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Live RE’13: Creative Collisions

Wednesday afternoon, I attended RE Interactive–a session which “forced” two people at a conference who had never worked with one another to collaborate on a structured scenario. The idea is based on research that areas of the brain which trigger creative thinking are activated when two unfamiliar people are placed in a structured, safe situation and forced to work together.  This will allow new ideas to flow around solutions to problems as well as allow for the emergence of structured methods for solving those problems.  I could see this being used in elicitation sessions–especially early on in a project.

Usually, we elicit our process flows, ecosystem maps, and business data diagrams with either a small group of people who have together in the past, an individual, or a large group of people–some of whom have worked together and some who have not. By pairing up individuals who may be responsible for the same process, set of systems, or business data, and who have never worked together with one another, it is likely that the resulting output requirements artifacts may include more information and be more accurate.

The exercise demonstrated the possibility that people are more willing to make mistakes with someone with whom they have never worked–allowing more ideas to flow freely.  I will probably give this a try on my next project, as I’ve seen the effect of having people who are familiar with one another working together lead to some stagnant thinking and missed software requirements or model elements (process flow steps, data elements, systems. etc.)

Often, stakeholders are hesitant to speak up about how something works or the area that they are responsible for if they are not sure that it is 100% accurate. By allowing some “collisions” in the form of mistakes which then become more refined, the resulting output is better than the output that a single individual or groups of individuals who know each other well would be.

The session worked fairly well for me–I collaborated with Alistair “Mav” Mavin on a paper idea and technique which will have real-world implications for requirements elicitation. We did this, not having worked together before, by brainstorming about our various interests and discussing what possible combinations might work. I’m not sure if the lack of familiarity with his work made me more comfortable, or if the fact that we knew it was a structured scenario in which we would not be punished for mistakes made along the way. If this interactive session generates a useful paper or technique, then the exercise could be considered even more of a success. I guess we will wait to see in 2014!

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