Solving Real Problems through Collaborative Innovation Games: An Interview with Michael Vizdos


Michael Vizdos shares his experiences with innovation games, collaboration exercises that dramatically improve the way people work together. Plus, Michael shares his perspective on what the agile and waterfall methods mean to the new generation of testers.

Michael Vizdos will be presenting a presentation titled "Solving Real Problems through Collaborative Innovation Games" at the Agile Development Conference and Better Software Conference West 2014, which will take place June 1–6, 2014.


Jonathan Vanian:  Hello and today I'm with Michael Vizdos. Michael will be giving a session at the upcoming Agile Development Conference in Las Vegas. Let's start out Michael and just have you talk a little bit about yourself, and what you do, and your career this far.

Michael Vizdos: My name is Mike Vizdos. Thank you for having me on here today too. I've been in the agile industry since about 2001 when really it got started. I started out my career back in late 1989 with Ross Perot and Electronic Data System. Spent seven years there working with big system things. Worked on an operating system called OS2 for a while with IBM. We broke off and started a hospital IT company, took that one public, started another dot com which turned into a dot bomb, pretty drastic, lots of lessons learned from that.

Started working with a guy name Scott Ambler back in 2001. We signed our first contract on the morning of September 11, 2001. Not a great day to start the company.

Jonathan Vanian: Yeah, I can imagine.

Michael Vizdos: Over those four years we were working with rep implementations, the rationaling of processes and patterns that large enterprises had. We wrote a book on that. During that time I met Ken Schwaber and learned about Scrum. This certified ScrumMaster class from him back in 2004.

Jonathan Vanian: One of the first students, there you go.

Michael Vizdos: Yeah, it was the first 500 I think, it was somewhere in there. I started working with him and was intrigued because I was able to actually deliver software that people were using which was kind of cool. Because for the longest time that really wasn't happening.

Zoom ahead almost 10 years now and I've been really spending a lot of time working with clients around the world implementing agile with different techniques. Scrum is one of them and I do some of the test-driven development. I wouldn't consider myself a expert in the technology side; I'm more of the facilitation side.

I started the comic strip with the chicken and pigs about 2006. . .

Jonathan Vanian: Very cool.

Michael Vizdos: At implementing Scrum. People either love it or hate it. I'm OK with them because it does spur conversations.

Jonathan Vanian: Are you working with primarily large organizations, or small? What's the sort of clientele like?

Michael Vizdos: Yeah, they're all over the map now and I'm saying no to about 90% of the calls that come in. Really I'm looking for clients that really want to try to effect some kind of change.

Jonathan Vanian: Much easier said than done.

Michael Vizdos: Yeah. I spend a lot of time up front qualifying people to make sure we're a good fit because I don't have a really good filter a lot of times. I do have some opinions and a lot of hard lessons learned that I want to share.

Jonathan Vanian: The session you're going to be talking about is on innovation games. I guess we can start off by asking how did you get involved with innovation games? How did you hear about it and how did you start implementing it?

Michael Vizdos: I read a book from a guy named Luke Hohmann and Luke and I had bumped into each other at conferences over the years when we were both talking or speaking at them. The book intrigued me, and I read it, and I thought, well OK, here's a good tool to use at different points in the agile development work. I was like, OK this is a great tool. He invited me to come to, I think it was San Francisco at the time, and take his class as one of the innovation games facilitators and I did that. The real value was the connections that I made, the people that I met there. Really the top people in the industry were also there. With any industry conference, it's less about the content of all the sessions and more about the people that you do meet at these sessions.

Jonathan Vanian: The networking.


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