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It started back in March 2012: Two small groups of Sonos engineers gathered in Santa Barbara, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts, each armed with a couple six packs of beer, some snacks, a healthy mix of Sonos products, and their laptops. The goal? To explore the future of Sonos. The result? Innovation Hack Week was born.
Part of my job as Innovation Manager is to work with people to stimulate creative thinking and help drive new ideas to impact the business – and these ideas can be related to products, processes, or best practices. Whether that’s hosting a brainstorm session with a cross-functional group, or connecting one-on-one over an afternoon coffee or Happy Hour beer, ideas can come from anyone at anytime.
What better way to work through ideas than to spend a week refining (or expanding) the idea during Innovation Hack Week? It’s the perfect way for people to take the time to explore what they think is valuable for Sonos.
What Is Innovation Hack Week?
What began back in 2012 as a small hack-a-thon among mostly Sonos software engineers has — 14 Hack Weeks and over 350 pitches later — evolved into a quarterly global event for Sonos employees. And as Hack Week has grown, so has the participation; it’s gone from primarily engineers to people throughout the whole company. From PR to the Legal department, marketing to customer care — it’s all about exploring and pitching ideas, be it with our products, within our walls, or even our culture.
“From PR to the Legal department, marketing to customer care — it’s all about exploring and pitching ideas …”
So how exactly does Hack Week work, with Sonos’ employees spread all over the world?
During Hack Week, participants usually spend Monday through Thursday on their projects. Demo day is on Friday, and each participant gets about five minutes to pitch their idea to the whole company. Whether they’re remote or in a local office, everyone can watch the live-streamed event and help select a “people’s choice” for their favorite idea. A separate judging panel (usually consisting of at least one executive) chooses a few more “winning” hacks. We’ve had judges from all departments of the company, and a Board member has even participated as a judge.
Thinking of a master plan
So what happens with all these Hack Week ideas? Over 80 Hack Week pitches have made it into our products, our roadmap, or our internal process, and nearly 50 hack week projects have resulted in patent filings. Universal search [the ability to search across all of the music platforms within the Sonos app] was a Hack Week project before it was a feature. So was playing music from Android, multi-household support [so you can sign into your friends’ Sonos], and multi-user per platform [so your Pandora stations and your husband’s can coexist within the app].
“Over 80 Hack Week pitches have made it into our products, our roadmap, or our internal process …”
Other cool hacks presented included great energy-saving options, some cool Tinder-like features for swiping on the app to like or dislike a song, and even a lunch reviews app for the employees settling into the new Boston location and looking for new lunch options.
Innovation at Sonos
Whether it’s improving our products or our internal Sonos culture, innovation is about encouraging a curious and creative environment, and connecting people and ideas so that knowledge is shared throughout the company. I’m fortunate to be a part of this at Sonos.