Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. Think different

-Steve Jobs

Innovation is one of the key pillar of Lean Agile Mindset. Innovation is an outcome of constant experimentation and exploration often associated with frequent failures. Innovation not necessarily mean creating something from scratch. One of the greatest motivation for people is the the feeling of learning and growth.

So what can organizations do to create a learning environment of openness and sharing?


Image Credit: Snapshot from Dan Pink’s Video

Google calls it 20 percent of each workweek. Atlassian calls it as ShipIT days: “24 hours to innovate.Some schedule one day a month for the whole team, while others give freedom to each employee to choose. It’s all about encouraging your employees to experiment, play and imagine.

Jurgen Appelo describes the concept of Exploration Days in his Book #Workout. Jurgen states that a very effective way to make learning enjoyable is for people to organize themselves using exploration days.Exploration Days are meant as an invitation to your employees to learn and develop themselves by running experiments and exploring new ideas.

So what is my experience with exploration days- In one of the recent past we organized exploration days and the theme was “Hackathon plus Test Day”combined, its all about experimentation.

what did I do, what happened and what did I learn:- 

  • First thing was to communicate the context and theme for the exploration day to everyone.
  • Secondly, Invited people from different skill set, leadership and from different teams for the exploration day well in advance because peoples participation is key for the success of the event.
  • Set the right expectation with the management, that it is okay if we don’t succeed and if we uncover something critical while running the experiments, we take this as learning and proceed rather than taxing or penalizing people. Its all about inspect and adapt.
  • Being a facilitator it was also very important to be with the teams while they were participating in running the experiments, being always there with the people boosts their morale.
  • Lunch and snacks were arranged for people, music was allowed to play to keep the atmosphere lighter.

Challenges that came across:-

  • How we will demonstrate the outcome of the event?
    • We let the teams decide how they want to demonstrate their work at the end of the day- few came up with potential anomalies in the system, few demonstrated concept on flip-charts, few came up with POCs, creativity was in the air.
  • What will be the success criteria?
    • Manage the event within the allocated budget
    • Creation of Learning/Experimentation Backlog for the teams
  • What were the rewards?
    • We rewarded people with STAR cards (Similar to the Kudo cards) and persona badges, people were so excited to receive them as rewards. And of course, lots of chocolates and cookies.

We were astonished to see the overwhelming response from the people and demonstration of their awesome work. People were so passionate to share what they learned with everyone.

Key Learnings:

  • Management is not to select the best ideas; it is to create a great system where best ideas evolve.
  • Create a learning environment for people to experiment and share.
  • “You get the best out of your employees when you treat them as entrepreneurs.”

Looking forward to learn from your exploration days/hackathons, please share your story soon:)

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