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Managing for Serendipity - Remote Version

March 20, 2020

Managing for Serendipity - Remote Version

We know that in our landscape of people and technology, aiming for a particular outcome doesn't always lead to us getting what we want. Sometimes the best results come from approaching a problem obliquely. But in Agile our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software. We like to start with the outcome, meet the needs of our users, delivering high-quality working software with happy teams and true agility... but how might that focus be holding us back, and what are the alternatives?

In this talk we look at how innovation often happens through unexpected side-effects, and some different strategies for approaching complex ecosystems, allowing new ideas to emerge through obliquity, naivety, and serendipity.


March 20, 2020


  1. Complicated Obvious Chaotic Complex sense-analyse-respond sense-categorise-respond probe-sense-respond act-sense-respond Governing constraints

    Fixed constraints Enabling constraints No effective constraint Good Practice Best Practice Emergent Practice Novel Practice Material in this slide is Copyright © 2017 Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd.. Used with kind permission. Cynefin
  2. A Safe-To-Fail Probe has… Indicators of success Indicators of failure

    Amplification actions Dampening actions Coherence http://cognitive-edge.com/methods/safe-to-fail-probes/
  3. Coherence A realistic reason for thinking the probe might have

    a positive impact A sufficiency of evidence to progress Can you give me an example? @lunivore
  4. @lunivore “…the company that put more emphasis on profit in

    its declaration of objectives was the less profitable in its financial statements.” - John Kay
  5. @lunivore Viagra photo by Tim Reckmann, CC SA 3.0 Walkman

    by Esa Sorjonen Space invaders by Bago Games, CC BY 2.0 Car Genie copyright AA
  6. “Humans do not make rational logical decisions… they pattern match

    with either their own experience, or collective experience expressed as stories. It isn’t even a best fit pattern match but a first fit pattern match.” - Dave Snowden, “Managing for Serendipity” @lunivore
  7. @lunivore “We may conclude from an effect to the pre-existence

    of a cause competent to produce that effect.“ - Thomas Henry Huxley CC-BY-SA 3.0 N. Tamura
  8. “Once prototypes are set free in the market, they will

    link with the nearly infinite universe of idiosyncratic needs, contexts, wants and combinatorial imagination of users out there.” - Pierpaolo Andriani (via Tim Kastelle, “Innovation through Exaptation”) @lunivore
  9. Radical Emergence “Some things that weren’t possible at all before

    suddenly become possible. A valley opens up where there was a mountain ahead of you before.” - Alicia Juarrero @lunivore
  10. A Wardley Map Simon Wardley CC-BY-SA 3.0 Not just the

    customers you’ve got, but the customers you could have.
  11. @lunivore O-S Late D Cap P-Tr Tr-J K-Pg %age of

    marine animal genera extinct ma
  12. Resources: Dave Snowden, Managing for Serendipity Alicia Juarrero, Constraints that

    enable innovation Tim Kastelle, Innovation through Exaptation Dave King, Using technology to facilitate “aha” moments @lunivore