How Atlassian implemented a culture of innovation and continuous improvement

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Dom Price is Head of R&D and Work Futurist at software company Atlassian. We caught up with him at HR Tech World Congress in Paris to find out how he has kept and nurtured Atlassian's culture of innovation despite significant growth.

From the beginning, Dom was clear he wanted to maintain a company-wide culture of innovation, rather than devolve innovation out to specific teams or hubs.

"It's a more expensive strategy," he told me, "because you need to let more people fail. And you need to give them the time to fail."

There are few rules, but the key one is that all innovation must relate to the team, how it operates, and what it does.

Maintaining a culture of innovation is not easy. It starts, says Dom, at the recruitment stage. Atlassian hire for two key values:

  • be the change you seek
  • play as a team

Secondly, people need to be given time to innovate. Atlassian model their "innovation time" on Google's now well-known strategy of allowing employees to spend 20% of their time to spend on personal projects that could get spun out as new features or products.

But the model is flexible for Atlassian. One team, for example, takes a week out of every five so they can concentrate on meatier projects.

Part of Atlassian's innovation journey is about embedding continuous improvement within teams. The company has 2000 employees but is split into small teams, all of which own their own path, struggles and strengths.

Atlassian studied the successful teams and compared them to bad teams. This led to the concept of "team health" and a codified set of principles, called "plays," that allows each team to check their operational effectiveness in a range of areas and take proven, corrective action in a preventative, rather than reactive, way.

Atlassian have released these "plays" to the public: you can find more information at







About Jamie Lawrence

Jamie Lawrence, HRZone

Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names, including Daniel H. Pink. He has worked previously as a small business journalist and a copywriter and has published non-fiction that reached #2 on the NYT Children's Bestseller List. In his spare time Jamie likes writing fiction, films, fitness and eating out.


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