Here at The Imagination Factory we have always believed that creative people don't switch the creative 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 focus on ideas other people have had, every day of the week, we encourage them to spend a day a month on either their own projects or ones that we have come up with together.
Once a month, on a Friday, we end the week channelling all that creativity and design skill into ideas they have been itching the inside of their head about 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?
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!
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.
- designing a heads-up display for swimmers
- exploring the challenges of making the world's most sustainable bike grip
- developing novel valve technology
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!