There are many ways to help organisations innovate and hackathons are often the go-to format; but are they always the most effective? This question underpinned a recent roundtable at the Digital Catapult entitled Hacked Off About Hackathons as part of their current ColLab Festival.
There was an interesting group of organisations represented who all, in different ways, organise and run hackathons so there was much discussion about, amongst other things, whether it’s possible to build a hackathon framework or template for others to use.
However the main point, which emerged through the discussions for me, was that there is no point organising a hackathon if it’s just a single day or weekend. It can’t merely be about having fun and looking cool. It needs to be integrated into a business need, an existing process and a clear strategy for it to have any chance of succeeding.
David Dunn from the Digital Catapult in the North East and Tees Valley shared a useful framework below for when a hackathon can be useful verses other activities that fulfil a different role.
I thought this was an interesting framework and one we could perhaps collectively build upon further.
In addition I was asked to share a short provocation so my 5 lessons learned were as follows:
My slides from the session are available to view here for reference.
Lastly, I thought I'd share my favourite word that I learned at a side conversation at the session namely Wabi-sabi (侘寂) defined as "the acceptance of transience and imperfection” which seems oddly appropriate, in the context of open innovation in general and hackathons in particular.
As ever we'd welcome any other top tips or lessons learned you may have learned about designing and running hackathons so please do share.