A weekend ago I traveled to NYC so I could participate in a one-day event called TestRetreat. It was a first for me and I was a bit nervous about attending. I’ve worked with testers before and they are a pretty intense bunch. J
Several months ago, Matt Heusser, founder of Excelon Development and the organizer of the event, convinced me to attend on the basis of bringing perspectives from folks outside the testing arena. I met the requirements, as I have never held the title of tester. I spent many years as a business analyst, working side-by-side with testers so I greatly respect what it takes to be a good tester. Plus, breaking down silos always sounds like a great idea to me, so I booked my flight. (And did I mention that it was in NYC? Twist my arm…)
I knew that I chose wisely as the attendees started gathering Friday evening. After easy introductions, the conversation bounced between industry debates, family updates, career moves, and ideas for the evening plans. Warm and welcoming, this crowd immediately removed my “new person status.”
The next morning, we swarmed on the sleek, modern offices of Liquidnet, our gracious host for the day. (Special thanks to Anna Roysman and Thomas Vaniotis!) After a few bites of breakfast and a few bits of socializing, we got to work creating the schedule for the day. Matt Barcomb did a nice job facilitating the open space format and we quickly had a wall full of topics and discussions underway.
No matter how many I’ve seen, open space events still fascinate me. Most of the dysfunctions I see in teams and in organizations are caused by people, intentionally or not. Over time, I start to lose faith in humanity! So the self-organization, openness and adaptability of participants in this kind of event renew my hope in humans.
And that leads to my biggest takeaway from the day. When we create environments that are safe – free of judgment or repercussions – with a loose structure to support them, people will share ideas freely and take ownership of their time.
Regardless of industry, we carry around different knowledge, ideas and experience. Unfortunately, we also haul around our own insecurities, fears and unconstructive habits. What Test Retreat reinforced for me is that people want to contribute and connect. So our challenge is to create spaces, every day, where they can do that.