Internal Hackathon: 10 tips on how to organize a successful event

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“What’s amazing about a Hackathon is the enormous amount of energy and motivation that it generates within an organization. Thanks to this event – and we organized two of them since last year – we have gathered all employees who were ready to materialize their views on the bank of the future. The results achieved in only 2-3 days were far beyond what we would be able to accomplish at the bank in a much longer period of time. In addition, Hackathons created a strong sense of determination in all participants and proved to be a good tool to stimulate entrepreneurship in our corporate culture. “- KIM NGÂN TRÂN, Innovation Catalyst at BNP Paribas Fortis

Analytics, Blockchain, Design Thinking, service design, Data Science, IoT, wearables, fintechs, and the list goes on. The range of new possibilities for business development and improvement is long and oftentimes intimidating. You have certainly stumbled upon these terms several times in various publications or on the internet. The Hackathon, for instance, is trending right now, but how much do you know about it?

A phenomenon in US and Europe, this type of event favors the culture of innovation and, like the others mentioned terms, has been gaining momentum in Brazil over the past years. Even Rio de Janeiro’s City Hall used hackathons as a way to improve their service at line 1746, but there is still a lot of confusion on how and why to carry out a hackathon in companies.

On our last post, we discussed how to define the purpose of the meeting and how your organization team should look like. Today, we bring 10 tips to help you carry out an effective hackathon.

1. Have a tangible, clear and well-defined objective. It must meet a real need or problem within the company.

2. Hackathons often engage members from all parts of a company, so, if not everyone is familiar with the context of the problem being worked, carry out a training session before the Hackathon. This optimizes the employees’ work and will be crucial to obtain relevant ideas.

3. Establish clear rules and guidelines and follow them strictly.

4. The prize should be relevant enough to attract participation and quality, and not only act as a “treat” to be received by the winner.

5. Remind participants that perfection is not the goal of the Hackathon and that they should hand in their prototypes within the stipulated time (they can always be improved later).

6. Find a comfortable environment with enough outlets, Wi-Fi connection and if possible, an isolated area, such as a meeting room, in case the teams want to work with some privacy.

7. When providing food and drinks to the participants, be sure to keep the options healthy and pay attention to any possible dietary restrictions.

8. Hand out gifts! Giving customized t-shirts for each team is a good way to engage solidarity and the feeling of being part of a group, which is important for the collaborative work process.

9. A key point for the success of the hackathon in addressing a company’s culture of innovation is to have employees see the winning prototypes truly being used within the purposes for which they are intended. This is the ultimate victory.

10. Provide inputs from customers or end users as a working tool for the creation of prototypes.

“I liked the tips, now, how can I organize a Hackathon for my company?”

We should point out that these marathons should not be isolated events. They serve as a kick-start for a series of activities aimed to innovate or develop a product, and is sometimes followed by radical changes in the way a company works. They are parts of a process.

Thus, it is certainly not advisable to organize a hackathon with the simple purpose of having this experience or just to generate some ideas, and then return to the company’s routine. It should be part of an innovation plan, which certainly need a change management.

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