Every quarter, we run a 24-hour hackathon called ShipIt where we drop everything to make something awesome. It embodies our culture of innovation and puts weight behind a sacred company value: “Be the change you seek.”
For many companies, innovation is something that is talked about, but focused on technical teams. At ShipIt, people from every department form ad-hoc teams to pitch in on the push for innovation – from Engineering and Design, to Legal and Finance. And it’s exciting! We pull long hours for the thrill of chasing an idea and collaborating with people that we don’t work with on a daily basis. ShipIt builds camaraderie across the company, and injects creativity into our products, operations, and processes.
Many employees here at Atlassian describe ShipIt as “24 hours of opportunity.” Atlassians at every level participate, from last week’s hires to senior executives and CEOs. And we’re all given the same challenge: drop our day-to-day to identify and solve problems. Projects can be technical or non-technical, of any shape and size, applicable to small teams, or to the entire company.
We purposefully have few rules, so that we have the freedom to dig in and create whatever we wish. Past initiatives include identifying ethically-sourced clothing for the Atlassian Foundation; creating expat guides for newly-transferred Atlassians; enabling customers to pay for their cloud products via PayPal; and Jira Service Desk – that’s right, the product itself!
Inspired to unleash the potential of your team? Here are three rules to jumpstart your own ShipIt:
1. Innovation is for EVERYONE: While “hackathons” ring true with engineers, the term itself can be intimidating for non-technical folks. Be conscious of designing an event that includes everyone. Invite people to create “non technical” projects, and award the best one.
2. Embrace failure: The beauty of going after big ideas and big impact in such a short period of time is that failure is a great way to learn. Encourage people to go after big ideas, even if they’re not sure how it will turn out. Try, fail, iterate. Repeat.
3. Collaborate and have fun: Use your ShipIt as a way to get to know and work with different people at your company. We all have so much to learn from each other.
While the principles behind ShipIt have remained the same since the beginning, the scale has changed significantly.
Our first ShipIt included 14 developers in one location. Now, we have nearly 4,000 Atlassians participating across more than 20 cities in at least 11 countries.
Importantly, the evolution of ShipIt has not been limited only to the number of participants and locations. While the principles behind the 24 hours of innovation have remained the same since the beginning, the framework for ShipIt has evolved in lock-step with Atlassian. You might even say we’ve innovated on the innovation contest.
For example, although the vast majority of folks participate during the designated Thursday and Friday in their timezone, we now allow for a two-week “grace period” leading up to ShipIt so that external-facing teams who might not be able to break away from helping a customer can carve out the time to work on their awesome project. Another good example of the event’s evolution is that we now have an entirely virtual ShipIt for our ever-growing number of remote employees. We’ve also introduced a Customer Kick-Ass Prize, where an Atlassian customer picks a winning project that delivers clear value.
We don’t know what slick new features, full-blown products, and everyday hacks will come out of each ShipIt. But we know they’ll improve the company, the customer experience, and ultimately the world around us. The opportunity to be crowned winner amongst your peers – in a company of innovators – is not taken lightly around here.
Here’s to shipping innovation!