Trulia’s 2015 Innovation Weeks are officially a wrap! This year, more than 120 projects were presented at our “Show and Tell” sessions and brilliant ideas came from each quarter. Q4’s theme was an especially big success with more than 80 percent of the projects presented qualifying for the “Ship It” theme, and each are expected to make a big impact on our roadmap and product direction over the coming year. The winning project in particular will help commuters find the right place to live, but we’ll have more on that later.
Innovation has made a big impact on our company and culture. So much so that I’d recommend all tech companies try it. It will take a few tries to find the right format and rhythm that works for your team, but once you find your groove, the benefits are well worth any challenges. If you’re interested in jump-starting your own innovation program, here are some key learnings and tips I have gathered over the years as we’ve evolved our program:
- Know your audience – You can design some amazing new automated build and deploy tool, but if you’re presenting to a room half full of designers and half full of marketing people, chances are most people won’t understand – or value – the impact of what you built. So, we split our demos into two different sessions. The first session is more product focused and the second is more tech focused. This allows pure tech projects to get the recognition they deserve.
- Keep it short and sweet – Set a time limit for all demos. We give everyone three minutes to present their demo, and the judges get a few minutes to ask questions. This forces teams to really focus on what is most important in their project and to highlight what will make the biggest impact for the business.
- Help connect people – Someone will be looking for a mobile developer for their team and a mobile developer might be looking for something to work on, or two people could have a similar idea. Here are some ways to help them connect:
- Host “Show and Sell” project pitch sessions. This is an opportunity for people share what they plan to work on and invite people to join them.
- Offer office hours. This is where team members can get feedback on their idea from senior team members. Senior leaders can also help them find people who can help with different areas of their project.
- Document all projects. This allows team members to find someone who might have tried a similar idea in the past, and it gives them an opportunity to learn what worked and what didn’t. They might even connect with that person and build a version 2.0 of the original idea.
- Remove distractions – Cancel meetings and hold regular releases for the week so teams can focus on their project. Give the teams conference rooms to huddle and hack.
- Think big – The only way to win big is to play big. Encourage building products that are high risk, high reward.
At Trulia, we believe that if you don’t help your employees build and nurture their great ideas, someone else will, which is why we put innovation at the core of everything we do. If you want to innovate and ship projects, check out our careers page.