Two years of research
At Brightec we firmly believe that creating and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement is incredibly important.
One of the areas we have been thinking about recently is how best to use our research and development time.
We started allocating R+D time to our team over two years ago.
At first, we didn’t know what we wanted to do with it. All we knew was that we wanted to be an innovative company and to do that, we needed to give our team space to explore (outside of regular project work).
Over those two years, we have explored a few different models for our R+D time as we’ve tried to find the most fruitful method for us.
1/2 day per week
Our first model was to allow everyone to take their R+D time on Friday afternoons.
At first, it started well but we quickly realised that it was hard to find small enough tasks to fit into half a day.
Our team found it understandably frustrating to only get a few hours in, barely beginning to scratch the surface, and then have to wait a week to pick it up again.
1 day every 2 weeks
We then moved to doing one single day every two weeks, with a renewed emphasis on exploring concepts alone or in pairs.
Despite the change, we again found that we were struggling to achieve anything meaningful in the time frame.
2 days at the end of every month
We ran with this model for the longest. We provided a big meal for everyone on the second day and attempted to emphasise working on concepts in small teams.
This larger effort allowed us to showcase (to the rest of the team) what we had achieved on the following Monday. This model was fairly successful but we’ve still struggled to define what we can/want to achieve within the two days.
Often, we are starting a new thing every month. Even though we want to finish what we started last time, the gap in between is just too large.
'What can I do for you days'
We’ve realised that potentially the biggest hurdle for R+D (for us at least) is coming up with an idea that we feel happy to explore in a couple of days.
This is because the whole team at Brightec is driven by building things. We aren’t happy with just learning the theory of something. We want to produce a POC or see it in action.
This means that the focus of our R+D days is often hard to articulate as we all set out to achieve little things here and there.
This is why we’ve now rebranded our R+D days to 'What can I do for you days'.
The concept is simple, we will spend two days a month attempting to solve an issue for someone on our team.
This allows us to focus on making sure that our time is productive and builds the team well.
We allow anyone in the company to post a question in a slack channel during the weeks leading up to the R&D time. We then look through them together as a team and pick which ones we want to tackle. Possibly exploring some concepts as a whole company and some as smaller groups.
The problem could be relatively straightforward, such as:
- I want to use git versioning for my designs, but I’m struggling with large file sizes. Help me find a way through this.
- My build times are too long! Help me get them shorter.
- Our shelf of devices needs rewiring help me, please.
This model also allows us to form workshops and groups to explore bigger concepts together, such as:
- I keep hearing about RxJava, help me know when to use it.
- I’m struggling to keep on top of all the information new clients keep sending me, help me come up with a better process across the whole team.
We don’t know what will come next! We’re excited to try out this idea and we hope it brings our team even closer as we explore solutions to issues each of us have.
What we can be sure of, is that at some point we will want to experiment further and improve again and again. It's important to continually research and develop your research and development time.