We’ve recently begun a new tradition at Strava – Strava Innovation Days. At Strava we aim to push new code and features to the site every two weeks; after the push, typically on a Friday, we spend the day “innovating”.
We kick things off the day before by having everyone (not just dev) submit ideas. You can suggest anything: major new concept/feature, developer pet-peeve, or a research project (e.g. “Conditional probability of subscribing”). Next we meet to share the potential projects, and then we vote on them. Everyone gets $5 to spend across the projects (you can put at most $1 on any idea that it is your own). The projects with most dollars behind them are the ones that we’ll work on for Friday. The aim here is to work on projects in which the team is generally interested, not just random pet projects. Also, the goal of an Innovation project is not to implement a feature, it’s to prototype enough of a feature or concept so that the team can share your vision.
Finally, we split into teams. Every project must have at least 2 people working on it. This is an excellent way to pair-up people who don’t normally get a chance to work together. Our designers are typically over-booked so they tend to consult across a few projects. On Friday we come to work and spend all day, hopefully uninterrupted, working on our Innovation projects. On Monday, before planning the next push, each project team gives a brief demo. At this point we can make a decision on whether to pursue the idea in a future push (we call them “sprints”), or whether to put it on the back-burner.
We have two Innovation Days under our belt, and it has been very rewarding. There’s just so much cool stuff to work on: take all the great ideas we get from our users, combine that with the fact the just about everyone at Strava is an avid user of Strava, and add the mountains of data we’ve been collecting, and you have a gushing fountain of innovation. Innovation Days have also been an important discovery tool: as an engineer, one of the most valuable aspects of spending a day prototyping is that you gain a much better sense of the scope of a project when (and if) we actually decide to build it.
Here are some past examples of Innovation Day projects:
- Heat map of a user’s activity.
- Profile gradient coloration of climbs.
- Where are they now? Real-time tracking of athletes via mobile.
- Ride comment and description “tag clouds“.
- Favorite segment notifications (e.g. new KOM).
- …and many more.
Of course, don’t expect to see these in the product tomorrow, but I’m sure some of these ideas will start popping-up in the coming months.