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Introducing KUNGFU.AI Lab Days

Steve Meier
Co-founder, Head of Innovation

From the very beginning of KUNGFU.AI, we believed having strong values we fully commit to were extremely important. KUNGFU.AI’s values include caring, trustworthy, inquisitive, open, and inventive. The thing about values is you can’t stop at belief and commitment; you must live your values. We must act on our values. We have to find the time to ask questions AND find the answers. We must be open to new ideas and take risks. We need space to invent and try new approaches and techniques. When you are part of a growing startup, you are doing, doing, doing all the time. You quickly get lost in the minutiae and can lose sight of the big picture. It's easy to forget to look up and gut-check that what you are doing is aligned with our values. Once the team began to introspect, we realized we should be doing more to be inquisitive, open, and inventive. The answer was easy. We must formally act and build a culture of innovation. We must create and protect space for our team to openly share ideas, explore their curiosities, and create. Soon after, Lab Day was born. 

KUNGFU Lab Day is a full day every week - Fridays - for our team to spend on educational content, collaborative events, and self-exploration to clear their heads and focus on professional development. 

We are in the people business, and investing in our people’s well-being is essential. Generally, mental fatigue and burnout are common in professional services due to context switching and balancing many projects with team responsibilities. At KUNGFU.AI, we believe that continuous learning is critical for advancing in the AI space. We believe in keeping our position as a leading-edge consultancy; we must stay on the frontiers of our specialties by staying up-to-date on the latest research, attending conferences and workshops, and so on. Consequently, we spend less time directly on client matters than more commodity-oriented consulting firms. To accomplish this, we needed to create a protected space to probe and create. 

Each Friday, we will (as much as possible) clear the calendar of obligations in favor of autonomy between training, mentorship, collaboration rooms, researching, experimenting, thinking, and growing as individuals. Week to week, individual team members may organize pair-programming rooms, brainstorming sessions, paper reviews, and/or work on internal projects. We hope our team heads into the weekend inspired, intellectually nourished, and refreshed each week. We encourage teams to steer the activities at the beginning of every week to tee up collaboration or training sessions on Friday. An important element is that the team gets freedom and choice how they use their time. 

By prioritizing learning, experimenting, and innovation, we aim to improve our great culture and work quality. By focusing in this way, we hope to see a stronger bond between our people, grow future technology leaders, and create a factory for innovation that will keep KUNGFU.AI consistently on the leading edge of the applied AI field. 

Part of our big experiment is to be open and take a risk. And learn from our mistakes. It's risky for a small business to take a day away from billings and focus on people and growth. However, it's a risk worth taking to uphold our values and keep our eye on the big-picture impact that living our values may bring to our people, our culture, our work, and our customers.