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A hackathon is an intensive, often software-centric, ideation, prototyping and presentation challenge on known or unknown problems or opportunities.
It is a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others, often including subject-matter-experts, collaborate intensively on software projects”
The most important though from a developer’s point of view is resources and sponsorship to drive the product/idea to the next stage. This could be the most inspiring award of all — the winners ability to use specialized resources (developers, equipment, software, services) — according to a suitable plan — and get prepared for a formal presentation of the outcome to the senior stakeholders, leaders and decision makers.
This is where teams work intensively to align their ideas, define the ‘product’, execute, review, iterate; the most exciting and creative part of the hackathon where employees forget their formal roles and titles and self-organize focusing on their mission: to create something novel and impactful.
Depending on the definition of each event, there might be a video pitch requirement, a live pitching of the idea or a live demo of the product/ prototype. In all cases the importance of effectively presenting the work done is critical.
Lead time is a preparation phase, from the announcement of the event to the actual ‘hack-time’. This is about communicating the event to the employees, attracting attention and enabling formal registration of interest.
Employees should have a sufficient lead time to explore ideas, technologies, teams and resources. This is an informal preparation phase which should be supported by proper tools (systems to enable employees to structure their ideas, projects, teams; communicate their effort, ask for advice or help).
The main objective is to generate high-value actionable business ideas and product concepts. But a hackathon should also boost the innovation culture and further establish the idea-sharing, effective collaboration and creativeness driven by enthusiasm towards a shared goal.
Employees have a great opportunity to discover technologies, teams and demonstrate their skills and talents outside their typical job description; Corporations have the opportunity to identify talent, experience powerful teams being setup and capture valuable feedback.
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Make sure your employees get to know each other, whether that happens through group lunches, coffee breaks, or informal social events. This also builds trust — a vital element for successful collaboration.