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Diwali was approaching and our unit decided to celebrate Diwali in office. As part of the celebration, some games were arranged. Ten teams were formed, each containing about ten people. Then the hostess announced an interesting competition. The teams were to collect coins from within the team and create something using those coins. The team with the most creative and appealing creation would get the prize. Time given was just 15 minutes.

Our team quickly decided to first collect the coins and everybody poured out whatever coins they had. We were quite surprised by the heap of coins that we could manage to get. Now came the difficult task of deciding what to do with those coins. Someone suggested we could create a tree from those coins. Someone said let’s make a house. Suggestions were coming forth and the team was not happy with them. Clock was ticking. And someone suggested let’s create a piggy bank. Again the idea did not have acceptance from most of the team members.

And then came a great suggestion – how about creating Ganapati? Ganapati?? Can we really do that? Yes, said most of the members. The whole team got excited on this suggestion and quickly we agreed on the shape. By the 10th minute we had created first version of Ganapati’s image using the coins we had. Now we decided to improve it further. We managed to have a very good image by going through a few iterations in the remaining time. When judges examined all the entries, they found our entry most creative and most appealing. We won the prize!

When I look back at this incident, I see the elements of a classic agile project here. It also demonstrates a key element that drives success in Agile projects. Let me explain.

We were under time pressure and we had to act quickly. Unless we delivered a superior product, there was no possibility of winning the competition. The team had strong desire to make a difference and succeed. So, everybody committed to the team goal wholeheartedly. Everybody brought out the coins that they had. Everybody participated in the brainstorming on what to create from the coins collected. Nobody was disappointed by the rejection of his/her idea but made attempts to come up with a better one till we could find that one idea that resonated with all and got everybody excited – Ganapati! That brilliant idea was the root cause of our success.

What led us to this? The answer to this is not straightforward but many times we see that when we think collectively and creatively often we transcend our normal limits and come up with something totally new, totally different and brilliant! Something that none of us would have thought of by ourselves! The collective brainstorming by the team with no restraints and no fear of rejection, leads us into a creative domain where we enter the realm of lateral thinking and find great solutions.

These “aha” moments get the teams excited and give them a different kind of thrill and happiness. This leads to higher motivation and greater bonding among team members, starting a positive performance cycle in the process. This is the phenomenon that builds stronger team spirit and team ownership and helps teams do progressively better and better. This is where the teams come face to face with true agility!