Victor Turner & Elinor Slomba

In early July I took a meal with a friend in New Haven, Elinor Slomba. She’s a consultant, and an artist, and so much more.

It was 2013. Earlier in the year,  I was invited to give one of 3 keynotes at the Global Scrum Gathering in Paris France. And over the previous 3 years I had been quietly doing experiments using Open Space in Agile adoptions. So I planned to explain this work in Paris. I called it “Open Agile Adoption’.

As part of that work, I ended up finding and digging into some very interesting books along the way. I ended up at the author Victor Turner, an amazing cultural anthropologist who wrote a very interesting book called FROM RITUAL TO THEATRE: On the Human Seriousness of Play.

He wrote many other books as well. As I learned more, I started incorporating his ideas of liminality, passage rites and communitas into what became the Open Agile Adoption technique. I planned to present Open Agile Adoption in Paris in September, at the Paris Scrum Gathering. Remember, this is early July in New Haven CT, and I’m having lunch with Elinor Slomba.

So we get to talking. Not about the keynote, just stuff about our background, mutual friends, interests etc.

Then she says

“Yes, and my thesis in Cultural Anthropology was on liminality. Have you ever heard of Victor Turner?”

Now at this point we had not discussed Turner, or liminality, and any of that whatsoever. I hadn’t published any web pages or anything yet about the Open Agile Adoption technique. It was like she was reading my mind of something.

And I replied


And Elinor says “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.”

I actually had the book WITH me (reading it for the 3rd time) and I pulled the book out of my bag.

“You mean this book right here?”

From there, we both smiled and had a great conversation. I expained what I was planning to present Open Agile Adoption at the Scrum Gathering, in part to let her know I had been working on it for 3 years, and studying Turner for over 15 months.

In my walking around and talking to people, it is a rare day when someone is totally in sync with Open Agile Adoption and the various components in it. Here, I was enjoying the company of someone who HAD WRITTEN A THESIS around the very stuff I was studying and implementing inside Agile adoptions.

In light of the foregoing, I am offering you a set of links to Elinor’s essays, because they are excellent, and useful, and written from a place of understanding, know-how and expertise. I hope you enjoy them.

Essays from Elinor Slomba:

Remain Curious:

Outsider Wisdom:
Play Personalities:
Rubbing the Tree
Post Industrial, Long Enough:
Related Links: