Introducing the Lab

In 2018, at ABC Arbitrage, we decided to try something new. We are roughly 80 people working together everyday to apply our technical expertise on financial markets. As in any company we are organized in different teams, we follow projects, we build stuff that we think are going to increase our revenues in the short term or in the long term.

One of the caveat of such an organization is that sometime it can reduce our ability to innovate. “Why should I propose something new? My project is already clearly defined.”, “My boss will never accept this idea, it is too disruptive”,  “If only we could do that it would be great, but the planning is already done” can be the kind of thoughts some people might have.

What if we gave everybody a chance to be heard? Could something good, something great come up and dramatically change our way of working together?

Introducing the Lab

Our idea is to try something different and to share our results with the world. We have started working on what we call the Lab (from laboratory). The goal of the Lab is to give the opportunity to anybody within ABC Arbitrage to propose innovative ideas, to be heard, and to work on them as an experiment.

What kind of ideas are valid?

Our goal is not to create a new company so receivable ideas should be applicable to what we do at ABC Arbitrage. For instance, creating a poker game engine might be an interesting idea, but it is hard to see how it will be beneficial to ABC Arbitrage’s business. Other than that condition, any idea is acceptable. It can be proposing a new way to collaborate, a desire to experiment with new financial instrument or to test a new kind of database.

To sum-up an idea should:

  • provide some business value to the company,
  • have some degree of incertitude,
  • be innovative

Who can propose ideas?

Anybody. This is very important. Great ideas can come from anybody. Not matter in which team you are, what is your hierarchical position,  for how long you have been here, if you have an idea, you can propose it to the Lab.

Who is receiving ideas?

Right now we are three people in charge of receiving ideas. Our goal is to ensure that people have all the information they need about the process, to detect if some people share a similar idea to connect them, to help them preparing the presentation of their project and to communicate about the Lab.

What is the selection process?

Once someone submit us an idea, it starts an incubation phase. During this phase, the goal of the person which submited the idea is to find other people motivated to work on the project and to preprare a presentation of the project.

At regular interval, there will be a selection and each team will be able to present its project. The manager will then select an idea, and this idea will start the realization phase. If a team does not feel ready, it can skip this selection and continue its incubation until it feels confident enough.

What will happen when an idea is selected?

A small team will be created to work on this idea for a designated time. We would like teams to be of 3 people and projects to last at least 3 months. But each idea is original so there is a lot of flexibility. It could be 2 people working 2 months, or 3 working 4 months. Each team member would work at least 80% of its time on the project, so it would be its main focus (once again, it can change on an individual basis).

What is the expected outcome of the project?

Several positive outcomes are expected:

  • learning new things,
  • improving collaboration between members of different teams,
  • providing a great deal of value to the company.

Because we are not sure if a project will succeed or not, the Lab will require only one deliverable: a post-mortem blog post.

About the Blog

The first goal of this blog is to share the results of the Lab. We will publish here what we learned with this experience and the post-mortem of the projects. We would love to use it as well to share more about our open-source work or to describe what it is to work at ABC Arbitrage.