We sell innovation processes. This isn't always easy: It requires inspiration and yes, quite a bit of innovation of our own.
That's why we started a thing called Work & Travel. A weeklong working retreat, it helps our employees to get their heads out of the daily grind and exposes them to new experiences and ideas.
Normally, our working process looks something like this: a client comes to us with a request, and after a quick feasibility check, we put a team together. The makeup of this team is determined by competency, expertise, and—whenever possible—personal passion for the topic. Then we get started.
It's true that at diffferent, we enjoy the pleasure of being able to take on truly interesting projects with exciting partners. But to be honest, between all these great projects, it's hard to find the time to keep our own house in order! This isn't just a pity, but can be downright harmful for business. Without spending time on our own innovation concepts, how can we make sure diffferent is really... all that different? To counteract this, we launched Work & Travel. The idea is simple: really ground-breaking ideas don’t happen in the everyday workplace, but when the right people come together in inspiring locations.
Once a year, four difffriends head out to an exciting place in Europe for a week to recharge their batteries and work on a self-chosen challenge. Not a customer project, but one for diffferent itself. Anyone can apply provided they have a rough idea. The group with the most convincing proposal packs their suitcases and spends their Work & Travel week concentrating on their passion project. Think of it like an ad-hoc startup with secured funding.
The Work & Travel concept is designed to free employees from everyday tasks and encourage them to develop their concept more thoroughly than would otherwise be possible. Nothing is off the table. Want to start working later or move the office to the cafe next door? No problem. Take a break for a sightseeing tour of Zagreb, a quick trip to the beach or to visit a museum in Manchester? Fine. Just feel like strolling around the city for a few hours? Go ahead. It's not called "Work & Travel" for nothing.
If that isn't cool enough for you, there's also a guarantee that the fruits of the labour will be implemented in a meaningful way. This Work & Travel thing is starting to sound pretty appealing, isn't it?
We'd be lying if we said it was all about holidays and fun. The experience gathered from two rounds of Work & Travel shows that the teams invest a great deal of time and effort on their idea, both during the trip and also when they're back home. The project is a constant topic of conversation, from the breakfast table to the "end of work" drinks at night. Relaxing and switching off, this is not. And even though Work & Travel is voluntary, it's not always easy. Any group of people travelling and working together 24/7 is bound to experience some degree of friction.
Moreover, it's not over at the end of the week. Even though the teams work hard and a lot gets done, a week isn't really enough time to come back with a finished concept. The result of Work & Travel is designed to be a prototype, and it takes a while to get all the odds and ends sorted out. Work & Travel 2015's project wasn't fully operational until the middle of 2016, when it was released as Hotel Unicorn [LINK]. All the same, we're quite proud of our new service innovation space, which has already hosted its first guests.
Work & Travel is now an integral part of diffferent's culture of innovation. Spending one week a year bringing great ideas to life has helped to make a real, dedicated team out of a group of colleagues. In this respect, the benefit is much more than just a new product or service. Of course, it also feels good to give a little bit back to our difffriends as well—something a bit more special than just another team event.