InnoVAte 2017: A Silverchair Retrospective

Last week, several members of the Silverchair team attended InnoVAte, "an event that mixes great ideas, passionate people, and industry best practices in a unique and creative setting." With sessions on leadership, Agile methods, DevOps, metrics, and more (and featuring everything from Legos and viral videos to NASA satellites), the day offered myriad ways of thinking and performing innovatively. Here are some takeaways from the Silverchair contingent.

Scrum Master:

I learned about Lean Coffee and enjoyed the session facilitated by Michael Vizdos where we discussed “Scrum in the Real World” using a Lean Coffee approach. I’m hoping to apply this immediately to our next retrospective and foster more focused discussion from the team.


Product Owner:

My main takeaways:

  • My role of ensuring that the developers understand the client’s business goals for a certain project helps with buy-in.
  • It’s super important that designers are able to answer the question, “What is the thing we’re trying to achieve here?” in order to create the best design function.

 UX Designer:

Why is a McDonald’s milkshake the perfect travel food?

  • A bagel has too many crumbs.
  • You can't just buy one doughnut and end up eating six on your journey.
  • A banana only has 20 calories; you’ll be hungry in 30 minutes.
Enter the milkshake:

  • Fits in a cup holder perfectly
  • Can be held with one hand
  • Is frozen when you first get it
  • Melts and changes experience as you travel
It goes to show that, while the McDonald's milkshake might not be the best tasting or best looking, it is the most functional and function is the first consideration in design thinking.


Product Owner:

  • Product ownership is as much a team mindset as a job title. The entire team needs to take ownership of the product they are working on and keep the bigger picture in mind rather than having a purely narrow focus on their part of the work.
  • User stories are living documents that change and develop; it is not a dead, sacred text that is best left to the “experts” like product managers and business analysts.

Marketing Coordinator:

  • On design thinking: "It's about understanding design as the verb rather than design as the job title." –Andrea Mallard on the High Resolution Video Podcast
  • In considering user interfaces: "Let's make sure the future works for real people." This means crafting user stories that take into account the many, varied aspects of a user's experience, removing pain points, and ensuring accessibility, for starters.
  • Agile as a practice can improve outcomes for everything from aerospace (e.g. the Faster Better Cheaper initiative of 1992) to marketing (see Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative, by Scott Brinker).

UX Designer:

Design used to be an adversarial, waterfall process: Between defending against client editing, lack of right input at the right time, and developers being dumped a bunch of designs they’re asked to code. The solution is to continue to introduce non-design roles to design thinking. Some ways we can do this are:

  • Utilizing sprints to dedicate everyone on a team to the design process
  • Doing project kickoffs that last a day, not an hour, to build consensus across the team
  • Collectively clarifying rank of human needs vs. business needs
  • Allowing key roles to provide feedback on the design process
In the end, everyone should have a chance to contribute to designs in some way!


Software Quality and Release Leader:

The closing speaker, Jason Allen Ashlock, spoke about how the stories we tell (as individuals, teams, a company, etc.) can influence our individual and collective behavior; we should be seeking out and amplifying the stories and narratives that lead to more of the behaviors we desire to see.


We were also energized by the many other engaged innovators in attendance, who offered a range of insights and questions that opened up further discussions. Did you attend? If so, let’s keep the conversation going–reach out to us on social media to let us know what your biggest takeaway was.

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