How Uber's Weekend Prototyping Sprints Build Innovative Products

Last summer, team members from Uber for Business — an autonomous group within Uber, made up of about 40 staff, including designers, project managers, marketing specialists, engineers, and salespeople—launched Uber Events, an in-app feature that allows an event host to give rides to guests and set certain parameters for those trips. But what's really impressive is that Uber Events was built out in one weekend. If you want to encourage similarly innovative ideas in your own team, follow Uber's model:

  • Change the setting. For Uber’s weekend adventure, team leads booked a big house in Redwood City and catered the event. The team was able to channel the excitement of a new location (and a lack of distracting chores) into productive work.
  • Foster open discussions. During Uber’s "jam sessions" (brainstorms), team members are encouraged to think big and blurt out any idea or suggestion without fear of criticism or judgement. Encourage a dialogue of risky ideas and bold problem identification.
  • Focus. Once everyone has had a chance to contribute ideas, narrow your focus. For Uber Events, that weekend’s goal was to use Uber’s existing capabilities to create an autonomous system where an event planner could set parameters for use and distribution to their event guests.
  • Set constraints. Setting limits in terms of time or resources forces the team to examine what's truly "minimum" for an MVP and make trade-offs.
  • Build. Assemble a diverse team of engineers, designers, and a product manager, then race to a working prototype.

Takeaway: Focusing on a clear goal in a new location can generate great ideas in a short period of time. Just make sure that it doesn't become a regular weekend event, which will quickly burn out the team.


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