Microsoft - ThinkWeek, Innovation,...

In my last post I mentioned my new role in the Microsoft Technical Strategy group and the promise of more on the subject. So here is some late breaking news, hot of the press, on one of our programs – ThinkWeek.

What is ThinkWeek?

As borrowed from my peer, Tricia Mayer, our much more articulate and capable Director of Marketing and Communications.

 “ThinkWeek is a long-standing tradition at Microsoft, initiated by Bill Gates. Over the years, ideas generated through ThinkWeek papers have inspired direction and great thinking. Now that Bill has moved on to a more prominent role at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the ThinkWeek process is changing.

ThinkWeek is an open and voluntary forum that enables any Microsoft employee to share their thoughts and ideas in the form of a thoughtfully written paper, circulated among influential managers and senior leaders.

ThinkWeek is grounded in the premise that sharing diverse ideas and great thinking are key elements of maintaining our competitive advantage and thought leadership around the world.”

ThinkWeek and the Economy

Again from Tricia,

“As all groups at Microsoft undergo the evaluation of cost to value benefit for programs and projects, we are also applying the same scrutiny to the ThinkWeek program and process. Until that evaluation process is complete, the ThinkWeek09 cycle has been placed on hold.”

I was made aware there was some leaking (outside of Microsoft) of this programs “hold” status, so I felt now was the time (read below) to share some information on the subject from someone (Me) who has first hand information on the subject. Note that we received a lot of feedback from employees on the ThinkWeek “hold” status.

I believe the ThinkWeek concept has been around for ~27years. It has been a long standing tradition embraced by Bill Gates and was affectionately referred to as “the BillG ThinkWeek”, in part, because Bill would take a week off to read the papers and incorporate the input into the fabric of Microsoft’s product development. I doubt Bill truly unplugged. Remind me to tell you a personal experience that has become an urban legend on Bill’s work ethic.

On a personal note, In April 2001, I submitted a paper on MSN’s .Net Migration – “Porting a Multi-tier Distributed Platform”, with a little help from my friends (shout out to Mahesh and Stephen). The paper was based on the re-architecture of our content fetching/aggregation tool I invented and originally wrote in Perl and ported to “Cool”, which was the code name for C#. Participating in a program that allows you to reach thought leaders and influencers throughout Microsoft was (is) a privilege and an honor. Seriously! I make mention of this, along with my Microsoft ship-it awards, on my resume.

Signs of recovery

There is more positive news about the economy recovering and while certainly not the sole decision to launch the *new* ThinkWeek program, both are positive signs in my mind.

Yesterday, Ray Ozzie, announced in his Engineering Excellence forum keynote (a Microsoft campus event) that the new ThinkWeek program will launch next month!

And again,

“Over the past several months, the ThinkWeek program has been redesigned based on the feedback we have heard from Microsoft employees worldwide. The next generation of the ThinkWeek program will be launching on July 6, 2009.”

In conclusion

For those Microsoft employees reading this blog, submit those thoughtful papers and please give me feedback on the new site.

For those that read about the leaked information this should clear things up.

For those that are hearing about ThinkWeek for the first time, this should give you some insight into some Microsoft culture, employee participation in shaping Microsoft, and continued support for invention, innovation, and feedback by *all* employees.

I will continue to share more on the Technical Strategy Group programs (in additional to ThinkWeek) as well as more on innovation and Microsoft culture if my readers find the subjects interesting. Do inquiring minds want to know?

Now I have to get back to work as I recently picked up a number of new work items, requirements, expectations, and a firm ThinkWeek RTW date J