Balanced Team deLUX at SxSW March 7


deLUX is happening again this year at SXSW!

Please join us March 7 for some beers & bites at sunset on the beautiful patio at Adaptive Path, followed by a short program from some of the leading practicioners in the Lean / Balanced Team community.

Program Starts @ 6:30pm. Short talks from:

  • Jeff Gothelf, Neo Principal and author of LeanUX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
  • Jeremiah Gardner, Handcrafted Brands Principal and author of The Lean Brand
  • Alissa Briggs + Raman Hansi, Intuit Innovation Catalysts and SXSW 2014 Speakers
  • Chris Nodder, Interface Tamer and producer of Questionable Methods.


Balanced Team Sunday Salon NYC April 13

We’re very excited to announce that the next Balanced Team event in NY will be a Sunday Salon on 4/13 at Pivotal Labs in Chelsea. On the heels of The LeanUX Conference, Balanced Team will hold a one-day synthesizing symposium to share ideas, socialize, and continue the conversation.

The plan: gather everyone for brunch (Bagels! Mimosas!). Generate topics of interest. Split into small groups based on topic. Discuss in groups, and create a poster. Present a summary of the poster. Go home, chill out, enjoy what’s left of the weekend. (Or maybe head to the bar w/ your Balanced Team friends!) Plus a helping of the Balanced Team fixtures (Welcoming new community members! Fishbowls! Closing circle!) that’re starting to become community rituals.

We’re announcing the salon to the BT community first. In a few days, we’ll announce to the LeanUX conference Tickets are $10, and available via Eventbrite. Scholarships are available if the cost is a hardship; just email me off-list. Event details will be managed through Lanyrd.

Please join us!


09:00 SET UP
10:00 DOORS (45m) brunch, socializing
10:45 WELCOME (30m) Balanced Team history, introduce CONVERSATION ACTIVITY
11:15 GENERATE (30m) start to generate topics, (put topic and NAME OF PROPOSER on sticky)
11:45 DECIDE (15m) dot vote, assign topics and leaders to conversation areas
12:00 CONVERSATION ONE (30m): People start first break out sessions, facilitator makes poster
12:30 STAND-UP (15m): one speaker from group summarizes poster in a sentence. Next round of topics is circulated
12:45 BREAK (30m): snack, form 2rd groups
13:15 CONVERSATION TWO (30m): facilitator makes poster
13:45 STAND-UP (15m): each group gives a 1-sentence description
14:00 BREAK (15m): bring posters to central area, people can review/comment on posters
14:15 REASSEMBLE (15m): explain FISHBOWL
14:30 FISHBOWL (60m): moderated group discussion
15:30 CLOSING CIRCLE (30m): each person says one thing they will take forward
16:00 ANNOUNCEMENTS: Adios! What’s the next event? What’s the next bar? Off to the bar

Design Metrics

Design can move the needle.  It can drive sales, retain customers and impact referrals.

To prove that design is driving business, you need specific, targeted data.  We often test conversions by A/B testing two different layouts or copy variations.  But, there is another layer to these metrics – the emotional resonance of design.  Aesthetics can play a profitable role in customer interactions.  Designers take great care in establishing and evolving a brand.  Yet, we don’t have a strong rubric for measuring visual choices.

At the last Balanced Team, Andrew Korf presented how he was working through this challenge at NativeX and offered the topic up for an open space dialogue.  A group of us gathered to develop a framework for metrics-based design.  More specifically, we aimed to validate aesthetic design choices with data.

We’ve created a resource for this information and hope to build on it with your contributions.  Please feel free to add any ideas, blog posts or links in the comments here or tweet us @BalancedTeam with #DesignMetrics.

Open Space Conversations at Balanced Team SF

At the Balanced Team meeting in San Francisco, our program consisted mostly of prepared presentations. Because dialog and participation are so important to us, we reserved some time Sunday afternoon to solicit conversation topics from the participants.

Over lunch, the group was asked to think about one or more “conversation topics you’d like to lead.” We collected these topics on sticky notes and put them on the wall. Each speaker briefly introduced the topic they wrote and then the group placed a pen mark on up to three of the topics they would like to participate in. (also called “dot voting”). The topics with the most dots were assigned rooms. People assembled in the rooms that interested them. The conversation hosts were encouraged to share back the outcome of their conversation with the group afterwards through a blog post and/or coverage on the event.

