Innovative Businesses: Atlassian

Innovative Businesses: Atlassian

If you haven’t heard of them, Atlassian is a software development company most famous for their creation of the Jira and Confluence programs. When it comes to fostering an innovative work culture, Atlassian is really at the top of their game right now, and we think that most organisations could learn from their best practices and values. Below we’ve discussed just a few of the many reasons that we love their approach to innovation within their business and team:


When we say Pseudo-Innovation, we’re referring to things that appear innovative but aren’t that effective when it comes to real progress. The Atlassian website states that “Fostering a culture of innovation isn’t about providing ping-pong and free beer.” And before you begin to panic at the thought of losing your Friday drinks in the office, hear us out. The Atlassian website goes on to say that their company has both ping pong in the office and free beer because these things have many positive impacts like promoting a team culture and rewarding the hard work of your staff. But let’s face it, playing table tennis and drinking beer are hardly what you would call an innovative and life-changing experience.

The 20% Rule

One of the genuine and practical ways in which Atlassian do put innovative thinking into practice is the 20% rule. The 20% rule was introduced by Google when they began allowing their employees to spend 20% of their time in work on their own unique and personal projects with the idea being that some of the results, creations or outcomes of these projects could be incorporated into the company. Do you know what’s more innovative than the 20% rule? Breaking it.

Atlassian recognised that it would simply be too easy for employees to feel bogged down by their ‘real’ work that they would often end up forgoing their 20% or one day a week. Instead, Atlassian started ShipIt Days (or 24-hour hack a thons) where everyone drops what they’re doing and tried to “make something awesome”.

“Not all ShipIt projects actually ship in our products. In fact, many projects aren’t technical at all. But no matter. The point is to do something novel that will make life better for our colleagues and/or customers.”

In fact, one of Atlassian’s most used and innovative products, the Jira Service Desk, began as an employee’s ShipIt experiment.

Sidewalk Test

Another way that Atlassian inject true innovation into their company is their ‘Sidewalk Test’. The test is used during the process of hiring a new member of staff, rather than adhering to a tedious HR checklist.

The idea of the Sidewalk Test is to ask yourself, ‘If I walked past this person on the street, would I be intrigued and feel like stopping to chat with them?’. This is not to say that you should immediately judge a book by its cover, but that if you’re going to hire someone, it should be someone that you find interesting, who you want to spend time with and who shares your values.

For Atlassian, these factors matter more than a person’s resume or qualifications. The logic here is that like-minded people who enjoy spending time with each other are more likely to debate, collaborate and have conversations which will spark ideas and allow their creativity to flow.

The Beer Bike

Another method which Atlassian use to promote this sense of creative collaboration is their beer bike. We know, you probably think that this is a bit of a contradiction because we just said that free beer isn’t innovative, but bear with us for a second. It’s not the beer, per se, that’s innovative but how it’s implemented. At Atlassian, every time someone new is hired, they cycle around the office on a bike with beers in a basket handing them out. The idea here is to create a culture where everyone has a chance to meet informally. Everyone in the office knows one another and isn’t afraid to have a chat. It’s when these boundaries are broken down that people really start to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas- ideas that sometimes become a new and innovative invention, software or program.

At WorkPlan, our business programs and engagement platform are designed to keep your staff engaged and in a ‘forward-thinking’ mindset. If you would like to foster a more innovative culture within your organisation, we know exactly how to help you. To learn more about our services or programs, get in touch with us today!

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