Comcast recently hosted its third Lab Week of 2013. Lab Week is an opportunity for Comcast employees to spark innovation by working on projects of their own choosing. Fifty engineers in the Interactive Media group started Lab Week five years ago in Philadelphia to bring together creativity, cooperation and code. Now the program happens three times a year, spans offices in D.C., Denver and California, and includes groups across the broader organization, from product development to operations to field technicians.
Lab Week kicks off with an event we call Pitch Day, where anyone with an idea has one minute to pitch their project. One of the governing principles of Lab Week is that people have the freedom to choose their projects, which also means people with ideas need to recruit a team to help with their projects!
From Monday to Friday, teams take an idea from plans to a demonstration. Since teammates have cross-functional roles and are even in different locations (and time zones), together they figure out various arrangements to finish their project. Some teams cram into an office, others camp out in public lounge areas, and others just find a free chair somewhere--anywhere--and get cranking. There is often a flurry of activity on Thursday night as teams are putting final touches on their projects for the concluding event of Lab Week: the Science Fair.
True to Science Fair format, the entire office is invited to see what the Lab Week teams have built in just five days. The atmosphere is electric, as bright-eyed team members passionately explain their projects using demos and posters (sometimes hand-drawn) to impressed and intrigued colleagues and executives.
Some Lab Week projects have led directly to product enhancements, architectural improvements, contributions to the open source software community, patentable inventions and even brand new products. More importantly, Lab Week provides an opportunity for Comcast employees to learn new things, work with new people, exercise their creativity, manage projects, and have quite a bit of fun while they're at it.