Twice a year, for two days in a row, we give everyone at Foreach the possibility to work together on their own ideas that could benefit our company. (The next one is actually right now!) Entrepreneurship and innovation, in a nutshell, is what the Ship It Days are all about. But there is more to the story than just buzzwords, of course.
To get a good Ship It Day project we need to create the conditions that allow it to take shape. This means getting the Management Team out of the building. Having an absent Management Team emphasises the freedom the Ship It Days afford.
That freedom is not absolute, of course. There are a few prerequisites for a Ship It Day project:
- Formally: The Ship It Days last two working days and end with demos for the entire company.
- Result oriented: a potentially shippable product should be achievable at the end of day two.
- Useful: while it can be hard to gauge a project’s usefulness or even potential in advance, there has to be at least some consensus about it.
Foreach wants to be the enabler for our internal entrepreneurs.
Within these boundaries, though, pretty much anything goes. Still, there are some things the Ship It Days are not about.
- It’s not (explicitly) about fun: we really hope you generally have fun in your job, and don’t need the Ship It Days to get your dose.
- Experimenting and learning new things: while you can integrate new tech or methodologies into your project, the project must be focussed on creating something shippable and taking a too experimental approach often jeopardises this.
- Extra days off: if you want, just take some days off; we have over thirty.
Of course we want people to have fun, learn new things and feel as if they’re on holidays during the Ship It Days. But that isn’t the focus. The main goal is about shaping your ideas and turning them into tangible results within a tight timeframe. Or, in a nutshell, entrepreneurship and innovation.
An entrepreneur, in the Ship It Day context, is the one who comes up with the idea or takes the initiative for the project. What makes someone a good entrepreneur? For me, it is a clear vision of WHAT you want to create, a clear vision of HOW to reach it, and the WILL to see it through. But an entrepreneur does not exist in a vacuum. Two forces exert great influence over any project of this type: the investors, who take the risk, and the market, ie. the users, who decide whether the product becomes a success.
But any project will need other people, with skills that the entrepreneur doesn’t have, or doesn’t have to the same degree. This means knowing what skills are needed, finding the people who have them, and moulding everyone into a single, coherent team.
During the Ship It Days, Foreach wants to be the enabler for our internal entrepreneurs. We function as investors and take the risk, making resources available for use during those days.
The Ship It Days are not about radical innovation, disruption or game changers. Not that we’re definitely opposed to creating the new Uber/AirBnB/whatever in two days, but radical innovation is, by definition, much more of a gamble: if you are successful, the rewards will be much greater, but the flip side is increased risk, a much smaller chance of success and a much bigger investment. Instead, smaller steps can be just as valuable, and much easier to think up and see through to the end.
Something that’s forking handy, that's the one you’re aiming for.
Some tips & insights
What makes a good idea?
Something that’s nice, something that’s handy, or something that’s forking handy. That last one is, of course, the one you’re aiming for. As we’ve said, the market has a big impact on whether your idea becomes a success. Within the Ship It Day context, it’s a big step up if you’re going to be your own user already.
What makes a good team?
You need the right mix of knowledge and skills to cover all bases. But equally important is the right drive to see the project through to its final state. First order of business when coming together for the first time should thus be consolidating all the disparate ideas about the project into a singular vision, so everybody knows exactly what you’re working towards.
What makes a good approach?
Be realistic! Conceive of a minimum viable product that you absolutely need finished come demo time, and keep any nice-to-haves for if you have time to spare. If need be, plan from the finish line backwards, to make sure you have a good idea of the time needed. Technology wise, pick the tech that offers the best chances of success, not the one you want to experiment with. A specific technological choice rarely makes a good idea greater, and can even do the opposite. Technology is a means to an end, and should be treated as such.