Innovation Day Trophy

Info-Tech Innovation Days

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.

How it works – IT Person of the Month

The IT Person of the Month (or ITPOTM) initiative is intended to let us recognize people in the department who go above and beyond by working outside their role, to help others, to better the company or department, or people who epitomize InfoTech’s core values and are inspirations for others. People who deserve recognition.
Each month, we have 5 nominees from within the department, broken down across function.

  • Infrastructure and Support
  • Application Development/Designers – 2 nominations
  • Managers

Nominations come from our IT staff – although we do take the odd nomination from outside of our group, the primary purpose of ITPOTM is to recognize and reward peer contributions. We’ve varied the process a bit from time to time, but basically you can nominate anyone, or even several anyones. But, you need a story. Why is this person getting your kind words and support? What have they done to deserve your precious recognition? It is this compelling story that will make a finalist into a winner. If for some reason you’d like your words to be anonymous, tell you manager, and they will strip your name off of your nomination before sharing it with the team.

Once the all of nominations are in, you need to do a bit more work: each group looks at all the nominations it receives for people in that group and selects a finalist (or 2 for AppDev/Design). Congrats! With a finalist selected, you’ve done your part and can rest.

All of the finalist names go to the management team and they select the IT Person Of The Month, who is announced with great fanfare at the department meeting. At that meeting, all of the stories for each nominee will be read out loud, preferably by the person who wrote the story, but they are published without names, and if no one speaks up to read the story (that is, you wish to remain anonymous, or are really shy), we will read it or find a volunteer.

Outside of the praise and adulation of the entire InfoTech IT department and 30 days of bragging rights, what’s in it for the nominees? Each finalist gets to go for a “CIO Roundtable” lunch with William, our VP of IT, and the ITPoTM winner receives a shiny new Something (each finalists selects their potential Something when they are selected as a finalist).

That’s how it works. Feel free to start nominating.