Capitalize We

In digital terms, culture is an application platform consisting of a core operating system kernel and associated components, modules and low-level applications.  This implies We can hack culture by screwing with these cultural platform elements.

The operating system, components, modules and low-level applications of culture are actually our stories and narrative. Thoughts become things, and stories are highly organized, memetic compositions of related thoughts. Stories are culture-things with structure and content. Changing culture is an exercise in selectively hacking specific stories— the essential modules and components that constitute the core cultural platform.

(You can learn more about culture, story, and language here.)

Computer programs are written in a programming language. The programs are stored on digital media. Cultural programs– stories— are written in a natural language. The stories are stored in your head. The stories are the cultural software in your head. The language you use determines how the stories can be told.

Well understood stories get memorialized in writing– in language. Languages have a vocabulary, a syntax, and some rules and conventions. Modifying language is a way to make a change (to refactor) all the stories in that language.  To hack culture, hack the stories. The most efficient way to hack all the stories (at global scope) is to hack the language.

There is a rule in English that says We capitalize “I” and not “We”. This implies “I” is more significant than “We”. Anyone can chose to capitalize We. In so doing, “We” gets on an equal footing with “I” in sentences composed in the English language. By capitalizing We, the signal in writing is that “We” is at least as big, and as important, as significant, and as valuable as: “I”.

“We” is just one example. Anyone can choose to hack language and see what happens. If that language hack of yours comes into widespread usage, the language changes globally. As language goes, so goes story and narrative. As story goes, so goes the culture.

To hack your culture, hack your language.

Capitalize We.


Sixteen Patterns of the Learning Organization

Organizational learning is NOT random. If you do not intend it, it just NEVER HAPPENS.

To really encourage organizational learning, we must engage in 16 often-difficult learning patterns. THE CULTURE GAME book describes how to do this: by gaming the work. It is critical to design and implement the work around specific good-game mechanics, as described by Jane McGonigal in her book REALITY IS BROKEN.

THE CULTURE GAME describes a 3-part strategy for creating more business agility and learning in your organization. That 3-part strategy is:

  • Game the Work
  • Implement the 16 Tribal Learning Patterns
  • Socialize them with Triads

Let’s look at each in turn:

Game the Work. Work is a game. You are not working, you are playing. Usually, the work is poorly structured and does not have good-game dynamics built in. You can change that. Game the work. By deliberately gaming the work, you obtain a double-barreled win. This is because you eliminate bad game mechanics, and replace them with fun and enjoyable, good-game mechanics. You win huge by paying attention to this.

Implement the 16 Tribal Learning Practices. These are distilled and extracted from Agile software development. These are the behavioral patterns of the best teams. The best teams are small learning organizations. By doing what these teams are doing, you become a learning organization. It’s that simple.

Socialize with Triads. In your company, you can either make moves, or die a slow death waiting for someone else to do so. THE CULTURE GAME book explains how to apply the triad structures described by Dave Logan and others in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP. Triad are an essential aspect of spreading ideas and memes throughout your company.

OK. Now let’s run down the 16 Tribal Learning patterns from THE CULTURE GAME in some detail…

The Tribal Learning Patterns from THE CULTURE GAME:

Chapter 7: Be Purposeful. Without a clear purpose, you group cannot focus. You need one.

Chapter 8: Facilitate Your Meetings. Agile meetings are facilitated. We must do the same.

Chapter 9: Examine Your Norms. Nothing is beyond inspection. We must play serious.

Chapter 10: Be Punctual. Punctuality associates with Respect, Commitment, Focus.

Chapter 11: Structure Your Interactions. Real-time negotiation is over-rated. Agree in advance.

Chapter 12: Announce Your Intent. No one can follow when you do not state what you are doing. Tell people exactly what you plan to do.

Chapter 13: Game Your Meetings. Game mechanics govern engagement. Eliminate randomness in your meetings and level up

Chapter 14: Conduct Frequent Experiments. All learning is experimentation and all experimentation is play. Suspend disbelief and learn by experimenting.

