You have an office full of people who are smart and creative.
But they’re completely bogged down with everyday work. It’s hard to focus on a big new idea when the usual crud keeps flowing into the inbox.
You need to create a safe space for innovation. Set aside a specific time when it’s OK to work on something new — and it’s OK to ignore everything else.
Idea: Have a science fair like Bazaarvoice does:
At Bazaarvoice we’ve been holding regular Science Fairs every few months for well over the last year to allow our Engineering team to stretch their creative muscles. The format is simple; we schedule the two-day Science Fairs at times that are not likely to have a lot of conflicts with the regular release cycle, typically over a Thursday and a Friday. When the engineers arrive on Thursday, instead of working on the newest features in our evergreen platform, they get to choose what they want to work on. Teams of engineers (and designers) from across our Implementation, Development, Operations, and Support teams work together all day Thursday—often late into the night—and half of the day Friday to bring their ideas to life. After lunch on Friday the teams present their projects to a panel of judges and finalists, and winners are announced. (Read more here.)
We’re trying to figure out how to do this at our company, with non-technical projects.
(Disclosure: I’m an advisor to Bazaarvoice.)