Does your company need a hacking strategy?

http://imperialentrepreneurs.com/hackathon/

Hacking as a means of creating and testing new ideas is the new wave of the future. Many companies (i.e. Facebook, Google, Blackberry, and Foursquare- just to name a few) have been in the practice of hosting organized hackathons and swear by their effectiveness. Chang (2012) notes that Facebook’s timeline, Video, the Like button, and Chat all made their debut at a hackathon. Essentially, a hackathon is the offspring of a focus group turned experiment for computer geeks. Instead of answering questions with answers, they stroke the keypad and search for innovative solutions then test them.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/05/19/meet-the-disrupt-ny-2012-hackathon-hackers/

So what can a hackathon do for your company? With the growing amount of communication taking place on the internet, what company doesn’t need new innovative ways to deliver that content? Hackathons can keep a lively, thrill seeking edge on employees’ work and hinder groupthink. Not to mention the increase of employee moral that arises from this fun and engaging affair. It also gives the employees a worry free environment to encourage creative thinking without possibility of failure. This imaginably leads to the employees feeling their contributions are valued as well as facilitating collaboration between employees. So, basically, a hackathon can potentially do a lot for your company. From conquering software related issues to improving the company’s culture, hackathons could be the next big thing.

Chang, A. (2012, July 20). Deep Inside a Facebook Hackathon, Where the Future of Social Media Begins. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/07/facebook-gears-up-next-big-thing-in-three-day-camp-hackathon/2/

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6 Responses to Does your company need a hacking strategy?

  1. joshuajh says:

    I have never heard of this before, but I am fascinated by the implications that this can carry. In the design field there is a similar procedure althought the nuances of it are slightly different. Many design firms have what they call “juice meetings”. I believe that the term stems from creative juice. The idea for these meetings is a little bit like a brain storming session but it does not typically have a focus. In these meetings, the goal is simply to get everyone involved with the process of creating; whatever and however. These meetings can take a number of forms depending upon the specific disscipline that you are in, but the handful of times that I have been a part of them I have really enjoyed the process. You are right on when you say that it is an engaging affair and that it frees an employee to think creatively.

  2. smcknigh says:

    Thanks, joshuajh. The “juice meetings” you described sound like a fantastic way to foster creativity within a design firm. I think the important point is to ensure that companies are taking their part to create an environment that nurtures innovation.

  3. Aaron Fowles says:

    Shanah,

    This was very interesting. After reading the article you made your post from, I realized that this activity was not an internal affair, but included all types of people from outside the company, most of whom do this only on the side of their regular jobs — the true definition of geeks. For the companies that run these events, having people come in from the outside, they are also exposing people to its brand and engaging these elite programmers in a way that may make them fans of the brand (as they tell their friends to use the software that they took a part in designing/testing/finding solutions for). This could be likened to the diffusion of innovation theory where these computer programmers may be called the innovators and as long as they are willing to adopt the technology, the companies will most likely have a much easier time rolling the product out to the general public.

    I also like the community element of the hackers. They seem very supportive (look at the comments at the bottom of the article) of each other and I think that helps play into the integration of the marketing activity.

    Thanks for the post — I hadn’t heard of these, and it seems like a pretty nice idea!

    -Aaron

    • Lisa Dulyea says:

      I was not aware of these either. They actually sound like a lot of fun, and I can see how the energy would create a collaborative, creative atmosphere. I think allowing the employees to just go at it, if you will, fosters amazing morale and will increase productivity when they return to their “day” jobs. Very cool and interesting topic, Shanah! It makes me wish I were more tech savvy so I could participate in a hackathon.

  4. kristinq says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I have never heard of it. I can’t believe people come together to work for fun. This would be like a group of Finance people spending a few days together to just geek out and build financial models. That’s my worst nightmare.

    I am thankful though that they do things like this and make our lives better. Having lived many years of my life without smart phones and aps, I can’t imagine losing this luxury. And the fact they are hanging out on their free time trying to make better ones makes me smile.

  5. msamuels says:

    This is a really interesting post Shanah. The word “Hack” confused me at first but it seems that the participants are not really hacking into the systems. It seems that the sponsors can get quite a lot out of these events, far more than they’re paying for. If the top price is 500 pounds to split between the winners, the real winners appear to be the company that got potentially millions of dollars (or Pounds or Euros) worth of programming at rock-bottom prices. But I suppose the winners get a certain recognition that the computer geeks seem to love.

    Great post.