Innovating with purpose: How passion activities in the workplace lead to revealing solutions

Łukasz Sudoł
GumGum Tech Blog
Published in
6 min readJan 24


Image of a crumbled ball of paper and a paper airplane


Are you passionate about programming and curious about the latest innovations in your field? In this post, we will explore some of the activities we have tested at GumGum to drive innovation and try out new ideas. Let’s be honest, this is a very difficult topic. Every day brings something new to our dev lives as we need to keep up with todos, our daily work, and our calendar. We often dream of sitting down for a while and thinking about tools that could help us, our colleagues at work, and our company’s strategy. Over the past years, we heard successful (or less successful) stories about companies letting employees work on side projects, or protecting 20% of their time to do something creative.


In recent years, the field of programming has become increasingly complex and dynamic, requiring developers to constantly adapt and stay current with the latest innovations. However, it is not just about keeping up with the latest trends, but also about pushing boundaries and creating new solutions.

Engineers who are passionate about their work are more likely to take risks, think outside the box, and come up with groundbreaking ideas. The most important factor here is ownership; that’s clear, period. We want to own things and projects. We are happy, excited, and enthusiastic about working together on something important for our end users.

Recent studies have shown that a programmer’s job satisfaction and productivity are positively correlated with their level of engagement and motivation. Additionally, a survey conducted by the Stack Overflow Developer Survey in 2022, shows that 66% of professional developers have at least some influence over their organization’s purchases of new technologies. This is up from 56% in 2020.


There is no holy grail for inspiring innovation. Today, we will focus not on ownership, but on some other activities we test to help us with passion.

Let’s review them.

Passion and innovation open office hours

Programming, at its core, is a problem-solving endeavor. A programmer is presented with a problem, and their fun is to find a way to solve it using code. This process requires a great deal of critical thinking and creativity. Passionate programmers are able to tap into this creativity and come up with unique solutions that others may not have thought of. They are not afraid to try new things, knowing that failure is an inevitable part of the innovation process.

At GumGum, we are experimenting with a new meeting we call Open Office Hours. To understand idea behind this meeting, let’s have a look at the following figure:

Model for generating innovative ideas, from Innovator’s DNA

The above figure shows a model for generating innovative ideas (Innovator’s DNA, written by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen). The key for generating innovative ideas is to the cognitive skill of associational thinking.

It is not a mandatory meeting; we do not track progress here, but instead we meet together to actively engage in our discovery skills. We review the latest technologies and solutions, and ask questions about them. In the future, we would like to end up questioning the status quo of current ideas.

The agenda is pretty simple:

  • Warm up and review latest solutions in the following areas:

— Software development

— Tech trends

— Ad tech trends

  • Brainstorm the new/existing problems as an opportunity to provide insights
  • Experiment and discuss the outcomes coming from the passion days

Ok, what’s a passion day?

Passion Days

Take time away and focus on something different. GumGum provides engineers with one day a month (or you can combine them in a row if your workload allows for it) to work on something of your choosing. You can increase your knowledge by experimenting with new languages, frameworks, methodologies, and apply them to real-world projects (achievement!). Or you can take this time to just work on something you want to do that hasn’t been prioritized, or expand your skillset by taking classes. It is time for you to choose.

What are some examples?

There are more than one <joke>. We were able to see projects such as: new performance dashboards, automation tools for development pipelines, new blog posts and book reviews :)

Sharing achievements

To encourage knowledge about projects at work and passion day outcomes, we present them on our monthly tech all hands. It’s a part of the culture where everyone shares what they have learned, and it’s a way for the other team members to learn from each other and also to feel like they are contributing to the collective knowledge of the company.


This event provides an opportunity for everyone to put their skills to the test, learn from others, and create something new and exciting. The most important thing is that we can collaborate with other departments. We enjoy working in teams, discussing ideas, and getting feedback from others. This event lasts three days, and the last day we do a demo.

Read more about latest event here:

Paid courses and workshops

GumGum provides a budget for doing further education and learning for our engineers. Courses and workshops are offered in-person or online and can vary in length from a few hours to 3 days. For example, in the last year, our engineers participated in Java courses, AWS workshops and certifications, meetups, and conferences.

Important to note here is that some programmers may prefer to learn on their own and may not see the value in attending a workshop. We let people choose how they prefer to learn and support this in many different ways.

Attending tech conferences or meetups

Attending tech conferences or meetups is a great way for programmers to stay current with the latest trends in the field and network with others who share their passion for programming.

For example, our engineers attend AWS re:Invent, Java, Kubernetes meetups and conferences.

It’s not only about attending conferences; it is also about hosting the conferences and speaking at them. We can learn more by showing our projects to others. Of course it is not easy to talk in front of an audience, but you can start slow, with a group of a few people. In the end, it has a good impact on motivation, and with enough time you will learn something and maybe even expand your horizon.

Summer Half Fridays

GumGum allows for half day Fridays in the summer to give people a chance to rest and recharge. This is a game changer. Everyone has positive feedback about it, and its impact on creativity by allowing us to step away from daily routines. Taking a break from work provides the mental and physical rest needed for the brain to process information and generate new ideas. Switching to other activities that are different from one’s usual work, such as traveling, taking up a hobby, can also stimulate the mind and inspire creativity.


The key is to create a culture that encourages learning, experimentation, and collaboration. As I wrote before, there is no holy grail to create such a place. The copy paste solution does not exist. Secondly, programmers are often busy with their work and may not have the time to participate in some activities or feel bad about participating because some of their colleagues are busy. It is everyone’s responsibility at the workplace to support passion and engagement. Prototype fast. Start it yourself, and be a leader and an example. The skills you build and the solutions you create can truly impact your team or your company.

Team testimonials:

By above, we realize our own ideas and we give everyone the opportunity to influence the development of the company or the engineering environment.

Arkadiusz Piczak, Engineering Manager at GumGum

References and resources

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Łukasz Sudoł
GumGum Tech Blog

Linux lover. Engineering management. Now playing with: #python #go #cpp #java Previously: #js #python #bash #php #delphi