Hackathons might initially conjure thoughts of a room filled with gaming developers – but now they’ve changed and found their way into internal comms.
An opportunity for people to get together and ‘hack’ a solution, hackathons shake up conventional project methods by inviting a diverse group of people to sit down, discuss ideas and come up with solutions in a limited period of time – giving it an engaging edge.
River Island, NHS, CIPD and the City of London HR team are just a few who have taken on this new trend.
We spoke to Perry Timms, Founder and Director of People & Transformational HR, who has been waving the flag for hackathons since 2013.
“People have cottoned onto hackathons as a vibrant way of creative thinking,” he said.
“What makes them different from brainstorms is they’ve got a very loose framework which gives people a broader sense of how to participate, but at the same time, there’s a focal point. This gives hackathons a real energy and pace.”
A key element of hackathons, Perry believes, is inclusivity.
A varied mix, including senior management, new starters and those in different departments, can produce a number of solutions that may not have been considered.
Hackathons can focus on a range of issues, such as how to engage new starters, restructure teams or find new ways to develop talent – pretty much anything can be ‘hacked’.
The loose hackathon framework is made up of four ‘sprints’:
• Sprint one – evaluate the situation and consider the ideal situation
• Sprint two – discuss existing limitations to any issues
• Sprint three – create mini hacks to find as many potential solutions as possible
• Sprint four – cluster these hacks and come up with one solution.
But have hackathons proved their worth?
Perry said: “The River Island hack was only an afternoon and they came out with lots of workable ideas, most of which have been implemented.
“It was an example of getting people involved who aren’t normally a part of that discussion, which worked really well.
“If big companies can do it and find solutions, then I believe a lot more of us should take advantage of hackathons – anyone who has an active interest in creating something better can do it.”
Interested in hosting your own hackathon?
Perry added: “If you’re a good facilitator and know the principles of how they run then anyone can set them up.
“There’s loads of great information online if you search ‘hackathon, or people can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org”
Check out the video below to see how the CIPD found their hackathon back in 2013.