Dropbox, Innovation Ninjas & Hack Week with Lauren Lee


Drop_Box_Hack_Week_Lauren_LeeDesign finds its way into all portions of our lives. From street signs to advertisements, logos to movie posters—we’re constantly surrounded by it. It seems like the mantra for all designers, at least at some point or another, is: good design goes unnoticed. That’s no different for events manager and experience planner at Dropbox, Lauren Lee.

“Design brings people together.” Lee says. “At Dropbox, we try to take care of our users and employees in ways that they don’t always notice. Our experiences… shine from the fact that they’re discreet, and this all starts with design.”

In 2013, Lee got started with Dropbox’s event planning when she was challenged with the task of revamping the company’s weekly “All Hands” meetings. The meetings are company-wide (that includes 11 international offices) and are important for keeping Dropboxers (aka, the employees) up-to-date and embracing of the company’s quirky culture.

When Lee added her helping hands to the cause, rap battles and mariachi bands ensued, and she learned something very important.

“I quickly saw how even small details like seat changes and speaker training helped Dropboxers embrace the company.”


On the last day of Hack Week, Dropboxers proudly share their work.

Two years later, Lee continues designing company-wide events for Dropbox as a member of the company’s “Black Ops” team. True to the ‘black ops’ way, Lee and her team are responsible for candidly assuring “people walk away with new insight, takeaways or inspiration from each event they attend.” They’re like stealthy ninjas, but instead being sent to spy and sabotage, they make sure company events bring people together while stimulating that innovation part of the Dropboxers’ brains that daily work doesn’t really reach.

Just how discreet is the Black Ops crew? Well, for starters, Lee believes “Dropboxers should walk into an event space and know that it’s ‘ours’ even without seeing any logos or our ‘Dropbox blue.’ Events design is also about the moments themselves—everything from the event flow to the [communications], and even the food should all make Dropboxers think ‘they really thought about me.’”


Also on the last day of Hack Week, Dropboxers become inspired by the work of others.

As far as events go, one of the most well known Dropbox events is the company’s Hack Week. The week of innovation and creation started in 2011 when Dropbox had a total of 35 employees. According to the Dropbox blog, they “transformed the office into a giant workshop, and turned the ideas that [they’d] been dreaming up into reality.”

While there aren’t any guidelines for what people can and cannot work on during Hack Week, many of the ideas end up being developed into viable products for Dropbox users. Just a few examples of awesome features that were born from Hack Week include view-only shared folders, desktop notifications, streaming sync and more.

Hack Week is about getting back to our roots,” Lee says. “We devote an entire five days every summer for Dropboxers to explore whatever projects interest them. It’s unique compared to other companies who have an ad hoc one-day or weekend event. It’s also a chance for us to break from routine and explore our wildest ideas, whether or not they’re part of our normal day jobs. Instead of talking about what could work, we put our heads down and try to make things work. Year after year, we surprise ourselves with what we can get done in five days.”


Like any creative mind, Lee has a process for crafting a fully finished product.

“[It] all starts with a whiteboarding session. We start by gathering Dropboxers… into a committee: engineering leads, designers, product managers, marketers, comms and previous Hack Week planners…” From there, it’s all about setting simple and defined goals. This year’s Hack Week focused on connecting Dropboxers, recruiting Dropboxers-to-be and product innovation.

“Afterwards, I developed parallel workflows for teams to bring these goals to life. For example, one team focused purely on the hacking experience throughout the week, another team focused on the visual identity and memorialization for the week, and countless other teams made sure we got every detail just right.”

As for the results of this year’s Hack Week? We’re still waiting to see what Dropbox has in store for us. In the meantime, their blog offers a how-to list of ways to hack into great ideas—something that any creative mind should take a look at.


Dropbox a cappella group Syncopation performs at the Opening Ceremony of Hack Week 2015.


Another Hack Week project – Dropbox projected by lasers!


During Hack Week, Dropboxers are encouraged to work on any project that captures their imagination – this Dropboxer is creating a physical Dropbox.

T4557In the areas that traditional ways of running a business have failed the corporate world, design thinking has picked up the slack. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation by Idris Mootee introduces a model of using design thinking that is relevant to and productive for business management, marketing, and design strategies, as well as presents ways to apply design thinking in day to day work. Discover how design thinking can inspire creative solutions to solve complicated business problems, and ultimately transform companies and cultures. Explore the advantages and utilizations of design thinking, learn how the design thinking process can help conquer the eight primary challenges most businesses face, and utilize exercises, activities, and other resources to begin reaping the benefits of design thinking.