Most teams and departments are so busy with the day-to-day running of the business that they never get the time to think about the bigger picture, but giving people the freedom to build their own solution changes they way they work, and creates better products for the business.
Innovation Days at Info-Tech changed the tone in many ways and was the first step in making our business see us as creative individuals who could deliver more than they were asking, rather than mere implementers of specs. Many of our innovation day projects have made significant contributions to our bottom line.
Innovation Day was originally inspired by the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink, he talks about FedEx days at Atlassian (so named because everything is “shipped” in one day). There is a great recap of this on YouTube drawn by the folks at RSA.
At Atlassian, the rules for FedEx days are:
“For this 24 hour period you can work on whatever you want, with whomever you want, wherever you want. All we ask is that you show the results to the company at the end of the 24 hours.”
It worked pretty well for them, so we have the same rules.
Why do we innovate?
Innovation Day is our chance to tap into our own internal resources and create things that inspire us. The only rule we have is that it should be something that in some way benefits Info-Tech. It’s an opportunity for the IT department to drive the rest of the business.
This is how we innovate:
We self-select into teams. What makes a team a team? You need to have a group of people who share a similar mindset. If you want to work on a data based project, you probably shouldn’t join up with an entirely print based team. You probably need to have multi-disciplined people, and you’ll need someone comfortable with presenting.
Who can participate?
Everyone in IT will participate. Recently, when asked for a show of hands from people whether they prefer self-organized or pre-organized. Self organized won out, but we want to be considerate of everyone. Teams will self organize, if an individual wants to be placed on a team, they only have to email the organizer, and they will be taken care of.
If a team wants to include someone in a department other than IT to be on their team, the team will need to get permission from the person’s manager.
That’s it, at the end of the 24 hours, we get together as a department, have some beer, snacks, and perhaps a lovely fruit tray, invite some of the executive team over, and listen to the presenters.
Executives can sponsor any ideas that come out of Innovation Days, which will get dedicated time for work. While the department votes on what they think is the “best in show”.
The winners of Best in Show get their names immortalized on the Innovation Day trophy, and much rejoicing is had.