What works & what does not?

The Australian Government recently ran a hackathon on new ideas and suggestions to boost innovation in the country.

A hackathon or ideaathon is a concept pioneered in the software or IT industry which basically means gathering a group of interested people and give them a short amount of time and ask them to improve an existing product or come up with a new one.

From my experience here’s how to run a successful hackathon.

Here’s what works:

– Invite a diverse group

– Have a clear focus or objective and sent it out at least 24 hours beforehand

– Ask people

– Establish how the ideas are to be evaluated before the session starts and by whom

– Make it fun

– Have a specific start and end time

– Have all the groups present in front of one another so that there is a cross-fertilsation of ideas

Here’s what does not work:

– Use big groups. I think this is a mistake – with the recent government one the groups were 10 or so but this becomes too unwieldy

– Adopt a ‘winner take all’ attitude. Part of being involved in a hackathon is the joy of participation. You want to encourage and recognise effort as much as the final result.

– Have no follow up. Hackathons are a great way to stimulate and accelerate both new ideas and learning so quick feedback is essential during and after the session.

– Invite only the usual suspects (i.e. certain people at a certain level in a certain role).

At the end of the day, Hackathons are new, fast and energising.

Try one.

If a Federal Government can run one than every organisation should try it.


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