Chapter 15: Manage Visually. Out of sight out of mind. Seeing is believing.

Chapter 16: Inspect Frequently. Iterate and inspect. When chaos comes, do this more often.

Chapter 17: Get Coached. The observer can see things you cannot. Coach is in it, not of it.

Chapter 18: Manage Your Boundaries. Good fences make good neighbors. Mend your fences.

Chapter 19: Socialize Books. Learning is at the root of greatness. Spread books & ideas.

Chapter 20: Pay Explicit Attention. We cannot change what we do not acknowledge. Attention is a scarce resource, that is why we call it “paying” attention. Zoom in.

Chapter 21: Open The Space. Closed space is space where we “don’t go there”. Open the space to discover what is going on, encourage engagement, and get the best idea on the table, regardless of source.

Chapter 22: Be Playful: Play is associated with joy and learning. Figure this out and you are on your way to more business agility and a much more adaptive organization.


Organizational learning is at the root of group greatness. Agile software teams have conquered the problem of how to do this. There are at least 16 core patterns of organizational learning. We call them Tribal Learning Patterns in THE CULTURE GAME book. Do them, and your tribe will prosper. Ignore them at your own peril.

Work is game, and it is poorly structured. This is why it is often not fun, and usually, unsatisfying. To level-up, Game the Work. Inject good-game mechanics into your work and meetings.

Once you are winning the culture game with your team, socialize your wins with triads. Form triads to socialize a culture of learning. Teach others that are willing exactly how to play the game. Once enough people are located in the wider story of organizational learning, the whole organization “goes Agile”. It sounds so simple. It’s not.

THE CULTURE GAME  book provides tools and a roadmap for encouraging real, genuine, positive change in your organization.


Gaming Happiness at Work

Happiness at work is a game. If the core requirements for happiness at work are not present, you disengage and check out. If the core requirements are there, you automatically experience fun, satisfaction and potentially, a deeply engaged sense of well-being. THE CULTURE GAME book shows how to deliver happiness through the intentional design and implementation of good-game mechanics.

Work is BROKEN when it is not fun to play. The THE CULTURE GAME book provides tools for playing an all-new game of engagement and learning. By doing this you are delivering happiness at work by injecting good-game mechanics into the structure of work and meetings.

The core requirements for happiness at work are:

A sense of control
A sense of progress
A sense of belonging and membership
A sense of wider purpose and meaning

Agile patterns and practices, authentically applied, definitely deliver happiness. The game of Scrum is simply one example.

The next thing to realize is that work is a game and that Scrum is a game, Kanban is a game, all your meetings are games, and that big Agile adoption underway at your company is in fact a game. Your company culture is also an elaborate game.

When viewed in this way, it is possible to more fully game your interactions, your meetings and work itself, so that participating is optimized towards a satisfying, fun and naturally productive experience.


Games have 4 basic properties. When the values for each of the properties are well-formed, the game is enjoyable, fun and satisfying. When the 4 properties are not well-formed, the game is not fun and you either opt-out or, if this is not possible, you disengage (“check out”) almost automatically.

The 4 basic properties of a good game are:

A clear goal
A clear set of rules that are uniformly applied
A clear way to “check the score”, get feedback and track progress
Opt-in participation

Agile patterns and practices are usually (but not always) well-formed games. Well-formed games associate with satisfaction, happiness and even joy; poorly defined games associate with disengagement, low levels of learning, and a distinct lack of enjoyment.

THE CULTURE GAME book draws on the work of four big authors: Jane McGonigal (REALITY IS BROKEN), Dave Logan (TRIBAL LEADERSHIP), Tony Hsieh (DELIVERING HAPPINESS), and Peter Senge (THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE).

