A bit of context
Last weekend I participated in Hackmancity, an event supported by City Football Group, Manchester City Football Club and Play.
After team allocation I was surrounded by a group of people that I had never met and we were challenged to create an idea to engage with Man City fans worldwide. I’m proud to say that we achieved 2nd place with a special mention for the “Most Innovative Idea”.
Peachy, but what’s a Hackathon?
Hackathons are about creating a new system/idea/solution in a clever and skillful way. It’s called hacking because you are, in fact, clearing as many obstacles as possible to allow teams to focus on a solution.
Organisations are often clogged with hierarchical structures and tend to have slow decision making processes, especially when introducing a new ideas or systems that affect their customers.
Hackathons allow an environment where pretty much everything is possible. By exploring sideways from the standard company structure, they allow innovation to occur.
So. Here are my top reasons why more people should take part in Hackathons:
1. You are building everything from scratch
When dealing with innovation, it’s not enough to have a disruptive idea, you need to assess all aspects around it such as validation, data to contextualise your decisions, scalability, technical requirements, user journey and so on.
2. It’s not about the prizes or the recognition
Hackathons are about collective thinking, ideation and quick prototyping. They’re aimed at proposing a new solution to problem. If you’re in it for the awards you end up blurring your mind and might become overly competitive – at the expense of the experience, and the learning.
Sure, recognition is important but that’s just a nice to have. At a hackathon you need to make sure you are present, with a clear mind and ready to create – and that’s a pretty good mindset to try and stay in no matter where you’re working.
Just be your best best.
3. You have to expand
When you start brainstorming about a solution, you should explore as many avenues as possible to allow lateral thinking to flow.
Make sure you have a way of documenting this process either through post-its, notes, paper, anything. Your mind starts forming strange connections and eventually you will find interesting ideas to utilise.
4. …and then trim
It’s easy to think to start adding every single feature you can come up with and try to target everyone from all ages. However, the next step is crucial – you have to trim your idea and focus primarily on it’s unique feature.
There is elegance in simplicity but also, this allows you to make that one feature really refined and interesting. Furthermore, bear in mind that in these particular types of events, you have a very limited amount of time to present an idea, so objectivity and simplicity are key.
5. Exploration of diversity
Hackathons tend to have a range of different skill sets within their participants. Data analysts, strategists, UX experts, designers, developers, marketers and so on.
This means that they require a strong team spirit and the need to explore and capitalise upon everyone’s strengths. Similarly, it’s about recognising a group’s flaws and avoiding them on the idea prototyping.
6. To break your routine
Inspiration comes from all places, in a Hackathon, it comes from a new context, a break from one’s routine that presents no boundaries to what’s possible.
Breaking a routine can also allow you to discover aspects of your skill set that particularly excite you and bring them to your daily work.
7. To learn and share knowledge
There are opportunities to learn and share everywhere. Sometimes, we tend to be either full of ourselves that we forget to share with and learn from others. These types of event are not meant for that.
They are humbling experiences where you grow from every single interaction. You realise your weaknesses and strengths and discover ways of allowing others to do the same. It’s all about communication, teamwork and positive interactions.
A group may be stuck on a particular question that you might be able to help. There are only good things coming from collaboration. Give it your best and stretch.
Hackathons all have common elements but each has its unique approach. The key is to participate and really understand the challenge at hand.
Make sure you prepare beforehand and think of what you can bring to the table. Be humble, engage, socialise and network but more importantly, have fun.
Hackathons are quite intense experiences. Everyday working life can’t be a hackathon but keeping the mindset of creativity, objectivity and collaboration is something to maintain and build on for the success of your future projects.