I Have No Idea How To Run A Hackathon, But Here Goes Anyway

Next week, I am running a hackathon at work. I have no idea if it will work, nor how.

Note: My company is not in software, we have contracts and projects that last 25 years. We are not a start-up, the organization is not built on agile philosophy.

So what the hell am I trying to do? I am most uncertain. I follow start-up culture and philosophy, I like its adaptations and pivots, its search for new and relevance. I wondered if I could do an approximation of that inside an industrial business.

There is not much more of a back story either. When I was sketching out goals for the year I wrote #WorkHack in my notebook, transcribed it into an email, then added it as a line item to my goals with a simple intent: try something new.

I created a folder for my working notes on it in Outlook, one that was resolutely empty for 6 months or more.

Then, reaching back through my memory one day while staring at the ceiling, I recalled a project that the CEO had given my team 3 years ago, about which we had done absolutely nothing, based on us knowing absolutely nothing about the topic – a highly niche business play.

That project had nagged at me for three years, though clearly not enough for me to do anything about it substantively. It nagged at me not because of the (niche) topic, but because of the opportunity the CEO was offering us – to experiment, to challenge the given assumptions (otherwise, why would he have given it to the MarComms team?), to hack.

Anyway, three years later, here I am, scratching my head – what on earth am I going to hack? Cleverly and/or stupidly, I had made a rod for my own back by already advertising the hack and getting 30+ people volunteered to it. There was no backing out.

So, during a meeting with the CEO, I framed up the hack with this niche business play he had given to me 3 years before. Could I use it for the hack, and would he sponsor it accordingly? [Yep, I am not adverse to executive sponsorship to make my projects successful.]

Instead, he gave me another topic, very future focused, business relevant, and deeply challenging. I am uncertain anyone who volunteered has the wherewithal to add value to the hack.

But here is the beauty of the (idea of the) hack: it is made to surprise, its expectations are highly realistic and grounded. It is a small bet, played optimistically. And that is why I am willing to put myself out there, hopeful, and prepared to fail(-safe).

Tally-ho! and/or I’ll just get my coat

←This Much We Know.→

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