A few years ago, Professor John Bessant, then of the Centre for Research and Innovation Management at the University of Brighton, started a seminar on Innovation with an unusual quote. The Professor read from the first page of A. A. Milne’s ‘The World of Pooh’ – an unlikely source for innovation! The first paragraph reads: “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head behind Christopher Robbin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment”. Generally speaking, there is always a better way if we could only make the time to think about what we do, how we do it and how we could do it better?
A problem in a busy technology-led environment can be that, too often, we are so busy with our day to day activities that we forget to leave the time and headspace to think about what we do and look for ways to do things better. Another issue in tech companies can be that innovation is seen as the sole remit of the engineering or product teams. Why is this misconception so common? Perhaps, it is that everything we see in the press, which is labeled innovative, is technology focused. Or, perhaps, it is that many assume that to innovate means to invent and technology is the natural output. The Oxford Dictionary defines innovation as, “innovation (in something) the introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing something.” So, you will notice that there is no mention of technology or no limits as to who can innovate.
On Friday, May 19th, we had our first innovation day at Boxever which we called Boxathon. This was a day when we empowered everyone from across all business functions in Boxever to take time to think about what we do and to innovate.
The plans began several months ago when we first announced the date of the inaugural event. From that point, we had several smaller events leading up to the big day to help build excitement and momentum for what could be achieved. We started with a competition to design the T-Shirt for the event, which got the creative juices flowing. Success was evident with over 25 designs submissions from across the company.
Even though his design did not win, our CTO Alan Giles was excited to see the final winning T-Shirt design for Boxathon
Project submissions were opened up 3 weeks before the Boxathon event and we had a pitch session two weeks later with beer and pizza where everyone who submitted one of the 35 project ideas had 60 seconds to make an elevator pitch and canvas for team members. Submissions from across the business included projects as diverse as designs for marketing material, social apps, voting apps for the Boxstar Award*, new features for our decisioning platform Engage and designs for a new office layout!
When the big day arrived, we narrowed down the number of projects to 11 with 4 to 6 cross functional members for each team. Some of the projects titles included:
- Boxever Evolve
- Champion Challenger
- Boxever Academy
- Boxever Control
- Ask Boxever Explore!
- Boxever Training Storefront
- Boxever Experience App
At 9.30am, we kicked off with some hints and tips for success for those who had not experienced an innovation day or hackathon before. After a group photo, it was down to business!
Some tips and hints for a successful Boxathon!
A busy day ahead!
Everyone was keen to get started!
Everyone embraced the spirit of innovation to the full and worked feverishly and passionately right through the day. Even though we had organised team games at both lunch and dinner, it was near impossible to tear anyone away from their projects for more than 10 minutes.
Teams spent the first hour brainstorming and storyboarding at the whiteboard
Even at lunch, we could not tear the teams away!
The Champion Challenger team
After more than 10 hours, 120 tins of energy drink, 240 bags of crisps (chips for our U.S. readers), 80 large bags of fizzy sweets (candy), copious amounts of chocolate and quite a few craft beers, the presentations began.
Amy Prochnau from The Fantastic Four team presenting the Boxever Training Storefront project
Ronan (Bottom Right) from the Ask Explore team was astounded by the quality of the presentations!
Steve Tobin our Lead Data Scientist (standing top left) takes a moment to sneak 40 winks while our CEO presents the Boxever Evolve project.
After all teams had presented, the voting were counted and we awarded 4 sets of trophies. The first, second and third place teams each won a trophy and various tech prizes including echo dots, chromecasts and a games’ system. The final award was for the spirit of Boxathon.
First place went to the Boxever Experience App, which displays a world map in the office screen showing the experiences created by Boxever in real time.
Two members of the Boxever Street Dance Club aka Knowledge Academy team who came in 2nd place with their prototype of a new customer portal which provides customers with training material including Boxever Breakdowns and 90 second videos of key Boxever concepts.
Third place went to the Ask Explore team who created the ability to use Amazon’s smart speaker Alexa to query OneView Boxevers customer data platform for the latest KPIs.
Here are 3 members of the B.E. App. The team included Ingrid (People Operations), Lynne (Sales), Becky (Awesome Office Manager), Alex Z (UI Design) and Anders (S&I)
The B.E. App. team won the spirit of Boxathon award, as they personified all that was amazing about the day. They thought outside the box, oozed enthusiasm, were truly cross functional and delivered a great presentation!
The first Boxathon was an overwhelming success in so many ways. We had 11 awesome projects which showcased some amazing ideas. More than that, the day reminded us all of the value of creating the time and headspace to let innovation happen every day. Needless to say, our Boxathon ‘18 planning is in full swing!