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Innovation Insights: Spotify’s Hack Week

Posted at: 12.13.2023
The music platform’s Hack Week has transformed the company's internal innovation. How can this inspire tech leaders like you?

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Photo credit: Unwired for Sound

If you’re a Spotify listener, you know that the end of the year is a big moment for the music platform for one reason – Spotify Wrapped. Listeners can proudly share on social media how they’ve made it into the top 1% of their favorite artist's listeners after streaming their favorite album nonstop for thousands of minutes…

But what you might not know is how Spotify Wrapped came to be. We got the scoop at tech event Tech.Rocks, where Spotify’s Senior Agile Coach and Product Manager, Rachel Dubois, shared her insights about how the company innovates internally.

Hack Week

Spotify Wrapped, Discover Weekly, and their newly announced AI DJ feature all came about thanks to an innovative process that Spotify calls Hack Week.

Once a year, the company dedicates one week to undiluted, creative autonomy for the entire company. Five days of no meetings, just brainstorming across teams, using any tool necessary to develop their idea by the end of the week.

On the last day, teams present what they worked on and all 9,000 Spotify employees can vote on the best idea. The winning ones become real projects, and eventually real features for Spotify users or for internal use.

The idea is not to have a finished product at the end of week, but to know if an idea is viable. “If it succeeds, great. If it fails, even better,” explained Rachel Dubois. “Now we know one more way that won’t work, but at least we’re innovating, and moving forward.”

Innovation Insights

This dedicated week is proof that getting out of your comfort zone and collaborating with new people can give life to some exciting projects. So what can current tech leaders learn from this initiative?

Brainstorm internally. Who knows your product better than anyone else? Your employees. Instead of investing in outsourced innovation such as consultants or agencies, look to the wealth of knowledge within your organization. If a Hack Week isn’t possible, maybe try one day.

Collaborate better. What if Fred from finance doesn’t have the skills to develop his idea for a new algorithm change? It’s time to work together. Spotify created a Skills Exchange platform (an idea from a previous Hack Week!) that allows people from different disciplines to connect and collaborate. Creating links between individuals on different teams can lead to better problem-solving and finding solutions faster.

Innovate often. “Startups are taught to fail fast today, but that wastes a lot of resources and entails a lot of risk,” Rachel advised. “I suggest failing cheap. Like through a Hack Week that involves people already close to the subject. Failing fast is deadly, but not innovating is even more deadly.”

From Startup to Music Master

From a startup launched in 2008 in Sweden to an international music platform with over 550 million users, Spotify has made its mark in the music industry. Now it’s time to make a mark in yours with a growth culture of fearlessly embracing failure.

And if you didn’t catch it, see what VivaTech’s Wrapped looked like this year…