathy because we walked the path.

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