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Fostering Innovation at Phase2
December 15, 2020 |

We talk about innovation quite a bit at Phase2 both internally and externally, but we have not spent much time talking about how we do it.  Life as a Digital Product Agency moves fast….really fast… Despite how used to it we have become, I often think about what it must feel like for our clients that are not living in this tsunami of progress every day. It must be very overwhelming.


One of the myriad ways we provide value to our clients is by being that partner who keeps our gaze out toward the horizon, continually evaluating the options in the never ending digital progression.

Consistently bringing new ideas, perspectives, and creativity in how we deliver to clients is so important that it must be infused into our culture. It can’t be just another item on someones’ to-do list, “on Thursday from 2p -3p, I do innovation”,  The practice must be organized and intentional so we don’t simply chase shiny objects, but are progressing collectively and influencing the future direction of our organization and the industry at large. The term “innovation” is thrown around more than any other term in this area of business, or possibly only second to “digital transformation” :rolling-eye-emoji:. 

But, how does it actually come to life at Phase2 and what benefit do our clients and employees derive from it?  

Phase2 views that innovation activities come from 2 primary sources:

  • Grassroots
  • Directed

Grassroots innovation is born from the work we do for clients every day and the experiences and insights of our employees. For teams closest to the work, they have their eyes and ears open for the real challenges and related opportunities that present themselves.  One of our core values is “Pinpoint the real problem, and solve it.”

Directed innovation is derived from market research, industry trends, and the insights of our agency leaders. This work involves gaining an understanding of the emerging patterns and determining where the opportunities exist for us to get ahead of the knowledge and challenges our clients will likely encounter as leaders in their respective markets.

These sources of innovation converge in two significant places within Phase2: a knowledge product we call the Innovation Radar and in collaborative groups called Guilds.

The Innovation Radar is a research and knowledge management tool, taking some inspiration from the ThoughtWorks Technology Radar. We evolved the concept to better suit Phase2’s priority outcomes. The “blips” we track on the Radar are technologies, techniques, tools, and processes that could be used to deliver strategy, creative, and engineering solutions to our clients. The Radar allows us to track incoming and maturing blips and organizes how we collect and distribute knowledge about them. It is critical that we deeply understand the various ecosystems in which we deliver solutions. The Radar is one of the tools we use to teach, train, and share knowledge openly within the agency, enabling our experts to deliver insightful solutions to our clients.

In addition to building a reference tool, Phase2 offers the space for passionate individuals to gather in volunteer communities of interest, called Guilds. Similar to how Spotify incorporated this idea into their agile culture, we use Guilds to do the important work of researching, defining and advancing our work. Our Guilds are cross-functional teams formed to advance an aspect of our agency, in alignment with our company goals.  These Guilds often contribute heavily to the Innovation Radar, as well. We find that our best ideas for the future of our work are born out of the creativity these diverse teams bring together.

As noted above, some of our particular innovation activities are not a new concept for the market. However, company commitment and organizational structuring with these in mind are what actually drives the change. The provided space and support for employee’s individual passions is what pushes Phase2 to press forward and to always provide lasting impact for our clients. Another of our core values is to “Adapt, evolve and always improve.” This continual advancement over time allows our agency to be a trusted advisor and invaluable partner to the many organizations we are lucky enough to call our clients.

I look forward to sharing more about our Innovation Radar and Guilds in the future. I’ll also be integrating the voices of several other experts to share their unique perspectives about Innovation @ Phase2.

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As CTO, Frank guides our team through the evolving landscape of digital products. Frank focuses on our knowledge systems, innovation activities, and our customer focused technology strategy.  He is equally comfortable reading a balance sheet or a pull request, and is always willing to get his hands dirty to ensure a client's success.

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