“Squad” is a Cinnamon signature: Our employees may form small workgroups — or, “Squads” — to tackle problems at their discretion. “Squad” is Cinners’ innovative approach to work organization, demonstrating that innovation permeates everything we do at Cinnamon AI.
In the earlier periods of our growth, Cinnamon AI struggled to scale our productivity to match the rapid expansion of our business. Our AI Research team consisted of 150 members, who were located in different geographical areas (Vietnam, Taiwan, and Japan) and time zones. Our increasingly cumbersome human resources system prevented optimal resource allocation and consistent intelligence across projects. As such, Cinnamon AI was prompted to make structural changes to our people operations.
To solve the problems of poor resource allocation and knowledge sharing, three of our AI researchers (Ben, Jeff Yang, and Larry) came up with the “Squad” paradigm to allow for more self-organization amongst our employees. The “Squad” concept takes advantage of the familiarity among members who share a work history to accelerate socialization, avoiding the problem of interpersonal incompatibility that newly formed work teams often encounter.
Each research Squad comprises a model author who builds AI models, a mentor, and mentees who learn from their mentor. Each Squad is given full end-to-end ownership of projects. We then observe their subsequent interactions and personal development.
Squads were expected to not only optimize resources allocation among members, but also increase the quality of our products (Flax Scanner, Rossa Voice, and Aurora Clipper). We also hoped that by participating in Squads, mentees could acquire new skills and knowledge, develop their strengths, and eliminate weaknesses. The concept of “Squad” became our first step in building a collaborative and diverse culture at Cinnamon AI.
The Squad paradigm has been a great success. We expected this new work concept to encourage organizational effectiveness, promote knowledge transfer, and strengthen bonds among our members. And that’s exactly what has happened: Cinnamon has enjoyed an increase in project completion efficiency and better overall resource allocation. Besides, Cinners seem to enjoy working in Squads. They especially appreciate how working in Squads has improved communication among team members, allowed members to grow and learn, and tailored tasks to each member’s capabilities. Cinners said they feel empowered working in Squads, which has prompted them to take ownership of their projects.
That said, the Squad paradigm isn’t a trouble-free cure-all. Working in Squads requires constant interactions among members, which is troublesome for more “passive” members who learn by trial and error, instead of from other people. On the other hand, while higher management gives Squads full autonomy to make their own decisions, they still have to provide close supervision to offer instant support when needed.
The Squad concept is one of Cinnamon’s best-kept secrets: It has offered us a remedy for our thorny resource allocation problem and supported us throughout our growth. Working in smaller teams has also given our members the freedom to pursue projects of their liking while deepening their collegial relationships and a free-range for personal development.
Still, implementing the Squad paradigm isn’t without its problems and undoubtedly, there will be many in the future. That said, Cinnamon AI is excited to continuously improve on this concept to better serve our employees!