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 –


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