You Want Innovation From Your Company? Ask Them to Stop Working.

XPLANE sets aside one full working day per month to focus on individual and organizational innovation. This means no client work or company work on that day.

I am unreasonably excited about this.
Starting in 2015 XPLANE is setting aside one full working day per month to focus on individual and organizational innovation. This means no client work and no company work on that day.
We are calling it, an xDay.

The Experiment

The idea of innovation time in the workplace certainly isn’t new in the world, or even at XPLANE. We’ve had practices like this for years (though not in a full-day format), and practices like Google’s 20% innovation time are well known, among others.
But 20%, 10%, 5% – it doesn’t matter how much time you allocate. The difficulty is actually getting people to use the time. For over a year we have had “xTime,” two-hours per week blocked on everyone’s schedule to work on whatever they want. However, if you stop doing your day-job for two hours, you have to make up that time somewhere else (evenings, weekends). So few people stopped working; they simply skipped their allocated innovation time.
To address this we are changing from two hours per week, to one full day per month; the idea being by blocking out a full day, day-job schedules will bump out around that day like a holiday and the time won’t need to be made up in the same way as the two hours.
However, you would be surprised. Giving people a full day to work on what they want creates a certain amount of anxiety. Even after months (years) of people asking for more time to work on passion projects, as we socialized the full day xDay idea initial excitement became uncertainty.
Who decides what I can work on? What if I don’t finish in the day? How will I know if my project is appropriate for this time?
To alleviate this, and ensure the first xDay is a good one, we are asking department leadership to organize their teams into a project or projects. Later we’ll encourage people to organize themselves more, but we will crawl before we walk or run.
Ultimately, we have to learn to do this. To do that, we are enlisting everyone’s help by 1) proactively recognizing that this is an experiment, and 2) making that idea an open discussion. At the end of each xDay we will conduct a Plus/Delta exercise to talk about what worked, and what we should do differently next time.
This kind of engagement and continuous improvement approach should help us through the prototyping period faster, and get to a steady state sooner.
Here is how we have structured xDays to get us started.

What is an xDay?

The purpose of xDays is to allow individuals or teams focused time to innovate. The goal is to create or learn something new to improve the way we work and serve our clients. That is the only criteria for an xDay project. 

Example projects could be:

How will xDays work?

xDays will happen on the last Friday of each month. Individuals, functional teams, or project teams will decide what they want to work on, develop a plan, and go. The days will be structured, however, they should feel very different from a regular workday. 

We believe the social aspect of the day will be important to its success; the energy should be inspiring, and stating plans and sharing results should create accountability and even spark some friendly competition.

Ready to Go

Managerially speaking, xDays are an investment to be sure. But we are 100% committed to making them a success, and seeing the return on that investment. We anticipate the results – tangible, intangible, and unexpected – will far outweigh the opportunity costs.
So on Friday, February 20 we will hold our first xDay and begin this learning process.

And I cannot wait.
Note: Look for follow-up posts on xDay results and program learnings throughout the year.

[See The Origin of xDays]

Our First xDay in Review
Our First xDay in Review Part 2

Dave King is the Vice President of Client Services in Amsterdam.

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November 23, 2016
Dave King