Postcards on Change from Belgium
I’m in Belgium this week, getting ready to present Anarchy and the Acco™ Clip: Lean Startups in Government at the Lean Startups Brussels meeting.
Can you imagine preparing a presentation in one language and then, on a moments notice being asked to present in another language? Yesterday I attended a workshop of Agile experts (an approach to building products and software) explaining the best uses and applications for Agile and XP which was hosted at Sirris.be. The meeting started off in Dutch, and five minutes into the meeting, an audience member requested they switch to English (no, it wasn’t me!). The panel then switched to English, offering 8 presentations in rapid fire succession (similar to the “sprint concept” in Agile) with each presenter offering an aspect of working in Agile in 5 minutes or less. It was a fascinating “deep dive” into an area I haven’t spent a lot of time in, and the experience and enthusiasm of the panel was obvious. After the presentation, the audience was divided into smaller break out groups to discuss challenges with executing and adapting Agile to the workplace, proving some issues are universal. Most of the areas involved the challenge of managing product development in a situation with diffused authority, something not uncommon in any change project. From the discussions led by the presenters it was obvious that the flexibility they had demonstrated flipping languages was also repeated in their project management. An amazing workshop, with lots of great insight and strategies.
The second event was a pitch program at Beta Group Brussels where several entrepreneurs had 5 minute to pitch their products in a way to test their marketability, similar to giving an “elevator speech” for venture capitalists. Over 300 people watched and voted on different applications, it was exciting to watch people passionately pitch their ideas. One interesting note was that sometimes the best, most marketable idea was often buried or missed in the “pitcher’s” enthusiasm for their original concept. One team, creating an online shopping site glossed over their best attribute, creating a routine, simplified, glossy marketing approach for small business owners who were NOT technically savvy, basically letting the business owners subcontract that work inexpensively to a group that would ensure that the their marketing would meet all current technical standards, and marketing for them on a consistent basis across multiple platforms (a huge issue for a frazzled small business owner). It was a great reminder that sometimes we’re so close to our creations that we miss the forest for the trees.
On a side note, much like the US there were very few females in either group, and often the females offered more “service concept” type products rather than application development or strict product development. The females had good insight into the how and why a product would or wouldn’t work, clearly we need to get more women in STEM professions!
Many thanks to my hosts from Lean Startup Brussels who are ensuring I get a great whirlwind tour of the technology community in Brussels. There’s tons of food for thought that has been shared, and I hope to be able to share it with all of you in a slightly more coherent fashion once I get some sleep!
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