The Origin of xDays

I recently published a post on a new practice we are trying this year called xDays. The basic idea is this:

xDays are one full working day per month we set aside from client and company work to focus on individual and organizational innovation.
 
I wanted to share a bit of the back-story of how we got here.
 
At first it was just VTS
Going back 10 or more years, XPLANE has run what we call Visual Thinking School (VTS).
 
It was originally conceived to give XPLANErs two hours a week to practice visual and design thinking skills. Different people would host a learning experience, and almost everyone in the company attended: designers, project managers, account managers, consultants – even finance and HR – everyone playing and practicing together.
 
Then VTS and Public VTS
Eventually, we began inviting a few friends to VTS. But as interest grew, a few became many and two things happened:

  1. There wasn’t enough physical room for both XPLANErs and guests in the same VTS
  2. The learning needs of XPLANErs and our guests were very different
 
So we segmented. A weekly Internal VTS (iVTS) for XPLANErs to practice their needs, and a monthly Public VTS (pVTS) to service a multi-disciplinary cross-section of the local community.
 
Then iVTS, pVTS and Offsite VTS
A couple years ago we noticed half the pVTS attendees were repeat visitors. Repeat visitors were great but we also wanted to reach new people. So we established Offsite VTS (oVTS), which is basically taking a pVTS event to a local company.
 
VTS overload
All this VTS on top of our day jobs eventually created overload – and soon after, iVTS stopped being used. We got so busy with our daily work no one had time to plan, run, or even attend a weekly iVTS; that created organizational angst. Are we still committed to VTS? Was it broken?
 
xTime
To relieve those concerns, we changed iVTS to xTime. It was the same idea, but instead of workshops, xTime was two hours per week of pure innovation time blocked out on the calendar.
 
But a funny thing happened--no one really used xTime. We found people didn’t want to stop working for two hours because that meant they would still have to make up that time later (at night, weekends, etc.). We also got feedback that two hours wasn’t enough time to really dig into something, and often the people you wanted to work with were on the road with clients or too busy themselves.
 
Enter xDays
But this was good. Now we knew what we were solving for when we came up with xDays. No client work, no daily work, no one on the road. Just a day – a whole day – working together and focused on innovating around how we work and service clients.
 
There is a bit more design thought that has gone into our plans, but you get the idea. We are listening to our staff (customers) and adjusting to meet their needs.
 
So where does all that leave us now?
We are down to pVTS, which is done every other month in our Portland office and quarterly in our Amsterdam office (a pace we can maintain at our size), and now xDays, which started in February and will continue happening monthly.
 
We will see how this goes and adjust as necessary – after all, we’ve done it before.