Seattle Startup Weekend was a great experience, I came into the weekend not sure what to expect. I didn’t understand the potential from the weekend, nor did I realize the number of passionate peers in the industry who were ready and able to make significant contributions over a weekend to produce some great things.
Nonetheless I was excited and tweeted a fair amount about the weekend. As the weekend got started I was still a bit unsure, 48 ideas being pitched, the group running out of time and being kicked out of the Google offices before any teams could be formed. This appeared like a train wreck waiting to happen. Then again, that may have just been me actively lowering my expectations. After the opening evening on Friday, we all hit Brouwers for drinks and I had an opportunity to meet with more of the people attending.
By Saturday I was still unsure, are any of these teams really going to form and create something? As I walked around the room, looking for teams that could work I saw groups who had spent the night before organizing instead of drinking (and I wasn’t even sure about their idea). I saw other ideas that were selected, but were not in the process of any team formation. The two ideas that I liked were starting to fall into this category (they were selected but, no one was following through with them). This is a problem in life – people have great ideas and never follow through with them. Lucky for me, this problem resolved itself over time for both of the ideas I liked.
I saw some rogue folks grabbing whiteboards and chairs and moving them to a convenient location and I wondered if this was yet another new idea that was not pitched or selected the night prior? On inquiry, I found that the team was going to work on The Decider. Hey, that is one of the ideas I liked, but where was the man behind the idea? I didn’t see Tom in the group. Had he ditched like so many other idea pitchers? This group didn’t seem to care. They wanted to make the product anyway. Sofi invited me to join the team and I found they were all developers and lawyers so my skills would be a welcomed addition. I’ll save the rest of the Obey The Decider story for another post.
As the weekend progressed I did see small teams producing quickly and large teams producing slowly. The larger the team or the larger the goal, the longer it was taking. The teams with small goals and/or small goals (we are going to build this small part of the product – not the whole thing) were making progess very quickly and with the diverse groups (no group with more then three people had only developers), progress was being made on all fronts.
It was interesting to see teams worried about traditional problems such as sprint planning and organizing large teams to develop something in relation to teams who were simply sharing a common goal and a shared understanding of that goal was all that mattered. These teams (mine included) were able to execute tremendously well. There was no overhead of “planning” simply discussions about our goal/vision and then a lot of independant work that moved us all in the same direction. Quite harmonious I must say and from experience – nearly impossible on a larger team or on team working to meet customer demands etc.
The only unfortunate part about the whole weekend? Well I enjoyed this approach to working much more than I have enjoyed other approaches….
The good thing? Obey The Decider still lives and is progressing!