Twice a year, Hemnet organises Lab Week – where Hemnet employees get a chance to lab and test their own ideas. The aim of the week is to create space for innovation and playfulness without constraints, and to offer another way for Hemnet employees to develop their skills.
PO Schelvander is Hemnet's CTO. We had a chat with him about why Lab Week is so important – and popular.
Hi PO, tell me a bit about yourself and the Lab Week concept
– I've been CTO at Hemnet for three years and was part of introducing the concept of a full lab week a little more than a year ago. Initially, we had Lab Days that were scattered throughout the year, but we quickly realised that our employees didn’t have time to realise their ideas in such a short time. We lacked continuity, so on the initiative of our technical director, we combined all the individual days into two events per year. That's how Lab Week emerged.
"Lab Week creates collaboration in new constellations across teams, focusing on innovation and testing new ideas."
How does Lab Week work?
– During Lab Week, we pause all regular work as much as possible. The week starts with everyone pitching their ideas of what they are planning to work with over the week.This way we can find synergies and new collaborations, maybe your colleague has a similar idea or something that you can work on together. At the end of the week, everyone will gather again for a demo, where all the lab results are presented.
"Seeing everyone's labs on the demo is like being at a show."
Are there any rules?
– What you do should be relevant to Hemnet, with a focus on innovation, but really a creative breadth and going outside the box is the most important thing. We've tried running themed weeks, for example we recently had 'Mix it up', which encouraged mixing different technologies and teams to find new aspects and points of view in projects.
What does a Lab Week give Hemnet?
– We get to see solutions and cool stuff that we can build on. These are not production-ready, but many ideas look very finished already during the demo, which is impressive. The benefits of a full week are that it gives our employees continuity of focus while allowing them to tap into the creativity of others.
– After each Lab Week, we collect feedback from our employees. We often hear that it’s much appreciated to put your daily work on pause in order to get to focus on a single project.
"Our employees have a genuine commitment to the product and the technology, and are passionate about making the Hemnet experience better."
Are there any examples of ideas created during Lab Week that are implemented in Hemnet's product today?
– The concept has only been around for a year and the challenge now is to find a way to capture the insights and turn them into real business cases.
How does Lab Week contribute to Hemnet's culture?
– As an employer, we see this as an important investment. We encourage everyone to use one week of their time to do fun things with the data and domain that Hemnet has. It also strengthens cooperation between teams. It’s important though to remember that system development is unpredictable. That's why I like that we learn from our mistakes and see that as a positive thing. We want to reinforce a culture where we dare to share what has gone wrong and where we celebrate successes together.
"We want to build a strong developer community."
Describe Hemnet's Lab Week in three words:
Courage – People are very brave and daring. We aim for the stars and see how far we get.
Creativity – The level of creativity is really high. It’s amazing what cool stuff you get to experience!
Fun – There's a lot of laughter and pep during the week, and everyone’s good at giving each other feedback and celebrating each other's ideas.