Editor’s Note: This article was first published by Inc. here.
People are busy, especially in a startup environment. Because of that, it’s easy to stick to the status quo and forget to sit down and think outside the box. But that’s not how you delight your customers and that’s not how your team gets better.
So if you’re looking for ways to inspire your team to continue to learn and do the best work of their career, try these three things.
Host a Hackathon Across All Departments
I know what you’re thinking, hackathons aren’t necessarily a new idea. But they are important, and hackathons can be a company-wide activity. For example, last summer our engineering team hosted a two-day event in which they solved problems that were affecting our customers and created real solutions that we could roll out as soon as possible. And then, the marketing team followed. In this instance, both teams got a full day to work on ideas that they had been wanting to work on, but just hadn’t had the chance or time to.
In both hackathons, the teams self-organized and had the chance to work with people who they didn’t normally work with day-to-day. The winning team presented in front of the entire company and immediately had requests to make the results a reality. And with each department, the exercise spawned a variety of other conversations and initiatives that will make a real difference to our customers.
If you do this at your company, make sure that the hard work and results go beyond just the team involved and share the process and projects with the rest of the company. You never know what it will inspire.
Keep A ‘Swipe’ File
I’m a big believer in the idea “innovate, don’t invent.” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever start from scratch, but I’d encourage you and your team to keep a “swipe file” of things that caught your eye or inspired you.
We have an entire swipe file Slack channel where people share ideas and riff on how they could be tweaked and applied to our business. This also gets your team learning by reading newsletters, articles, books and calling out what they find interesting. The key here, too, is not to just stick to your industry or department. Even though Drift is a SaaS company, I’m constantly inspired by art, psychology, advertising and music.
Ship Something Every Month
When we first started Drift, we committed to launching a new product or major capability to our customers every month. We’ve never missed that commitment. I talk to a lot of people who can’t believe we do this — but the act of declaring that you will launch something new each month forces you to figure out how to do just that.
So, not only does this ensure that our teams are always ideating and thinking of something new, it also means that we are always listening to the customer and figuring out ways to remove friction from the process.
These three things have worked for our teams at Drift. Why? Because they are all rooted in delivering on what is best for the customer and in helping ensure that our teams are continuing to innovate, grow and deliver the best work they can.
So as you plan for 2020, think about how you can challenge your team to go outside their comfort zone, take time to think outside the box and learn from others.