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In simple words, a hackathon is an event where engineers, programmers, designers, marketers, and animators work collaboratively over a course of several days to create/innovate something new. The common practice is to fill a room with your team and stuff them with pizza slices and caffeinated beverages, to work relentlessly over new ideas and projects. Hackathons are really helpful in developing new products, services and features. For example, Facebook’s “Like” and “Chat” features were both created in a Hackathon.
Generally, there are no limits except for the time constraint, although most companies usually outline a general theme to spark participants’ creativity. Specific industries and companies host hackathons in search of targeted innovation.
Another misconception about hackathons is that it only suits technology companies, which is not true. In fact, the whole practice associated with hackathons can be useful to any company looking for innovation from within. The real magic of a hackathon lies in the creative freedom. It sets free and encourages your employees to share their ideas about where the company needs to improve. A hackathon is a good way to bring those ideas to the forefront and test them.
For example, a marketing company may not be able to develop the next Facebook “Like” button, however, it could use a hackathon to find new ways to harvest or track sales data. A public relations firm could use a hackathon to draw out new ways to create and use social media in their outreach efforts. Essentially, the hackathon is designed to unearth innovations within a company, wherever it lies.
If you are having trouble finding the quality human resource, you can open your company’s Hackathon to the public. This will attract young engineers, designers, developers, animators, other types of creative talent. Offer a reasonable prize to make the whole process more convincing. Google’s hackathon to test Chrome’s security had a prize pool of $2.7 million. Obviously, not every company can offer that much, but offering rewards certainly can bring genius out of the woodwork.
A daily routine of writing code or working on the same products, features and services can really reduce your chances of working on new ideas and technology. Your employees will definitely appreciate the concept of working on new ideas along with a break from daily routine.
Hackathons are important to company innovation because the amount of useful, crazy work it get out of everyone in such a short period of time is vastly more productive than at any other point in time. The concept of developing something new, that might actually be worthy of its own startup is quite possible, is the core of such hackathons.
At Cygnis Media, we are currently running a Hackathon, which has helped us unearth some wonderful ideas, potential and skills within our team. Our Hackathon is comprised of all the features listed above. For instance, we have made it easy for employees to participate, providing plenty of food and drinks; outlined themes & ideas to move participants’ creativity; opened it to the entire company; and are offering prizes for that added bonus.