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Emergent Practices, the True Pattern for Succeeding with Agile

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Alexandre Magno, author of the book ”How Creative Workers Learn", gave a masterclass at the Scrum Gathering Portugal 2016 showing the power of the practices that emerge from the inside of an organization instead of being imported from the outside.

Magno defines an emergent practice as the one that a team or an organization identifies as needed to be implemented in their context, not necessarily a new practice invented by them. Understanding what an emergent practice is, is about understanding the difference between:

  • The process of learning “is what produces the learning experience itself”.
  • The product of learning “is the result of the learning experience”.

According to Magno, we were taught to focus much more on the result of a learning experience, the product of learning. And that’s why we’ve been importing to our organizations Scrum, Kanban, Safe, Less, Extreme Programming and other practices and frameworks, giving less importance to the discovery of own ways to achieve goals.

The importance of the emergent practices was shown by the speaker using a quote from Aleem Walji, Chief Executive Officer at Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A.

Solutions may not always scale. But the processes by which we experiment, learn and adapt can.


Premature Convergence, defined as a tendency to stop exploring solutions too early, was also pointed out as a reason preventing people and organisations from finding the best practices for them and from letting new practices emerge.

The speaker went into a discussion around prescriptive and emergent practices, and learning and how learning has evolved to its current 3.0 version. Shortly:

  • Learning 1.0 is the pure application of prescriptive learning on which experts make questions and give answers.
  • Learning 2.0 fosters questions to be formulated by the learners. The experts still own the answers.
  • Learning 3.0 is about emergent learning on which one should post questions and through a process of learning, find the answers. Or simply,

Sharing is the new teaching.


The slide deck can be accessed here.


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