March 19, 2015
One of the Ways We Innovate: Contactually's X Day
Would you shut down your company for 2/3 of a day and kick everyone out of the office?
Startups, in their sheer existence, define innovation. Building something that didn't exist before and finding a better way to solve a problem is a startup's lifeblood. But how do startups stay innovative?
I'll admit -- we got to a point where we weren't. While we hold the core value of progress over process, we became set in our ways -- opting for extending out what we have rather than rethinking what we could be. Innovation still lay at the heart of the company, but it was getting expressed by a select few, leaving rank and file to casually discuss ideas in passing. This is something we saw that needed to be fixed.
We had to solve two things:
- Champion innovation -- show that it was OK -- in fact, demanded -- of people, to always be innovative.
- Build channels -- Establish a critical path from the "idea" stage all the way to execution
We have a couple initiatives and solutions here, but one of the core things is X Day. An internal innovation day is not a groundbreaking idea, but not everything in a startup needs to be (execution is hard enough!)
Once a quarter, we shut down the company entirely. No phones, no support, no normal development. Teams are created, or some people work alone. People can work on any idea for our users or the company, but we give a few themes derived from the OKRs. People then have the rest of the day to execute on whatever they see fit. At the end of the day, the teams give short presentations, and ideas are voted on to find the top 3. But here's the critical component -- we implement the winners. Period. They'll have a sponsor on the executive team, and we ensure they have enough bandwidth to see them executed.
We have innovated on the process for that as well. For example, one of the challenges we faced earlier was ensuring that the concept could be clearly executed. So each team had to develop answers to a few core questions, such as "What are the action steps to getting this completed?" "When will you present the final product?" "How will we measure whether this was successful?"
This quarter's X Day just finished last Thursday and we voted on the top 3 that will come to life very soon. Stay tuned.