First quarterly Lucid autonomy day
Why Autonomy Day?
Sometimes, especially when doing super technical dev work, it is all to easy to get a case of the ho-hums. Recently, I’ve been researching what motivates developers (and people in general). This video produced by RSA Animate really inspired me:
Through a series of studies, researchers found that an increasing monetary award was not actually motivating for people. Instead, the primary factors that drive people are:
Essentially, if you leave people alone to solve a problem on their own, they will be more motivated than if you give them a set of tasks to complete for a certain monetary award, such as a bonus. People that are more motivated will achieve better results, faster. This rang especially true to me when I thought back to our Hackathon project a few months ago. There, armed with a broad problem, our team came together to solve the problem with a deliverable product in only 2 days. Talk about efficiency!
The video above also makes reference to well known software company, Atlassian, who implemented a quarterly “Autonomy Day,” to see if it would, in fact, better motivate their employees. It was a great success for them. They’ve implemented several ideas that came out of “autonomy day” in real life.
Inspired by Atlassian, I decided to implement Autonomy Day here at Lucid, four times a year. On Autonomy Day, the dev team is completely on our own. We forego client work for the entire day, and instead let our developers work on solving whatever problem they want, with whoever they want, with only one rule: They must show us (management) the results at the end of the day. Here are the results:
Disco Ain’t Dead
A couple developers worked together on Future Disco a beautiful music visualizer. (use your up and down arrows to switch visualizations and right and left to change the background)
We then used this in Lucid’s submission for the upcoming “Geek’s Night Out”, a yearly street-fair hosted by the City of Tempe. The idea of the Geeks Night Out event is to inspire high-school aged students and families to get excited about all things related to science, web development, and “geek” culture. Our submission is a visual interface that works with Kinect. Kids were able to move their hands and bodies to visualize changes on the screen. Once they’re totally fascinated, we’ll stuff knowledge into their brains by making sure they understand how it works. Everybody wins! If you view our project, you’ll notice that the “music” hexagon leads right back to Future Disco, so it’s all sort of one big project. On Autonomy Day, Michael did the loading screen, and spent a lot of time making awesome click-events, and found it is quite challenging on air-controlled motion. Lessons learned!
Music is Pretty Too
Another one of our developers is really into music and is constantly telling her friends “you have to listen to this, you have to listen to this…” By her own admission, she’s afraid she’s getting annoying (she’s not ;)). So instead of telling her friends about new music, she decided to create a music blog interface. During autonomy day, she worked on the design for the interface. By the end of the day, she was able to finalize the basic look of the main “intro” page for each artist, with an area for a music visualizer (the item labeled “placeholder” in the design) and text space for her to discuss her own feelings on the music.
The intro page will use the SoundCloud API to play the song that Sloane is discussing. The “click to view more” link will pull up the full text of the article, as seen below.
Racing with Data
On the weekends, one of our team members is an avid racer. He loves taking apart his car and putting it back together to make it faster at the track. On Autonomy Day, he decided to work on his own API for a unique application. He started the new project on Laravel, a PHP Framework we often use for back-end projects. The purpose of his application is to allow users to enter their tire pressure (and other data points) before and after a race, to track how the tire pressure changes during the race. With his completed application, the user will be able to login, add and store vehicles, enter data such as the temperature on the track, type of tire, etc. The end goal will be to allow the user to figure out their car’s ideal tire pressure before the race to give him optimal speed. In eight hours, he worked on the database architecture and learned about all the new features in this latest version of Laravel, which has changed substantially in just the past two months since the last time he was working with it.
I think the first autonomy day was a roaring success! I think a few of the projects would be a really cool to take on as part of “Lucid Labs.” The purpose of autonomy day was to break developers out of our daily routine, and give them a chance to flex their creative muscles. It gave our developers a chance to research strategies that they may use in future projects. It also taught our developers skills that they can apply to future work and taught them lessons that they will carry forward. Look for our next Autonomy Day recap on May 25th!