Kevin Kelly, author of Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World, writes about scenius (a.k.a., "the communal form of genius").

Which made me think about skunk works in general and, inevitably, Agile teams and their open workspaces, in specific. Kelly describes several attributes of scenius where collective genius can flourish:

  • mutual appreciation ("Offer Appreciations" in your retrospectives anyone?)
  • rapid exchange of tools and techniques
  • network effects of success
  • local tolerance for the novelties.

Kelly goes on to describe Camp 4 at Yosemite National Park--a scenius of rock climbing, and notes further attributes:

  • an unremarkable space, nothing special, even one that others might find undesirable
  • allows for flexible use
  • takes some effort and commitment to get there and stay

The next time you select a place for your Agile team to work, consider the above.

  • Can you find an unremarkable space that no one else wants? One that could morph in many directions based on the ongoing needs of the team.
  • Can you make it a challenge to become a part of the team and set an expectation that it will take showing real effort and commitment?
  • Can you create a climate where team members recognize that great ideas, successes, or breakthroughs come from a collective, mutually encouraging effort and where they share the good feeling of achievement?
  • Will you value and actively appreciate each others' contributions? (One idea: Hold Appreciative Retrospectives. See here, and here, and here.)

What would it take for the Agile Alliance create a new source of scenius? Maybe something like the Music Masti at Agile 2008?