One of the ideas in Drive that has spread the fastest and the widest is the FedEx Day. Invented by the folks at the Australian software company Atlassian, these one-day bursts of autonomy allow people to work on anything they want (as long as it’s not part of their regular job) — provided they show what they’ve created to their colleagues 24 hours later. Atlassian dubbed these innovation jamborees FedEx Days because participants have to deliver something overnight.

One of the most recent adopters of this technique is the Dutch company, PAT Learning Solutions, which held a FedExDay last month. To get a sense of how it worked, check out this 4-minute video by Rini van Solingen, the first 3:30 minutes of which are pretty good.

Then take a look at this blog post by PAT’s Rob van Lanen, in which he enumerates some of the benefits, including these:

  • Almost all developers participated.
  • Participants were completely self-organizing. No interventions from management.
  • A lot of developers were working late for their project. Three of them even spent the night in their sleeping bag at our company (!).
  • Feedback from non-IT colleagues was very positive. I am sure we will have another FedEx day in a few months, possibly with more non-IT colleagues joining.
  • One of the projects, a traffic light information radiator for our build server is up and running!

Regular readers know that I’m convinced that “noncommissioned” work such as FedEx Days will soon become commonplace. So maybe it’s time to ask yourself not, “Should I try something like this?” — but “Why am I not doing this already?”

16 Responses to “How to deliver innovation overnight”

  1. John Serpa says:

    Hello,

    My only comment. I wish there was a way this video could be played in front of all of Congress, the Senate, and WhiteHouse staff. I think our economy might pick up some traction if the goverment has a FedEx day—or two.

    Cheers’
    John

  2. Tom McCrary says:

    Dan,

    A FedEx day sounds like a great way to shake things up in a company that is stuck in a particular way of doing things. It also is a great way to build and reinforce a culture of possibility, contribution and empowerment!

    Best regards,

    Tom McCrary
    Partner/CMO, Chief Outsiders

  3. I believe in FedEx days so much, we invented Enterprise Software that allows companies to transform their operation in less than 24 hours….24 hours would include the “feedback and measurement”.

  4. Ger Driesen says:

    Hello to all,

    Because I like the idea and strenght of the FedEx day concept so much I created a FedEx day group on linkedin http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=3170998&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr
    with the intention to share examples. Please join if you like.
    And my advice: just do it, ask for forgiveness if necessary (low chance)
    Best regards, Ger Driesen

  5. Al Pittampalli says:

    I loved this concept when I read it in your book, Dan. I can think of no better way to engage your people. What an act of generosity by the company, which seems to be rewarded by hard work and loyalty by the employees. Inspiring video and idea!

  6. Jack says:

    I doubt they invented them. Also check out Google’s 20% – they encourage this much more regularly than any other company I’m aware of.

  7. Scott Duncan says:

    I thnik many of the organizations who have a 20% innovation or R&D poliocy for employees may have “inherited” the idea through various ways from places like Bell Labs who had this (though not an overnight deadline) some 30+ years ago.

  8. Thanks for posting, Dan. We will have our next FedEx Day with the entire company, late September!

  9. Guy Farmer says:

    Great post Dan. This speaks to the power of allowing our employees to shine by doing what they love to do. Leadership is so often about controlling and stifling that it’s heartening to see some leaders encouraging their employees to do their thing without the standard limits. It also makes for happier workplaces.

  10. Atsu K. says:

    The real question is:
    How can commissioned work take on this type of energy? Are there ways to present/package commissioned work to motivate people to such an extent?

  11. Roza says:

    We at Projectplace belive in FedEx days and decided to try it out. You can read how we made it on our blog:
    http://blog.projectplace.com/projectblog/2011/11/08/the-power-of-creative-days/

  12. Cassie says:

    I liked the video until the staged, sexist joke at the end… Where did that come from?!

  13. Kumar says:

    Actually the concept sounds really good. But, there must not be anyone behind anyone’s back asking for something. It must all be in the hands of employees and I am sure they would deliver.

  14. Dan-

    Thanks so much fr this post… I think that the idea of a FedEx day can be powerful both in corporations and in education, where teachers can inspire one another to implement more creative and engaging lessons if only given the opportunity and encouragement to think a little and share their ideas.

  15. Azeem says:

    Hi all,
    follower of Fedex day and Google 20%. I have an assignment with title
    “Explore modern solutions that foster innovation in software organizations, such as FedEx Day, Google’s 20% time and Apple’s “Blue Sky”. Using behavioral science theories (studied in the course)to explain: why it works, and what other positive or negative effects does the free time has on software developers.” Its interesting to practice at all kinds of organization not just in soft-houses… If you have any comment or suggestion on my assignment please reply me …. thanks.

    Bye now!
    /Azeem

  16. David Whelbourn says:

    Here in the Canadian Province of New Brunswick the Internal Services Agency (provincial government agency) we have picked up the FedEx day principle as part of our drive for Continuous Service Improvement. We have ran several within the Transformation Group and had good feedback and engagement. These are not Software development FedEx’s more operational/service improvement.

    Love the idea good way to galvanize action.

    David Whelbourn
    Director of Project Management
    NBISA

Leave a Reply