The morning started off with a keynote from Sally Spinks of IDEO talking about design thinking and their wholistic design approach to organisations and service design. From what I understood, her role involves “Organisational Design” which is an interesting concept that I initially balked a little at. How can you “design” an organisation and just expect people to play it out. Fortunately she answered that later in the talk about preparing for people to surprise you and to make sure you plan for that change. She talked a little bit about the history of IDEO moving from product design to service design to organisation design and describing how business models are the new units of design.

Being effectively a “change agent”, her most compelling message hit home for a lot of us. Set purpose. Do small stuff, tell big stories. Iterate on the purpose, do more stuff and tell more stories and keep going.

Another highlight for me was a short speech by a well known Swedish chef (in Sweden at least) called Jan Boris-Möller. He’s famous for a TV show going into people’s homes and cooking a three course meal in a a short time based on everything they have in their kitchen. He talked about leadership (setting direction for the kitchen), adaptability and understanding your constraints (e.g. catering for weddings on a farm where you limited access to power sources) and balancing personal creativity with customer success. He talked about understanding your customer and the contraints they work in. He gave the example that it is extremely rare for Swedish people to drink at lunchtime, but often drinks wine at dinner. This means that if you serve the same soup at dinner, it needs to probably be more intense in order to compete with the acidity in the wine.

He even prepared the wonderful evening meal for the conference dinner including wonderful creations including ceviches, foams and an intensely flavoured shot of soup. He

I also hosted an open space session called, “Succeeding as a technical leader” and had some really great conversations covering topics such as what makes a technical leader different from other leaders, their key responsibilities, their challenges and growth paths or how organisations help (or don’t) help them grow. We discussed items such as dealing with conflict, whether or not the role was needed and heard some great stories from the other open space participants.

I also later participated in the workshop, “Combining Usability and agile” involving both a little exercise and a healthy discussion on the different ways that teams integrate usability with agile. It was a small group but lead to some great examples and discussions.