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Demystifying the hackathon

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/demystifying-the-hackathon

mckinsey.com

Demystifying the hackathon
The "hackathon" has become one of the latest vogue terms in business. Typically used in reference to innovation jams like those seen at Rails Rumble or TechCrunch Disrupt, it describes an event that pools eager entrepreneurs and software developers into a confined space for a day or two and challenges them to create a cool killer app.

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Hackathon

Hackathon

... is a term used in reference to innovation jams and describes an event that pools eager entrepreneurs and software developers into a confined space for a day or two and challenges them to innovate. A hackathon goes beyond a simple brainstorm session as it also focus on results and jump-starting a way of working.

For large organizations in particular, 24-hour hackathons can be adapted to greatly accelerate the process of digital transformation and even achieves startup levels of novation. Although often they are less about designing new products and more about “hacking” away at old processes and ways of working.

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A Good 24-hour Hackathon

  • Centers on the customer process or journey and supports a clear business target.
  • Involves employees from all relevant areas to find different ways of working a problem. 
  • Challenge participants to reimagine an existing method to try to find the most efficient way to improve the customer experience.
  • Sessions start with ideas but end with a working prototype.
  • Output includes a clear development path that highlights all the steps needed to accelerate production and implementation.
  • The hackathon concludes with a presentation to senior leaders, including a real-life demonstration of the new prototype and a roadmap of IT and other capabilities needed to bring the final version to market.
  • Once the teams agree on what to do, those responsible for execution create a virtual model that the group vets, refines and re-releases in continual cycles until the new process or app meets the desired experience criteria.
  • Management prevents the dissipation of enthusiasm and energy created on the hackathon by placing new processes to sustain it. 

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Hackathon

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-li...

Some Benefits Of A Hackathon

  • Hackathons generate actionable ideas, strategic product concepts and process improvements.
  • Internal hackathons –organized within a company — provide a great way to inspire teams and promote creativity, collaboration, and innovative thinking.
  • If run properly, hackathons can establish a stream of valuable ideas.
  • The gamification layer on top of hackathons can further motivate and reward employees for being innovative while staying aligned with the strategy of the corporation.

The Importance Of The Award

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. 

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Community Creation

Hackathons can activate a tech-savvy community to rally around a cause and help. It often fosters the desire in the participants to keep working on the projects after the hackathon is over t...

Developer Engagement

Hackathons can expose a community of developers to new technologies while the technology providers get in-depth feedback and the knowledge of watching how their tech is used “in the wild.”

Recruiting

Hackathons allows companies looking to hire to see beyond a resume of potential employees. A well themed hackathon identifies people who have a common passion with your organization and expose their behavior through the range of experiences an employee faces while working.

Serendipity and being open to the unexpected

Serendipity and being open to the unexpected

Serendipity is making unexpected discoveries. It is not entirely controllable nor predictable. It means seeing solutions where others find none.

In a rapidly changing world...

Develop the conditions for serendipity

Several companies design flexible structures and processes to cope with the unexpected. Uncertainty presents not only a challenge but also a potential opportunity.

  • The company, Haier, developed a 'platform ecosystem' where employees can present their ideas to an investment committee.
  • They also developed a digital ecosystem around users where the user is the core.
  • A culture of innovation is encouraged by rewarding autonomous decision-making and encouraging employee teams to find external partners to develop ideas.
  • Other companies focus on coffee trials, where you are randomly paired up with other employees over lunch.