Turning Hackathon Ideas into Results
If your company has been looking for ways to increase corporate innovation, you may have come across a solution called a hackathon. What is a hackathon? They are planned events that bring teams of participants together to find innovative solutions for a presented challenge or problem. The ideas are usually showcased to a judging panel that votes on the best idea and deems a winner. Hackathons started being used for tech companies and developers, usually geared towards coding, but have transformed into solving problems for a large number of industries and organizations. One example of a non-technical hack is the AquaHacking Challenge, a hackathon that brings young innovators together to solve the environmental freshwater issues in Canada. Another non-technical challenge has been Vanquish Collision Hackathon, focused on road-safety and preventing motor-vehicle related accidents. There are no limits to the challenges a hackathon can present or the solutions it will create.
In addition to covering various topics other than tech innovation, hackathons are now offered in multiple formats. After the onset of the pandemic, companies have relied on virtual hackathons to continue unlocking innovative solutions. This pivot has allowed companies to include participants from all over the world, including many more ideas and perspectives to help address the challenge. A hackathon can be held in person, virtually, or a mix of both, whatever suits your organization.
Hackathons are used across many different companies, and for more reasons than just solving a problem creatively. Read on to learn about the five benefits of a hackathon.
1. They identify the company’s needs, problems, and solutions.
Hackathons are a great tool to help you analyze your company’s current position, challenges you are facing, and any opportunities. Having the participants include your employees (internal participants) or open to the public (external participants) allows your problem to be examined in a new light. The participants may find key points that you have missed, and see alternative solutions that weren’t apparent before. Hackathons require you to assess current and future obstacles, and the solutions can give you an advantage in mitigating/addressing these challenges when they arrive.
Take the ONS x ONCC Hackathon, which aimed to revamp the training procedure for nurses giving cancer care. The focus was on improving programs for future care delivery, and ensuring their nurses could give the best care to their patients. Through asking nurses to participate, the organization was seeking the perspective of those who work closest with the patients, in order to build informed solutions.
2. Hackathons are a ground for new ideas
Uniting different participants to one problem brings a large amount of diversity and perspectives into the program. Combining alternate thought processes, skills, and views is one reason why hackathons are so successful. They challenge the typical problem solving process, and lead to bigger, better ideas. Furthermore, hackathons typically provide participants with workshops and info sessions that help the contestants understand the company’s situation, the technology available, and any other skills or knowledge the participants may need to deliver a successful solution.
Another idea-generating aspect of hackathons are that they are held over a short period of time (usually ranging from just 40 hours to two weeks!). This narrowed time frame allows the participants to hyper-focus and kickdrives their creativity. There is no time to waste pursuing poor ideas, and great ideas are usually identified quicker than if there were no time constraints. The shortened time frame also ensures the solution is thought through and is a viable option for the company to use. One example of a hackathon that is used for idea generation is TD Tech Jam. The Tech Jam includes its employees so they can come up with a tool that will help them be more efficient and ease their work lives. Throughout the years, the Tech Jam has enabled TD to create an excellent in-house app library for its employees.
3. Hackathons create an innovation community within your company
Hackathons cause your company to be forward-thinking and to invest in creativity. The organization can transition into being more innovative and emphasizing that factor in their decision-making.
Involving your employees in a hackathon shows them the importance that is placed on innovation and creativity. Hackathons show your employees that you expect and search for innovation, and they will strive to find alternative solutions with you. It inspires them to think big, not just throughout the hackathon but also to look for outside of the box solutions in their day-to-day work.
4. They are also a place to enhance your corporate branding
From the local community, venue and caterers, platforms, media, and participants, there are a lot of people involved in a hackathon. All of these moving parts learn more about your brand just by being a part of the hackathon, which helps you build awareness. Hackathons promote innovation as a key factor in your company’s success.
Including external participants in your hackathon helps your company to further their engagement with the local community. The event presents to the public a desire to learn and focus on adaptation within the company. Whether your participants are internal or external, hackathons show the participants that their thoughts and ideas matter and that you are willing to listen and invest in them.
The Alphabet Company used the Cloud Sprint Hackathon which allowed them to connect their designers with their business clients. This educated and engaged their clients about the platform’s capabilities while searching for opportunities to improve the site. This strengthened customer relationships while showing the innovation throughout the company, and also put forward that Alphabet Company recognizes that their clients are a key stakeholder in their platform and deserve a chance to offer input.
5. Hackathons involve employee training and recruitment
Employees participating in hackathons are able to learn new technologies, programs, and skills, which increases their capabilities in your company and their career. Take for example the CIBC BlockChain Hackathon, where the company wanted to learn more about blockchain and how they could use it in their organization. The dual benefit of having their employees participate was that they could also have the employees learn the technology while still getting the creative solutions they wanted.
In terms of recruitment, a hackathon can also test external participants on their problem solving and critical thinking skills, and is a way to see if they would be a good fit on your team. Hackathons also show off your company’s values and desire for innovation, which can increase your talent brand in the eyes of potential employees.
Hackathons are more than a place to solve problems. They focus on the company’s needs, generate creative ideas, promote innovation within your organization, strengthen your brand image, train employees, and enhance recruitment opportunities.
So, are you ready to put on a hackathon to create all kinds of opportunities for your company? Do you have hackathon ideas or would you like to learn more about hackathons and other services we offer? Contact us for more information and to start your innovation process today!