When Should Agile Teams Make Time For Innovation?

GoRetro Team
April 17, 2023
Posted on
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Agile methodologies, such as Scrum, have revolutionized the software development landscape by providing a flexible and collaborative approach to project management. Agile teams work in sprints, delivering small increments of software and continuously improving their processes. 

But amidst the hustle and bustle of sprint planning, daily stand-ups, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives, where does innovation fit in? Should Agile teams make time for innovation, and if so, when and how? Let’s explore the importance of innovation in Agile teams and discuss four key moments when Agile teams should prioritize innovation.

Innovation as a Core Value in Agile

Innovation is not just a buzzword, but a core value of Agile methodologies. Agile teams are encouraged to constantly inspect and adapt their processes, tools, and techniques to improve the quality and efficiency of their work. Innovation is not limited to just the development of new features or technologies, but also includes finding creative solutions to problems, challenging the status quo, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. As the Agile Manifesto states:

 "At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly."

Balancing Innovation with Sprint Commitments

While innovation is important, Agile teams also have commitments to deliver working software in short sprints. It can be tempting to prioritize sprint commitments over innovation, especially when deadlines are looming. However, Agile teams should strive to strike a balance between delivering value in the short term and investing in innovation for the long term.

It's important to allocate dedicated time for innovation within the sprint, so that team members can explore new ideas, experiment with different approaches, and come up with innovative solutions to address current and future challenges.

Using Retrospectives for Innovation

Retrospectives are a critical practice in Agile methodologies, where teams reflect on their performance and identify opportunities for improvement. Retrospectives provide a perfect opportunity for Agile teams to foster innovation. Team members can brainstorm ideas, share feedback, and propose innovative solutions during retrospectives. Retrospectives can also be used to celebrate successes, recognize innovative efforts, and create a supportive environment that encourages team members to share their innovative ideas without fear of judgment. By using retrospectives as a platform for innovation, Agile teams can harness the collective intelligence of the team and drive continuous improvement.

Creating Dedicated Time for Innovation

Innovation cannot be an afterthought or squeezed into an already packed sprint. Agile teams should proactively create dedicated time for innovation. This can be achieved by setting aside a portion of each sprint solely for innovation-related activities, such as research and development, proof of concept, and experimentation. This allows team members to focus on exploring new ideas, technologies, and approaches without the pressure of immediate deadlines. Dedicated time for innovation also sends a clear message to team members that innovation is a valued and prioritized activity within the team.

Using Scrum Spikes as Time for Dedicated Innovation 

A Scrum spike, also known as a time-boxed research or investigation task, can be a valuable tool for Agile teams to make time for innovation. Scrum spikes are typically short, focused periods of time allocated within a sprint to explore, research, or learn about a particular topic or technology that is relevant to the project.

A Scrum spike can be used as a dedicated time for innovation, allowing team members to delve into new ideas or technologies without impacting the sprint commitments. For example, if a team wants to explore a new framework or conduct user research to identify innovative features, a Scrum spike can be allocated to specifically focus on these activities.

The key is to ensure that the Scrum spike is time-boxed and doesn't disrupt the flow of the sprint. The team should set a clear goal or objective for the Scrum spike, define the scope of work, and allocate a specific timeframe for completion. This allows the team to explore innovative ideas while still maintaining focus on delivering the sprint goals.


Innovation is a crucial aspect of Agile methodologies, and Agile teams should proactively make time for it. By considering innovation as a core value, balancing it with sprint commitments, using retrospectives as a platform, and creating dedicated time for innovation, Agile teams can foster a culture of continuous improvement and drive innovation in their software development processes. As Albert Einstein once said: 

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." 

So make time for innovation in your Agile team and embrace new ways of thinking to drive success in your software development projects.

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