Choose Your Own “A-Thon”
When you hear the word “hackathon,” you probably see a pretty clear image in your head: a room full of coders, fueled by adrenaline and energy drinks, working into the night to come up with the best application. And you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But recently I’ve been considering whether the traditional definition of hackathon can be opened up a bit—rather, a whole lot.
Last year, I helped facilitate 10 or so hackathons for a health technology company. Technology companies are full of people who know how to develop software, yet don’t get to play with the cool new stuff in their fields during their day jobs. So, these hackathons brought people within my client’s company into teams with other people they might not normally work with. The client got a great cross-pollination effect across the company as people saw what everybody else was doing, met new people, made new connections within the organization, and got opportunities to think more innovatively and create solutions they wouldn’t normally get to do in their 9-5 jobs.
What struck me, in reflecting on this recent win, was how universal a hackathon could be. Those same desires—thinking innovatively, creating new solutions, meeting new people within an organization, doing something outside the normal job—exist for everyone, not just coders.
What if we redefined hackathon to see how it could solve other business challenges, even ones that don’t involve technology? We could think of them as learning events, totally open-ended and adaptable to suit different business needs. They could be totally cross-functional, bringing together process people, and systems people, and business people, and talent people. The sky’s the limit.
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