Creatovating: Creating a culture of innovation at Create.

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On Thursday we introduced our development team to an experiment in which they are the guinea-pigs.

On Friday the experiment began.

The concept could translate to many skills, but if you've ever been involved with software development you have probably, at some point, found yourself caught in the battle of simplicity vs. motivation. 

Talented developers often find themselves in a situation where much of their work is merely a variation of something they've done before; a digital equivalent of writing hundreds of lines on a blackboard for doing something naughty.

As a species, Developus-Anti-Socialus forms a sub-section of the human race that needs to be challenged, wants to solve problems, try out new ideas and discover innovative solutions to issues new and old.  But in the boring commercial (real) world, this desire for learning and expansion of knowledge often casts such challenges fewer and further between.

The role of a developer becomes like building an enormous Duplo tower for my four year old son, all the way up to the ceiling (the tower, not my four year old son).  The end result was impressive and fairly gratifying, but the task itself became a tedium endured only because I had promised to complete it.

Such is the situation in which our development team has found itself.  Plenty to do, but much of it a variation on a theme. These projects, large and small, that rely on existing knowledge and past experience more than exploration, learning and problem solving, quickly become their lines on the blackboard.

Finding motivation to complete tasks that don't put up any sort of a fight becomes the new challenge. Productivity suffers and bright minds slowly turn to unexercised mental flab as their talents for innovation and idea-making gather dust. Bleak misery and hopeless desolation ensues.

Ok, a teeny bit melodramatic perhaps, but it's a situation of no benefit to anyone; the business, customers and developers alike.  I'm pretty confident our team are some way off the uncontrollable sobbing stage, but we did notice a rut that needed getting out of.

Like many small businesses, we are simultaneously blessed and cursed with having had far more ideas than there exists time and resources to do anything about, and the boring commercial world mentioned earlier usually favours the less challenging, less exciting projects.

In so many businesses every day, radical ideas must go unspoken and forgotten, quickly discarded in the "What's the point?" belief that they will never become more than just ideas.

So, getting back to Thursday, sitting around a table of developers, I explained, in great detail, exactly what I wanted them to do on Friday:

Whatever they wanted.

Yep, Fridays at Create. are now all about innovation. It's a bit of an experiment, granted, but I believe this one day a week has the potential to have a profound impact on everything we do.

Just taking the short-term view, by allowing our team to release their captive ideas into the wild, we should get some cool new features and develop some experimental stuff that may or may not work, but will be fun finding out. The broader view, however, promises so much more.

As I've alluded to already, the brain is a muscle that needs exercising and the opportunity to practice innovation and ideas will breed more of the same.  Not just specific ideas, but also innovative ways of thinking, can be brought from this to every project we undertake.

Phase 1, as I have just named it while writing this paragraph, is of course focused on the development team. If it works as we hope it will, I can't wait to invite the rest of our team to join the fun, after all, who says techies have all the best ideas?

With just one of our new and improved Fridays under our belts, to say it's early days is somewhat of an understatement. If it works, or even if it doesn't, I'll do my best to tell you all about it here.  For now I will leave you with the response I received upon asking one of the team "How was Friday?":

"Awesome. I want it to be Friday again."

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  1. Ella Dainey

    Brilliant! Creative Fridays is a brave, trusting and radical move, I think it will be really fruitful.

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