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Lean UX Conference Returns to NYC

The Lean UX Conference is returning to NYC April 10-12, 2014 and this year includes a wide variety of speakers as well as workshops from Jeff Gothelf, Dave Snowden and Michael Cheveldave. I had a chance to sit down with one of the conference founders, Will Evans to discuss what to expect from the conference this year.

InfoQ: What is the Lean UX conference about?
Will Evans: It’s a gathering of people from a number of different disciplines that looks at the intersection between design, product, engineering, and operations and how those various disciplines can work together to deliver customer value under conditions of extreme market uncertainty. What seems to be different is that while there are conferences that explore just Agile, or just UX, or Lean Startup, or just Lean – we really took an integrated approach.
What I’ve noticed across a great number of large enterprises (but also startups), is that while they may be staffed with great creative, entrepreneurial talent – often times they find it difficult to design amazing products that deliver value to customers and the organization. While last year we focused a lot more on Lean UX principles and practices, I’ve come to believe that if you don’t address the systemic problems in any organization, if you don’t create the right processes to support teams, and if you don’t create learning organizations, LeanUX ends up being a local optimization incapable of allowing for systemic, long-term organizational health and innovation.
InfoQ: How long has it been running? How did it get started?
Will Evans: This is now the third incarnation of the conference. It started really 3 years ago in response to a bad experience I had at SxSW. I gave a couple of well attended talks there, but was really turned off by the fact that it really wasn’t about deep learning or understanding about the challenges organizations face – either as startups or enterprises. It really seemed like an excuse to party – which is great – but I wanted to do something that looked at the intersection of Agile and Lean and User Experience Design – since most of the conferences just focus on their tribe, but not the intersection of disciples. So Jeff Gothelf and I started with a small one-day AgileUX conference, and it has since grown significantly. This year there will be more than 50 speakers and 600 attendees from around the world.
InfoQ: Who should go to the conference?
Will Evans: This is not for everyone. I’ll say that right up front. We’ve pulled in the most exciting, dynamic, forward thinking practitioners from across the globe. This isn’t for people that believe they have some special access to truth, or the OTM (one true method). This is for people that are curious, open, giving, collaborative. Whether you’re the CIO of a large media enterprise facing disruptive innovation, or a practitioner (UX, engineering, marketing, devops), that wants to gain skills to test, validate, sketch, and ultimately deliver real innovation to the market place – this is for you. Ultimately, by design, it’s an inclusive conference in every nuanced interpretation of that word.
InfoQ: What's different/special about this year versus previous years?


Will Evans: So over the last year, we’ve started borrowing ideas, principles, and practices from design thinking, from LeanUX, from agile, from lean startup, but also from complexity thinking and devops because it seems more important to look at the organization’s value stream, and make sure that people understand how value is created across the entire organization, not just in one department or silo. This is why more of the content for this year’s conference doesn’t just focus on Lean Startup or some other method or ideology, but really getting back to the human element – how can people best work together, learn from each other, and develop a sense of empathy so that we can be more resilient and better adapt to this uncertain times.


InfoQ: Which speakers are you particularly excited about and why?
Will Evans: There are so many it’s hard. First, every speaker was handpicked for their ideas, for the challenges they face in their work, and for their unique perspective. One example is Jen Guarino, who’s a VP at Shinola. They’re bringing craft and manufacturing back to Detroit – she has a fantastic story to tell about the challenges of valuing people and craft in an industry that seems to have forgotten that legacy. Then there is Dave Snowden, an immense and challenging intellect, inventor of the Cynefin Sense-Making framework – who brings complexity thinking to decision making in organizations. Then there is my friend Shalinee Sharma, who is recovering from many years in management consulting and started an EdTech startup where she is trying to bake lean startup and design thinking into the culture there from the ground up. The last one that I might mention is Oonie Chase, a director of Experience Design, that is building out a team at Weiden + Kennedy – perhaps one of the most prestigious global advertising agencies – but not one known for digital or product innovation at all. Really some amazing people that, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg with the depth we’re hoping to go with this conference.


InfoQ will be providing coverage of the conference including interviews with some of the speakers. You can follow the conference on twitter using the hashtag #LeanUX14



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