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What do you do on Fridays?

Here at The Imagination Factory we have always believed that creative people don't switch that part of their brains on and off, when they are in and out of a formal work environment.

Many of our team's best ideas come to them at moments walking down the street or chatting over a drink. Sometimes these ideas have nothing to do with projects we are working on for our clients.

So, instead of requiring our designers to work all week on ideas other people have had, we encourage them to spend roughly 20% of their time on either their own projects or ones that we have come up with together.

Why 20%? Well, it seems to work for Google but more importantly it falls neatly into a Friday. What better way to end the week than channelling all that creativity and design skill into ideas that have been itching the inside of your head for days?

The team has affectionately coined the phrase "Factory Fridays" to represent this habit and it's not unusual to hear the term used around the studio.

So what's the benefit of working this way and is it worth the cost?

Creative juice.
Firstly, there's the obvious effect on team morale. Designers flourish when encouraged to explore ideas without the constraints of a tight deadline or a brief that might have the solution already baked into it. That doesn't mean we waste time on ideas – we still use the same rigorous design process whether it's a client project or an internal one. If an idea turns out to be wrong for the market or is not hitting the spot for intended users it is bagged and tagged!

Financial benefits.
Secondly, working on internal innovations makes financial sense. We are generating value in terms of Intellectual Property and it can make a business eligible for R&D tax credits. Obviously there is a cost in terms of working hours and materials needed for models and prototypes. But we ardently believe it's a price worth paying.

Professional development of individuals.
Finally, it develops the capabilities of our team in a much more tangible way than through traditional training. Providing the freedom to work in areas of interest, often outside of our current knowledge base, inspires us to learn new skills on a live project but without the usual risks associated with failure.
So far, Factory Friday sessions have seen us:
  • designing a heads-up display for swimmers
  • exploring the challenges of making the world's most sustainable bike grip
  • developing novel valve technology
We are regularly filing patent applications and filling the pipeline with new ideas to explore.

Some people might think that all this activity on internally generated ideas could be a distraction from the serious business of working on our clients' projects. The truth is that we have found that we are more motivated, focussed and better skilled to work on our customer's challenges as a direct result of this approach. And while that's the case we know what we will be doing on Fridays!
By Mark Hester