What’s your “Simmer Project”?
At Mu Sigma’s last Customer Summit (2011), I learnt of an interesting technique our client Microsoft uses to foster innovation: they allow researchers to work on what they call “Simmer Projects.”
These are essentially side projects that aren’t expected to contribute any revenue in the short term – really just experiments. They simmer on the side for a few months – or maybe even a few years – while their creators watch and wait, occasionally adding ingredients, and then decide if they should be moved to the front burner or poured down the drain.
Each researcher typically has 1-2 Simmer Projects going on at any given time, and the best ones eventually get put on Microsoft’s roadmap. I’m told that some of Microsoft’s most well-known products have begun in this manner.
What a great example of a company taking a long-term view on innovation – instead of putting every available body to work in short-term goals, Microsoft has given its employees creative license to experiment in the kitchen.