The Secret Sauce

I have given many talks about the Dayton Experiment. But the one that most terrified me was to a management team from New Relic.

New Relic is a large software company that provides analytical tools for managing complex cloud-based server deployments. It is a public company, based in San Francisco, but has over 500 developers working out of its offices in Portland.

The management team for their engineering group was holding a day-long conference on innovation. They asked me to be their keynote speaker. They wanted to hear a story of innovation from beyond the walls of industry.

These managers were leading some of the most innovative teams in the industry, knowing far more about Agile than I did. I had to tell the story of what we were doing in education in a way that was meaningful and compelling to them.

And I had to walk into my own fears of being an imposter. This fear is not uncommon. Most of us have it. It is just that many of us are good at denying it.

After my talk, five managers came up to ask me more questions. Oddly enough, the one that I wasn't prepared for was, "What can we do to help?" My talk had no ask - I wasn't looking for their support. I was just telling a story of innovation.

When that question was asked, I realized that I had a decision to make. Would I be authentic and honest, or to give them an answer that I thought they might want to hear.

I decided to take the risk of being authentic and honest. I decided to walk into my own fear. To trust these strangers with my vulnerability.

I shared with them that my biggest concern was that we could not replicate the Dayton Experiment in other schools. Because, key to this experience, was my commitment to meet with Jami once a week to talk, reflect and ideate together. As other schools began to embark on this journey, I couldn't make that same commitment to their leadership. And I couldn't clone myself.

So here was the question that I shared with them: Was this type of creative relationship between an industry agilist and an educator unique to just Jami and me, or was this life-giving relationship possible for others?

I asked them if they might be willing to help answer that question with me. It would be messy as I didn't know how we might do it, but would they be willing to explore this question through a quick sprint we spun up together? They agreed.

I now had a rock-star team of industry agilists to help figure out the next step in our journey.

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