If you want to learn more about Open Space Technology, I encourage you to read this Wikipedia article.


Selected topics

These were the topics the group selected for conversation

  • Experiment Mapping workshop
  • Lean is for Discovery, Agile is for Delivery
  • Experience Wheel workshop
  • Let’s Create a framework for metrics driven design
  • Why is the Balanced Team conference not balanced? Does the split indicate that balanced team is a design insurgency? 60% design,20% dev, 20% pm. What about researchers and social scientists? There are only a handful here and yet they bring tremendous value to a “balanced team.” How do we really know? Can people share why they were drawn here this weekend? Maybe they don’t fit neatly into those categories\
  • Workload prioritization / management tools

Proposed Topics

These are the proposed conversations which were not selected. I include them here as a historical record and perhaps they will provide fodder for future presentations or blog posts?

  • What do you do when there really is a “lone genius” with a good vision? how can collaboration be facilitated?
  • What are the roles & handoffs of Product, UX and Development?
  • Human interactions collaborations and building relationships between team members
  • What’s this “Lean” thing?
  • Starting a balanced team: how to get organizational support for starting a balanced team process?
  • Why is design ‘never done?’
  • Horizontal vs vertical change
  • How is it possible to build trust in community?
  • Worst experiences in integrating customer & product development
  • What tools do you use? Prototyping, task management, remote communication
  • How can we use our design skills to help self-organizing teams design their process(es?)
  • How to collaborate with other UX peeps (i.e. user researcher, strategist, IA, UX designer, Ninja?)
  • What do you do / where do you go for UX inspirations?
  • Educating clients or non-UX people about UX while at work
  • How to deal with concensus & ownership moving forward (making progress) in an unbalanced team (and not)
  • Is lean-agile-balanced just serving intersets of capital
  • Documentation when you’re moving so fast. How do you keep track of decisions/data over time?
  • Common language across teams, business/dev./design & stakeholders
  • Next event BTNY2014
  • Ways to get Lean / Agile to wider community
  • Mock-ups are lies! Work in the medium
  • Process share
  • How do you reconcile business needs and user needs?
  • Cognitive illusions that screw up our work
  • Mind-time & Build-measure learn & collaboration
  • When are high-fidelity mockups appropriate / useful / most efective
  • Systemizing UX techniques
  • Lean is from Product, Agile is from Engineers. What does Design contribute?
  • Staying balanced when scattered: tools & techniques for remotely distributed teams
  • Discovery: How does a balanced team functino as a whole in the ideation / customer discovery phase?
  • What is “good design” Journal paper review and conversation
  • How to be Lean/Agile w/o sprints/iterations
  • How much design should be done in the browser?
  • UXing vs. PMing: User reserarch to drive features? Product strategy, marketing
  • What does “design thinking” mean to you?
  • How do you continuously get customers invoved in B2B (bribes, fame?)
  • “Design Enough” with the spectrum of design product – what is enough?
  • Pitching design thinking to close new accounts
  • The roles of Sales / BD in a balanced team

Balanced Team SF – Fall 2013 – The Takeaways


A great event for me, much like a great movie, is always characterized by its persistent effects on my daily thinking. I attended my first Balanced Team event in San Francisco 3 years ago and the caliber of people and quality of ideas generated made me sign up for the next event, held in Chicago the following year. Moses Hohman did an excellent job organizing that event and I came away with a renewed and heightened respect for the Balanced Team group. Continued learning and experimenting with our craft is what drives most of us and although Balanced Team is a self-organized and relatively loose network of connections, the learnings gleaned from congregating a group of diverse thinkers together have been outstanding.

10649613343_ed3795d7cc_cRecently Lane, Veronica and I sat down to gather up the reflections that we captured from each of you as participants and also from our personal experience organizing the event. Receiving such positive feedback from everyone ended up making the process quite a fun experience. We wanted to extend a huge thanks to all the folks that showed up to make the conference what it was. Thank you in particular to those of you that took the time to put together a presentation and/or facilitate an open space. One thing that make these conferences stand out for me personally and for many that attend is that it has a blend of structured and unstructured content. We tend to experiment with the ratio but realize that a component of each is critical to the knowledge sharing that is at the core of what the organization is.




