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Innovation Days at mobile.de

by Susanne Donner
in How We Do It

Key on a computer keyboard labelled "Innovate"Have you ever thought that during your sprinting or "kanbanning" there is not enough slack for "something completely different"? Even the things we are supposed to do – researching new technology, creating prototypes, studying technical literature and lots more – we often don't find the time and quiet.

About a year ago the technology group at mobile.de that handles the consumer part of the platform came up with the proposal:

For the next 3 months we have 1 "slack" day every month. Everybody. On the same date.

The management supported the initiative and was curious about the outcome – as were we.

After two months, we changed the process a bit and decided to have two consecutive days per month.

The purpose is to enable innovation. So we call it Innovation Days. And we set ourselves target metrics to measure our success:

  • 6 presentations every half-year within the company to showcase results
  • 1 visible improvement on the platform (at least)

How We Organized It

I want to share some thoughts on how and why we organized our Innovation Days the way we did:

Two Consecutive Days

With only one day in a month, it is hard to come to results. And it is also hard to recall what you did the month before. With two days (roughly 10% of our total work time), it is possible to think of an idea, develop a presentation or even a prototype.

Everybody on the same date

While we usually work on a variety of different projects, by concentrating on these two days, it is possible to work with a fellow colleague from another team on the same idea. And with a clear date for everyone, all stakeholders (like product owners) are aware that these days are outside of normal activities.

Process
  1. We collect our ideas and initiatives on a wiki page to find supporters in advance.
  2. We hold a standup meeting at the beginning of every Innovation Day to explain our ideas and our current progress or impediments.
  3. We hold a wrap-up meeting at the end of the second day to present results.

Outcome

So far, the Innovation Days are a big success. We have had presentations on e.g. Spring Roo, Apache Mahout, Common Session Storage and much more. And we brought several improvements into production.

Two of them:

We even had participation from other departments like Site Operations.

Background

According to Bernd Schiffer, slack time is a part of an employee´s work time where he can do whatever he wants to do, as long as it’s related to work. 

If you want to learn more about it here are some recommendations:

Some well known companies with similar time slots for employees are:

innovation, agile

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