Fridathon: unstructured learning or hacking you can opt-in to do on any random Friday.

I think a key prerequisite for “directed” innovation (say, so that it maximizes your company benefit) is to first spark an innovation mindset. It’s not just a matter of telling developers “hey, go be innovative in X now!”. I don’t think that’s how it works (certainly not for me anyway).

That prerequisite innovation mindset mostly comes, I think, from a constant self-brainstorming mode that becomes an ongoing background thread. Ideas just spark in your mind out of nowhere, triggered by something you read, something you are working on, or just taking a shower and daydreaming.

In order to induce that mindset, the first thing in order is random learning, spiking, prototyping on whatever you find interesting, regularly and more or less predictably. After a while, coming up with new ideas becomes second nature, and you start looking for places to innovate automatically. At that point, I think, you can achieve some sort of directed innovation by applying that mindset to a specific problem.

It’s key that before the right mindset is in place, you explore things that are personally interesting to you. Otherwise, it’s just another work assignment.

Hackathons, IMHO, just try to skip all that growth/learn/innovate work that takes time and commitment, and just try to force people to innovate in very directed and specific ways. Which I think is pointless, pretty much.

In addition, learning new things keeps you mentally agile, energized and ready to tackle any new challenge with a better attitude. If you have been constantly hacking and learning, when your next sprint planning ends up being full of uncertainty from brand new scenarios, technology stacks, languages or whatever, you will feel much less anxious or maybe even eager to get to work on them! This can only be a good thing for the company, team morale and overall energy.

So, go talk to your manager today, and tell them you need Fridathons right away :)

March 12th, 2020