Software Engineering Innovation at Equinix: A Cultural Shift

sparkathon

Many of us agree that “Innovation” has taken the center stage in every aspect of life. People are coming with more innovative ideas, there are better innovative products in the market & there are various Investors investing in Innovative Companies than ever before.

In this blog, we will take you through our Journey of Innovation @ Equinix. But let’s start from the basic definition of innovation.

What is Innovation?

Dictionary defines it as:

inovation

In very simple terms, we define innovation as “An action which results in a positive outcome“.

Innovation doesn’t mean it needs to be big. Innovation success is measured, not by the magnitude of the change, but with the magnitude of the outcome. A micro-change which brings in optimization to a process or product in an organization is an innovation in itself.

How to Innovate?

Yes, we all agree that there is no short answer for this question. Innovation is not a project or a product where we can allocate some time & budget and start innovating. As simple as it gets, innovation is a culture with a mindset of “not giving up”.

Peter Drucker once said “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast“. A strong Organization Strategy is always great and is needed, but it also takes strong culture to handle potentially any kind of scenarios in a positive way. At Equinix Global Software Architecture & Engineering Team, we had similar opportunities to motivate and learn from each other and we launched a program named as “SPARKATHON” (Sparks (synonym to Ideas) + Hackathon).

Sparkathon is a program which brings in collaboration, learning & motivation to build a culture for innovation without boundaries.

In this program, we do not innovate just by creating new products or processes, we try to grow the culture that will allow the innovation to happen.

It’s kind of like we’re putting together the pieces of a puzzle so that they fit, and then once they fit, then we hope it’s part of our processes every day, that we’re always innovating without even having to say we are.”

As part of this platform, we have seen solutions which helps us to understand & think more about strategy, market, competition and at the same time make the very best software even better.

Brian Lillie (CIO, Equinix) says “At Equinix, the individual contributor engineers created an innovation process called Spark-a-thon where ideas are like sparks and they are sparking ideas all the time. They’re coming up with ideas, and although some will go nowhere, some will very much go somewhere, and some will be potentially game changing. “I think you’ll be surprised at what you can do that does not take a lot of money, people or time. It just takes attention, you just need to care about it because it just matters,”.

Sparkathon Impact

Sparkathon has indeed, changed the perspective of innovation within us. The team has learned how ‘simple ideas’ put together can become a powerful idea and have experienced the thrill of implementing the same. Team members are really engaged and have learned collaborative idea development by complementing each other.

A Cultural Shift: Like it or not, fear is the biggest enemy that kills most of the ideas while in a community. People do not share unless they are sure that their ideas are well protected and retained by the community. Sparkathon is a complete transparent community and every team member is equally empowered to contribute, drive and take decisions on the idea development process. This has yielded high degree of trust among the team members that resulted in storming of ideas in Sparkathon & help build a strong culture.

Innovative Perception: Sparkathon simple and powerful process has resulted in people cautiously thinking about ‘how others think about the idea’. This has helped not only Equinix but also each individual to grow and learn different perspectives.

With this program, Equinix took a significant step towards providing an Innovation Space for the team and thus building a collaborative culture and taking Equinix Innovative Journey forward.

Questions? Feedback? Want to know more about Sparkathon?

Email us at global-sparkathon@equinix.com

References:
https://blog.equinix.com/2015/09/forbes-names-equinix-one-of-the-worlds-most-innovative-companies/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vala-afshar/8-cio-leadership-lessons_b_6946720.html