Here are some thoughts that I pulled together from the reflections as well as some of the overall highlights from the weekend:

kateBloom and Intelleto
Witnessing two long time BT alum in their new roles and exciting new endeavors was a total treat. Thank you to Kate Rutter for her excellent sketch notes and to Becky Gessler for her delicious coffee.

Structured vs Unstructured
We chose to have more structured content (ie talks) for this event but many responded that they wished for more unstructured time to informally interact, chat over coffee, have time for questions and do more ‘unconference’ style work sessions.

Ideal size
Although a larger event was a bit more work to organize, it seems as though people still felt that it was intimate enough and yet broad enough to get new voices heard. Perhaps somewhere around 75 there is a magic number for human interactions?

Talk length
There were lots of comments on the talk lengths. Some felt the lightening talks were too short and some felt that 40 minutes was too long. Universally people responded that they liked the fishbowl. Having time after talks for questions and group discussion reaped the most reward from the wealth of brain power at the event.


Open sessions
More, more, more! Everyone loved these. Lots of +1s


“I loved the experience. Usually conferences are for specific fields – engineers go to engineering conferences, designers go to design conferences – but at balanced team there was a mix of disciplines. So when I told people at balanced team SF that my work is in research, everyone asked me questions!”

“More balanced approach to all disciplines – barely any Product Managers or Developers represented”

“It was one of the most insightful and productive conference I’ve been to. I love the more intimate feel, and made some great contacts and shared some interesting thoughts on my personal experience, as well as heard great stories from various fellow PMs.”

“I loved the size and the group of humans was inspired. The mix of skills was also intriguing. The organization was really nicely done!”

“Hemming and hawing over “are there enough business people?”. We’re fine.”

“…it was just the sort of interaction and conversation I feel we need more of throughout the product development world! It was something I had not even realized that I needed, until having experienced. I think there’s many more people like that… I was very happy to be captured into Balanced Team’s orbit.”

“great people all around – not sure how you screen for that but the quality of the people was exceptional”

LOVED IT! Incredibly valuable! Everyone who came contributed and that was key – no matter who I was talking to, I knew we had common values and that may be the biggest challenge as BT grows. Really wonderful, fulfilling, exciting event.

Check out what others had to say:

Alexa Roman – Shared Values, Common Culture

Kate Rutter – Balanced Team Pie

Carbon Five Blog

Chris Nodder – Photo Slideshow

Twitter List -


Balanced Team London 2013 – Initial Report

On Saturday June 8th a group of poly-skilled developers, designers, researchers, academics, entrepreneurs and other miscellaneous product development folk got together in London to look at how to build teams that balance customer and business value using collaborative, iterative methods.

We’ll be giving more details of the outputs from the event soon. Some of the areas we covered included:

  • What is a balanced team?
  • Collaboration hacks
  • “Data with soul” not “Data vs. soul”
  • Fostering relationships in distributed teams
  • Managing stakeholders

In the meantime you can see some photos and tweets from the event over on storify.

(If you attended the event yourself please feel to add to the above storify link)

And finally – a massive thank you to our sponsors – Mozilla, Method, & Neo – that made the event possible.

Balanced Team Brunch NYC

April 14 2013, a group of Balanced Team members met at the offices of Neo, NYC for a social gathering and mini-unconference on topics of interest: Agile+UX+Lean Startup. We enjoyed bagels and coffee and collected topics of interest which we then discussed in fishbowl conversation format. Below, please find a photo and a list of topics provided by the group.

Fishbowl Topics

Please write a topic (or two) of interest for today

  • Embedding marketing
  • Unicorns – what are they – do you need ‘em?
  • Product owner teams – report from the field
  • Live style guides first movement
  • Timing of design thinking vs. lean
  • Making vs. thinking: pace & vanity progress
  • If our currency is shared understanding, let’s talk about quality & values
  • Lane’s “learn to code” trip report
  • Product manager vs project manager?
  • Product manager/owner think they are the customer (no research)
  • Care & feeding of the engine of construction
  • How to effectively bring designers into Agile/Lean development?
  • Convincing management to build NEW products that solve a problem (aka not Facebook for pets)
  • Josh, Giff, Jeff should buy a makerbot
  • Convincing management that user research is good when they are scared you won’t come off as experts (B2B)
  • How do we assess what is the “minimum desirable things” that will convince users and/or sponsors?

You can see a set of photos from the event on Meetup.