The objective of THE CULTURE GAME book  is to introduce you to the tools and dynamics of happiness at work, and the basics of good-game design for work. As a result of reading the book, you are able to:

  • More fully understand business agility
  • More quickly analyze and diagnose the specific business agility problems you are facing
  • More easily design for successful meetings
  • More easily design for successful Agile adoptions
  • More easily design for satisfying work, and
  • Begin to encourage the emergence of a genuine learning organization in your company.

Drawing from wide-scope academic research, several core-foundation books and 4 years of real coaching in real organizations, THE CULTURE GAME takes you through a specific 8-part framework. This is a framework for designing and developing more learning at work by leveraging some very specific game mechanics for re-designing the way you do work with other people.

Are these ideas intriguing to you? Contact us to arrange a 2-day CULTURE GAME WORKSHOP for your organization. In this workshop, we teach you how to game your culture by gaming your meetings, so these meetings convert from soul-sucking death marches to fun and enjoyable and energizing team-learning events. During the workshop, teach you very specific business agility techniques, and we train your people as CULTURE GAME facilitators. Click here to learn more about THE CULTURE GAME WORKSHOP.


Without good requirements, you cannot do good Agile. You need to know how to collect, gather and define requirements. Attend this meeting to learn how to build a real Product Backlog !

Everyone wants to know how to define requirements at the start of an Agile project. Old-school requirements insist that we do analysis, get PERFECT requirements, then do design, then development, then test. Sound familiar??

The results are in: this is a very ineffective approach to creating GREAT software.

The mechanics of creating requirements in an Agile way is very visual, tactile and collaborative. How we do requirements is the very heart of Agile. To really understand software Agility, you must experience how we gather and define requirements.

WARNING: Agile Requirements Gathering might cause discomfort and/or pain in the neck. May cause shortness of breathe in some individuals.

Attend to find out how to start gathering requirements in an Agile way!





All who have an interest in great software with others can attend this meeting. Persons not comfortable creating great software with others may not enjoy this meeting.

Managers, directors and project sponsors as well as executives will get a great deal out this meeting.

Team members and project leaders new to Agile who are looking to really get going with Agile projects

Everyone in Connecticut who cares about genuine and authentic Agile adoptions in their workplaces may want to be at this meeting.


Everyone exits this meeting ready to go with Agile Requirements Gathering teachings, knowledge and direct experience.



  • How to generate enough good requirements to actually start coding in as little as 2 hours
  • How and why using index cards and facilitated meetings create great requirements
  • Why “user stories” make perfect sense for gathering requirements
  • What a “persona” is, and how to leverage them to create requirements
  • How to generate 60 ACTIONABLE requirements per hour
  • What a User Story Map is good for, and why you care
  • How avoid soul-sucking death march meetings, and replace them with fun, energizing and productive episodes of learning as you gather requirements
  • How to teach Agile Requirements Gathering to others in your organization




Dan Mezick

Dan Mezick is an expert adviser on Agile who delivers Agile coaching and guidance to teams, departments and corporate executives. As skilled Open Space facilitator, he has pioneered the use of Open Space in Boston and is the Open Space facilitator for the Agile NYC Open Space 2012 conference held February 27, 2012.

He is the author of The Culture Game, a book of practices, derived from Agile, that managers use to promote more learning and agility inside their teams and the wider organization. He is a frequent speaker at Agile and management conferences and is the keynote speaker for the Northeast Quality Conference 2012.

His coaching clients include Mass Mutual, Hartford Insurance, CIGNA, Sikorsky Aircraft, Zappos Insights, Orpheus Orchestra, and dozens of mid-size organizations.

You can learn more about Dan and his Agile coaching practice, here.



This is a facilitated workshop. You exit with direct experience gathering and generating genuine Agile Requirements. We focus on a specific web-based application and generate requirements in small facilitated groups.

600PM Intro to Agile and Scrum (with cheese and crackers) Dan Mezick

630PM Intro to Agile Requirements: Core Concepts. Dan Mezick

700PM BREAK. Food, beverages, socializing

720PM Exercise: Persona Generation

740PM Exercise: User Story Generation and Mapping

800PM Group Retrospective on Agile Requirements