If you are a fitness enthusiast, you probably have heard about or even participated in a marathon, and if you love creating stuff and turning ideas into objectives, chances are you have heard of a hackathon.
Hackathons first appeared in the late 1990s, and quickly gained momentum among tech companies and venture capitalists in the early- to mid-2000s. The initial hackathons were seen as a quick and cost effective way of forming new ideas for software development, discovering new frontiers of innovation and fund raising. As technologies leapfrogged in the following decade, the form of hackathons became increasingly open and the organization much more diverse.
Today, any person with a do-it-yourself mindset and a passion for creative thinking and product design can take part in – or even run – a hackathon, developing anything from a mobile APP, to smart home appliance, to a creative market strategy. For example, BASF, in partnership with Collective Responsibility, hosted a 24-hour sustainable transportation creatathon last spring, where 7 student teams were challenged to create an APP to help urban residents make better transportation decisions. Other industry leaders like Intel, Google, Facebook and Tencent organize hackathons every year.
At Collective Responsibility, we believe all companies – large or small, international or local, can benefit from a hackathon.
A hackathon can solve a real business challenge.
It can be product design, business models or market strategies. By putting a group of fierce thinkers/makers together and make them compete against each other for the best solution, companies will get a collection of innovative ideas within a very short of time. In other words, a hackathon helps a company shorten the cycle of its internal innovation process, and at lower costs as well.
A hackathon can drive internal momentum and collaborations.
To successfully run a hackathon, departments have to sit together and brainstorm about the challenge theme, decide on the judging criteria, and share the final outcomes. A hackathon can be seen as adhesives bringing together seemingly disconnected departments, which helps build trust and team spirit.
A hackathon can help a company engage its external stakeholders.
From our own experiences, the key to a successful hackathon is bringing in external speakers, mentors and judges from across the supply chain who could guide participants throughout the design process. By engaging external stakeholders in such conversations, the hosting company is demonstrating its dedication to taking innovation into action.
A hackathon can help high potential talent.
24 hours might not be enough to build a full prototype with market values, but is more than enough to identify potential leaders that are truly creative, dedicated and with well-developed skill sets, all of which are essential to thrive at any innovation-oriented jobs.
Hackathons can be great catalysts for driving innovation both within and outside a company, because it offers an open ground for crowdsourcing, pushes people to think out of the box, and rewards those who are true game changers!