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Ignite Your Office with Creative Challenges

ArrowforblogThis week was the third annual Code Jam at Cision, which is an event that brings together our software engineering team, assigns them projects to collaborate on, and lets them jam away.

The projects the teams work on are directly related to business needs within our organization, but get tabled throughout the year because they are not immediate needs.  This year’s Code Jam brought in  Product Owners from other departments, which meant that I got to tag along with a team of six developers this week and try to pretend I knew what they were talking about.

It was a fascinating experience, and I learned skills that not only helped me understand software development better, but also taught me the importance of creativity and time management in the workplace. Let’s dive in.

Specialize Your Skills – No one wants  to be the “Jack of All Trades, Master of None.” Having a specialty helps you become an expert, and software engineers do just that. As we sat around our boardroom table talking about our project, each staff was well-versed in a different script, but willing to try a new one or relearn a skill they hadn’t used in years.  There are front-end developers and back-end, user experience testers and more. Become an expert in a specific area of your trade, but understand the other pieces of the puzzle and be ready to adapt at any time.

Take Time to be Creative – Easily the biggest lesson Code Jam taught me, taking time to be creative can reap great rewards. After all, Gmail was originally created as a pet project by a Googler, and how many of us can imagine life without Gmail? Creativity and curiosity give us the freedom to think outside of the box and get out of our daily routine. Code Jam at Cision is a week-long event, but you can hack your own version of it by setting aside 30 minutes every week to brainstorm, and see where it leads you.

Meet New People – Code Jam brought together people that hadn’t worked together before, and also assigned leaders to projects that had not yet lead a team. It was the perfect way to test new products, and also develop new skills within employees. Additionally, Code Jam encouraged a greater team aspect with a happy hour and breakfast for all members.

Be Strategic – To reap benefits, be strategic during the time you allot for creativity and curiosity. The projects our internal teams worked on linked to our business needs, and the creativity and curiosity piece came into play by allowing  workers to try new strategies, tactics and roles.

Be Agile – To be quick and alert, you need to understand what’s happening across all aspects of a project. Agile is a group of software development methods, and the specific framework we used to manage the project was Scrum. Essentially, you assign every task within a project a time estimate and a staff member to execute, and each task has to meet success criteria determined by the Product Owner. The team meets every morning for 15-20 minutes to discuss their progress and issues, the group helps resolve any problems, and you get back to work. It’s an incredibly transparent and collaborative way of working, and should be implemented in other industries.

Do you think setting aside time for creativity and curiosity is essential for innovation?

About Lisa Denten

Lisa Denten is the Social Media Manager of Cision U.S., where she leads social strategy, coordinates the blog editorial calendar and manages public relations campaigns. She regularly hosts Cision webinars, was chosen as a #FollowFriday guest on industry blog Spin Sucks, and has spoken on panels for Inbound Marketing Summit and Publicity Club of Chicago. She worked in the newspaper industry before joining Cision in 2008. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter at @lisaml15.

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