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Elastic Minds: Lean, Agile, and Innovative

5 December 2017

Dr. Dave Cornelius

“Elastic minds” are the Lean, Agile, and innovative thinkers who are enabling digital transformation strategies (DTS). As I have stated (Cornelius 2017), “Elastic minds realize neuroplasticity in experiences viewed through the thinking lens that include 1) creative, 2) critical, 3) strategic, 4) design, 5) lean, and 6) systems thinking,” as illustrated in Figure 1 below. Digital transformation strategies are the always-on, always-mobile, and dynamic technology solutions that are changing the landscape of how businesses compete. The companies that are leading in DTS include Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to name a few of the big companies.

Lean thinking and agility shifted how work is done, and technology continues to change the landscape of how information is shared. Elastic minds are leading the way to new innovations that are even challenging some of the germinal thoughts of Scrum. For example, people are asking whether we still need to estimate or whether we can begin work by evaluating what the team can get done within a timebox of one to three days. Another area to challenge is the notion of the product owner truly being the sole owner of the product — or is that role focused on representing the priority of the customer’s jobs to be done? Elastic minds are free to create new ways to improve existing successful paradigms such as Scrum.
Figure 1: Elastic minds thinking

Using the game titled “Game-Pay-Innovate” that is found on, we can evaluate the six thinking paradigms in Figure 1 to satisfy the “jobs to be done” scenario of creating a card game as a team. We begin with a micro team consisting of three to five team members who are responsible for delivering the feature of creating the rules and options of a new card game. Each game includes: 1) start, 2) journey, and 3) end, with the option to include a leader board to induce competition. Games can be of a social nature and do not require a winner to be successful. (Personally, I enjoy a little friendly competition and would want a leader board.)

The concept of creating a game is similar to developing software, because there are common activities that include analysis, design, integration, testing, and delivery. As you can imagine, we would begin with a backlog of things to do that the micro team would prioritize and begin to work on.

The natural place for the team to begin would be to use creative thinking to brainstorm in an attempt to arrive at new ideas for the card game. Some may begin with critical thinking and ask questions — what problem do we intend to solve. Design thinking could be the third thinking option that focuses on customers of the game and defines empathetic actions that considers the target audience of the game. Strategy is essential to game play, so strategic thinking would potentially be the next form of thinking that the team could apply to describe the overall goal of the game. Perhaps this form of thinking could be the second applied thinking for some. Lean thinking would help the team optimize value and minimize waste to ensure that the game could be played within a specific timebox. Finally, systems thinking helps the team define amplifying and dampening actions based on the game players’ interactions and feedback loop. The order of thinking described in this document could be different for each team or individual engaged in creating the rules, roles, and interactions in the game.

I posit that the six-thinking stance is applicable to software development and agility. Creative and critical thinking applies to finding solutions and solving problems in grooming and engineering practices. Design thinking plays a critical role in UX/UI. Product management and architecture leverage strategic thinking to establish strategic themes and goals. The team’s optimization strategies are delivered through Lean thinking. Systems thinking helps to discover ways for growth by engaging in continual learning. Elastic minds are creatives who reimagine ways to create businesses, define how people engage in learning, and create tools to change markets (Cornelius, 2017).

Cornelius, D. (2017). Elastic Minds: What Are You Thinking? Costa Mesa, CA.: JCWALK Publishing.

Game-Play-Innovate. Retrieved from

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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