Pushing a Rope: Lessons learned from implementing innovation programs at Bigcommerce and Atlassian

You cannot effectively push a rope, similarly you cannot force innovation to happen. You can only set up an environment where it is fostered and allowed to thrive. This is even more relevant in an Agile environment, where there is freedom to explore innovation. This talk will be a review of the lessons learned while implementing innovation programs in Agile environments at Atlassian and Bigcommerce. This session covers programs that worked (like FedEx/ShipIt/Hackathons, 20% time) and programs that failed (dedicated Innovation Team). Most importantly it will explore why certain types of programs are more successful that others.

It will also explore how Agile methodolgies and practices can help to improve the results of innovation programs. The talk will also detail some strategies for setting up a culture of innovation, and discuss the pre-requistes to creating and fostering an environment where innovation is celebrated.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

Interactive talk, accepting questions throughtout the course of the talk.  I used this format at Agile Australia and it worked very well.

First 2 to 3 minutes, review what were the goals of the various programs.  This includes a brief discussion of the different types of innovation (step, disruptive, etc).  Also define what is success.

Next 15 minutes review programs I initiated or which I helped run while at Atlassian.  Explain which were successful, and which failed, and why.
Next 15 minutes review the programs I have been involved with at Bigcommerce, why they are successful.
Next 5 minutes - review conclusions and explain the "why" of both the successes and the failures. Also discuss what is unique about agile that impacts innovation programs.
 
Lat 5 minutes Q&A to review any specifics about the programs, how I reached the conclusions, or discuss their own programs and ask for advice.
 
 http://www.agileaustralia.com.au/preso/Agile-Aus-2013-Day-1_Ted-Tencza.pdf - the slidedeck from this talk as given at Agile Australia.

Learning Outcome

Learn more that just what worked and what didn't, come to an understanding of why certain approaches fail to deliver innovation within agile development organisations.  

At the end of the talk, anyone should be able to plan their own innovation initiatives by understanding the underlying principles.   They should also understand what pitfalls to avoid, and how to incorporate their knowledge of agile practices and processes to increase chance of success for their innovation program.

Target Audience

Directors, Managers, or anyone in leadership roles. Anyone interested in starting or improving upon innovation in their organization.

schedule Submitted 4 years ago

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  • Joel Tosi
    By Joel Tosi  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Ted,

       I dig the submission.  To ground it completely for me, could you say what could an attendee do / try the following week after attending your session?

    Best,

    Joel

    • Ted Tencza
      By Ted Tencza  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Joel,

            That is a great question.  The answer is "it depends on their organization."  If they alreay have a culture of trying innovation programs, they could use the ideas covered in my talk to evaluate their programs and look at ways to improve and ensure they are getting good value from their efforts.  If they are thinking of starting some type of innovation program, they will hopefully be able to avoid some common mistakes during the inital phases and target the program towards the specific goals they want to achieve (various types of innovation).  Finally, if they are in an organization that doesn't have programs, they can show mgmt the case studies that show the excellent returns that can come from these types of initiatives.  

             What it won't do is give specific examples and strategies for introducing innovation into an organization that isn't accepting of the idea.  I don't discuss overcoming mgmt objections, etc.   

  • Tathagat Varma
    By Tathagat Varma  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Ted - would you be able to describe the learning outcomes, say, in terms of specific areas like tools, process, infrastructure, people, quality, etc. Right now, the learning outcome seems a bit generic and offers no specific assistence given that innovation progarms is a very big topi by itself.

    Further, how would you comment on the ROI of these mechanisms - as much as setting up innovation programs is touch, it is only a means. It would be interesting to understand what impact it had on the results/topline/bottomline, etc.

    also, could you share some links from your past talks/slide decks on this subject (if you have presented) or similar work?

     

    -TV

     

    • Ted Tencza
      By Ted Tencza  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      Here is a PDF of the slide deck from when I gave this talk at Agile Australia - http://www.agileaustralia.com.au/preso/Agile-Aus-2013-Day-1_Ted-Tencza.pdf

       

      I will update the proposal to be more specific about the learning outcomes.  

      • Doc Norton
        By Doc Norton  ~  3 years ago
        reply Reply

        Ted:

        This looks interesting. I like the real-world lessons learned. Can you add the PDF of the slide deck to the main proposal so others can find it more readily when reviewing your submission?

        Thanks.

        - Doc

         

        • Ted Tencza
          By Ted Tencza  ~  3 years ago
          reply Reply

          Doc - done. 

           

           

  • Prasad
    By Prasad  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Ted, 

    Agile & Innovation, something very intresting to me..  Love to see more details on how innovation coexsisted with a committed product backlog. How business view these innovation pograms?

    • Ted Tencza
      By Ted Tencza  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      Prasad,

             Innovation should be considered (and accounted for) as part of the product backlog.  Part of my talk is explaining how there has to be time made for innovation, and tolerance for the correct types of failures.  The two companies I will be presenting in the case study both view innovation as absolutely necessary for their business, for their markets, and for attracting and retaining top developer talent. 

  • Ted Tencza
    By Ted Tencza  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Moving this to agile lifecycle based on feedback frokm beyond agile reviewers.


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