Increasing your odds of success by nudging the mess: interview with Jason Yip
September 7, 2020
Jason Yip, Senior Agile Coach at Spotify, helps people and teams improve how they approach work from the day-to-day to broader strategy and coordination. Before joining Spotify NYC in 2015, he worked at ThoughtWorks as a Principal Consultant. In this interview, Jason shares how Spotify increases the odds of successful innovation.
EMILIA ȦSTRӦM: Tell us a little about your role at Spotify and how you collaborate with others there.
JASON YIP: I support 2 R&D Tribes/Product Areas each including a number of teams.
Spotify wants to foster the right behaviors and habits in order to create a culture of effective innovation. To help with this, I search for ways to remove friction and facilitate the adoption of better habits. We came across MURAL as a platform for teams to collaborate and demonstrate the behaviors we want to see in teams. I believe the right tools can support habit changes by reducing friction in particular ways. “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us” comes to mind.
EMILIA: Tell me about your team. What challenges do you have?
JASON: Teams work on things that are a mixture of mundane "keep the lights on" and "no one has ever done this before".
The challenges I’ve been trying to help with have mostly been around alignment, especially as the area has grown. This has more recently shifted to also include strategy topics and alignment across larger groups, for example, across Tribes and Business Units. I am hoping that as we get better at strategy and alignment, I can shift focus to more improving execution.
EMILIA: How do you think about innovation at Spotify?
JASON: A number of things come to mind:
Innovation means all of novel, useful, at scale.
Diverse perspectives create novelty and help with assessing the usefulness of an idea;
Ongoing research (qualitative and quantitative), not just one-off, is necessary to provide insights.
Explicitly schedule hack time. This happens in each Tribe as well as the company-wide Hack Week. I see it as encouraging people to practice using their own initiative in deciding what to do, not just how to do it.
EMILIA: How does Spotify facilitate innovation? What does Spotify have in place to make it more likely to happen?
JASON: To facilitate innovation, we’re addressing three things:
Context: how might we help people understand broader direction and strategic context? For example, sharing videos from Strategy Days.
Opportunity: how might we create the time and space for people to innovate? For example, scheduled hack time.
Structure: what do we have in place in terms of support, tooling, habits, etc. to facilitate innovation activities? For example, we have a Data Insights Beliefs Bets structure for thinking about new Bets.
EMILIA: How do you enable diversity at a global scale? How do you think about the place of tooling?
JASON: There’s a facilitation concept around the power of holding the pen. Whoever holds the pen has a lot of power in shaping how the group moves, what information is captured, etc.
To enable diverse participation and perspectives, there is a need to move away from a single pen and enable more simultaneous idea creation and participation.
Ideally, people can work independently (sort of) where they can see what each other are adding but they don’t have to focus on it unless they get stuck.
Tools can provide supporting structure for this.
At a global scale, these days, I think we need to consider sustainable collaboration. Do we need to fly everyone in or can we work out how to collaborate more effectively in a remote fashion? I don’t think we can, nor should, avoid facing this trade-off.
Again, tooling can help facilitate this.
EMILIA: Think about the effect of what you're doing with tools. Can technology enable a new way of working and achieving your goals?
JASON: Our product is global. The markets can be very different.
Diversity is essential. You can't imagine your way to understanding a perspective you don't have any familiarity with. Something that is obvious to someone living in a market might not even occur to an outsider to that market.
I can see this leading to us needing to engage more and more with distributed collaboration. This generally requires effective tools.
On a more mundane level, better tooling can create opportunities for self-facilitation for more common, repeated activities. For example, retrospectives, tactical planning, etc.
EMILIA: Thanks, Jason. We look forward to continuing to learn from you!
Increase your possibility to innovate with these templates from Spotify: