In an article dedicated to hackathons, the hackerearth website points out that more than 80% of Fortune 100 companies organise hackathons to bring out innovations. Moreover, hackathons are often renewed regularly. To boostincremental or disruptiveinnovation, consider organising a hackathon in your company.
What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is a tool to boost innovation. Firstly, the hackathon consists of encouraging ideation, to generate ideas and solutions on a given theme. Finally, teams will be able to test their ideas in an accelerated way, experiment and prototype, in order to validate the ideas submitted.
What is an internal hackathon?
As the name implies, an internal hackathon is the act ofrunning a hackathon within an organization or company, mobilizing its employees. Organizing an in-house hackathon takes employees out of their daily routine, and gives them a chance to step back from their tasks and think about potential innovations.
Did you know that?
Companies such as Facebook or Whirlpool regularly conduct internal hackathons to develop themselves. For example, the instant messaging button, or the Facebook "Like" button are ideas that emerged during internal hackathons.
Organising an internal hackathon: with what objectives?
You can organise a hackathon with several objectives. Here is a list with some examples to help you frame your approach:
- Finding new areas of innovation through ideas from the field
- Engage employees by involving them in strategic issues
- Bringing your corporate values to life
- Strengthen your employer brand
- Improve management or otherprocesses
- Identify the key talents and high potentials in your organisation
- Supporting changes in your market or working methods
Do you need to organise a hackathon?
A hackathon can be very useful in your innovation process. Indeed, it allows you to amplify all the benefits ofcollective intelligence. Because multidisciplinary teams work in collaboration and agility. Cohesion is strengthened because all team members are looking in the same direction. We therefore recommend that you organise a hackathon at least once a year.
Moreover, innovation is accelerated. Indeed, with a hackathon, processes that would normally take months only take a few days. Organising a hackathon means that you can avoid wasting time and adapt quickly to your market and your competitive environment.
The hackathon, king of the "provoked"collaborative innovation
Previously, innovation came from the members of a company's R&D department. But now innovation has become participatory. In order to (re)connect to irritants and opportunities to improve practices in the field, organisations are listening more to their employees. But how do you stimulate the proposal of ideas?
At Beeshake, we have a conviction: collaborative innovation is born where collective intelligence is stimulated. Indeed, in order to create innovation, it is essential to connect ideas within your organisation. So you need to create the right environment for ideas to connect. And hackathons are a more than favourable environment! By collecting and connecting ideas from the field, the organisation ensures that it innovates faster, and in the service of real problems in the field.
Organising a hackathon: what are the benefits?
Organising an internal hackathon is a great way to boost innovation:
- It allows you to structure the emergence of ideas. If you do not already have a continuous collaborative innovation platform, organising a hackathon will allow you to structure the ideation process. Indeed, you offer your collaborators a space to propose ideas, and where they will be studied and even experimented.
- Prototyping takes very little time. Within a few days, project teams validate the feasibility and prototype their ideas.
- It allows the concrete deployment of new ideas to be organised. What would normally take a long time is accelerated here.
- You develop the skills of your employees. By allowing them to get away from their daily routine, you help your employees to take a step back and develop their skills.
- You boost cross-functionality in your organisation. Because organising a hackathon means creating a meeting between engineers and the field, between different departments, between different professions, etc. In short, it is a very concrete experience of multidisciplinarity. In short, it is a very concrete experience of multidisciplinarity.
Steps to organize a hackathon
Organising a hackathon requires several steps. Some key steps:
- The scoping phase ✔️
- An internal communication plan ✔️
- The ideation phase ✔️
- The course of the event with the creation of the prototypes ✔️
- Communication after the hackathon and follow-up of projects ✔️
Focus on the scoping stage
The main stages in framing a hackathon
Once you have decided to organise a hackathon, you need to start your scoping phase. Ask yourself questions like:
- What is the objective of the hackathon?
- What problem are you trying to solve? Or, what opportunities are you trying to open up with this hackathon?
- On what specific theme(s) should the hackathon focus? By specifying the themes, you will clarify the framework for ideation and give a more precise direction to the development of the projects.
- What is the schedule? In total, we advise you to allow at least 2 to 3 months for the complete organisation of your hackathon.
- How will internal communication be organised? In this question, you will need to think about who you want to engage, and how.
- How will the participating and/or winning teams be rewarded? Even if the hackathon should not be about awards, it still helps.
- What will be your indicators of success? In particular, at Beeshake, we love to have you answer the question "will this hackathon be a success if...?
- What internal communication do you plan after the hackathon? This is very important! Plan a real communication plan afterwards to follow the projects being deployed and to prove the usefulness of the hackathon.
Writing a charter for your hackathon
To organise a hackathon, it is very important to define a charter. Like the rules of the game, this charter will define a framework of trust and will allow each participant to feel at ease throughout the hackathon. In particular, you can think about including rules that provide for respect of each other's opinions.
Ideally, do not hesitate to distribute the charter and make its acceptance compulsory to participate in the hackathon.
Finally, think about the procedure and possible sanctions in case of non-compliance with the charter.
Which theme to organize a hackathon?
If you want to come up with solutions that will be really relevant and useful, it is essential to predefine the problem and the themes on which you want to focus the thoughts of your collaborators.
Start by identifying key areas for your organisation. Often these are areas facing challenges or irritants that have not yet been addressed. The more precisely an irritant is identified, the easier it will be for your hackathon theme to emerge. Don't hesitate to interview employees and managers in the field to validate or clarify the theme. Their feedback will be useful in understanding the needs and bottlenecks encountered.
Your topic can be about any aspect of your organisation. For example, how to boost the visibility of our brand, how to develop a new internal start-up, or how to improve management practices, customer relations, etc.
The hackerearth website gives an example of a hackathon for GE Healthcare: the problem identified in the field was a lack of experienced health professionals in rural India. The focus was therefore on devising solutions to offer training to rural doctors, but also to set up more remote consultations and follow-up. The themes of innovation were therefore: the training of doctors, video diagnosis and health protocols in this context.
Choosing the right audience for your hackathon
Your audience will naturally depend on the problem you want to solve or the challenge you want to address.
Think about opening your hackathon to several departments, and to all levels of the hierarchy. The challenge is to benefit from the transversality and diversity of profiles present in your organisation.
Finally, think about how much time you are going to ask of the participants. It is important that everyone feels free and encouraged to participate. The hackathon must therefore be known and accepted by the managers who must not put any pressure on their teams.
Organising a hybrid hackathon
Current organisational methods require the organisation of hybrid hackathons. In other words, hackathons that combine face-to-face and remote phases.
Digital will be useful to engage participants remotely and simultaneously. In particular, it is easy to go 100% digital in the ideation phase. In fact, all you have to do is deploy a collective intelligence platform. You can use it as a communication medium, and your employees can submit their ideas in teams.
For the few days of hackathon, with experimentation and prototyping, the hybrid mode will be more relevant. In fact, we advise you to organise an event on site, with at least some of the employees concerned. If some people cannot come to the event, plan a video-conference and a recording of the event to allow remote employees to participate and follow the event.
Jury, selection of ideas and awards
The members of the jury of your hackathon
Ideally, compose a diverse jury, with people representing different perspectives on the issue. Obviously, the jury members should be able to make decisions together following the ideation and prototyping.
It is entirely possible to recruit people from outside your organisation to your jury. They will have a fresh look at the projects proposed in response to the problems encountered.
The jury will have to define and validate the criteria for evaluating the projects, right from the scoping phase. These criteria could be, for example
- Employee voting: it is important to know whether the projects generate enthusiasm internally
- Ease of implementation
- Environmental or social impacts
Finally, you can organise a meeting between the hackathon participants and the members of the jury, for example before the hackathon takes place. This will allow the jury to get a better idea of the projects and the people behind them.
The rewards for your hackathon
Participation in a hackathon is often boosted by the presence of prizes and concrete recognition. These prizes can take many forms. For example :
- Access to an incubation or acceleration programme.
- Training offered
- Access to a conference or books on the themes of the hackathons
- From Learning Expeditions to go further in the project
- A media subscription
- Tech gifts: tablets, computers, connected watches...
Organising a hackathon: measuring success
- The participation rate from the ideation phase
- The transversality of project teams
- The rate of interaction of employees with the ideas
- The relevance and quality of the proposedprojects
- The quality of the experimentation and prototyping work
- Qualitative feedback from employees, especially from participants
What communication plan for your hackathon?
Promote your hackathon
A communication plan will ensure that the objectives of your hackathon are well understood by your employees. Moreover, it will undoubtedly boost participation. To organise a hackathon, you can't do without this step.
Use all your internal communication channels, online and offline, to promote your hackathon: use e-mails, posters, the intranet, etc.
Involve the middle-managers to make them communication relays. It is very important that they are involved in the hackathon, so that they do not become detractors. What if you offered managers the opportunity to become members of the jury? The aim is to show them how hard everyone is working in the same direction.
Finally, don't hesitate to take advantage of it to feed your external communication. Indeed, the organisation of a hackathon is often very beneficial to corporate communication and employer brand communication.
Communicate on the theme(s) of your hackathon
It is essential that you communicate the challenges and issues that are driving you to organise a hackathon. What is the problem to be solved? Why is this topic important?
If you use a collective intelligence platform like Beeshake, you can take advantage of your dedicated platform to broadcast content dedicated to your hackathon. This content can take several forms:
- Awareness articles to document the hackathon theme for your employees
- Interviews with employees or managers on the irritants they encounter in relation to the hackathon theme
- E-learning capsules (MOOCs) to anchor and raise awareness of specific topics among your employees
- Inspirational conferences broadcast live on your platform
- Internal webinars led by thematic experts
There are several ways to organise a hackathon. First of all, think about your framing phase carefully in order to avoid surprises. Make a checklist with all the elements discussed in this article (ideation themes, identification of the jury, communication strategy, hackathon planning, etc.) so that you don't forget anything before you start!