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Demystifying the 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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Demystifying the hackathon

Demystifying the hackathon

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

mckinsey.com

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Key Ideas

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.

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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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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Is an event where people work tirelessly over a defined period of time to build something. Hackathons are most typically executed by engineers, but some companies have done hackathons with non-technical employees, such as sales. 

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While most innovation comes from startup companies, some of the top innovative companies are mature and large (Apple was founded in 1976 and generates $228 billion. Google: 1998, $78 billion, Microsoft: 1975, $87 billion.) The myth acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy and deters large companies from attempting to innovate like startups.

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