How do you encourage a team to innovate – and then do it again, and again, and again? At Ubisoft Winnipeg, we created the Innovation Jam – team members from across the studio form groups to build cool ideas and solve tough problems. Here’s a look at why and how we create time to innovate.
What is the Innovation Jam?
The Innovation Jam takes the game jam format and applies it to the creation of new technology.
Every month, our production teams get dedicated time. Teams self-organize, ideas are shared, and people from across all projects come together to form new groups. They then get to spend the next two days tackling their cool tech and tools ideas.
We dedicate this time because Ubisoft Winnipeg’s mission is unique – create tech and tools that will empower our creators to build even better worlds. And work hand-in-hand with co-dev partners, getting ideas into production quickly and keeping Ubisoft’s tech at the forefront.
“What I love about it is that it gives people practice to innovate,” says Production Manager Susan Peterson. “We’re setting a foundation for how we want our teams to work within their mandates. We want them to go beyond and propose innovative solutions to our co-dev partners.”
Innovating from Home
When we moved to work from home we adapted. Instead of kicking off at the whiteboard, we moved to an asynchronous online brainstorm. Teams were formed across project lines, forming new relationships that are even more important during the realities of COVID-19. As with each Innovation Jam, we provided a challenge to spark ideas for those who need it.
Our first online Jam led to 18 different projects, and it’s grown each month since. To make sure all these new ideas and knowledge are shared across the studio, we wrap up with an online showcase where each team gives a rapid-fire 2-minute talk on what they’ve learned or built.
Taking Ideas to Production
The showcase isn’t the end of the road. Any team who thinks their idea has bigger potential can pitch their project to the studio. If it’s greenlit, it can be developed all the way into production.
The benefits are very real says Matt Woelk, Team Lead Programmer. He sees Jams as a way to get ahead on upcoming tech. “When you’re working in a big codebase, on a project with a ton of momentum, doing something new and unique can be very difficult,” says Matt. “Testing things out in the Innovation Jam can give us information to know if it’s worth moving the big machine.”