I ran a hackathon at work. The topic was one which literally no-one participating had a background in: IoT, sensors, Big Data.
At the day’s heart were a few cognitive leaps: work with new people, on an emergent issue where the answers are unknown, and suggest weird solutions which we will not seek to repudiate and instead celebrate…
It seemed to go well, better than I had presumed. I asked attendees for some direct feedback. Here is what they said:
- A great idea to get people from different departments together to talk about something potentially out of their comfort zones.
About the topic:
- This was a toughie but an interesting challenge.
- It helped to have something that is so up and coming in the world today as there was lots of information on it. I wonder if it would have worked as well if the topic wasn’t so popular?
- The topic was quite vague and difficult to discuss at times, especially with all team members coming from different experiences it was difficult to find topics of discussion that we all could have input on
- A great topic but with limited knowledge of the technical parts of our industry, it’s difficult to come up with a tangible solution.
Indeed! About the open-ended hackathon (non) process:
- Wonderful idea, good for teambuilding too!
- To be honest, the self direct part was a bit hard for the first 1/2 hour and then once we got going, I felt like we could’ve gone in any one of our many ideas/directions.
- It was nice having a lot of freedom on where to go with things, and it was helpful having Jonathan come by occasionally to see where we were at and give some input on where to go with it
- At first, it feels odd not to have “structure”, but we got over that feeling…
- Open-ended + blue-sky = good. self-directed = could use more ‘direction’
- I think no direction is how people think outside the box, no restrictions and no judgment = great ideas
What could be done better:
- I thought it all worked well. I liked the fact it was a little unstructured (there is no pass/fail) both for how we chose to address the problem in the team and how we presented it. If you had given any flash of this is good/bad, right/wrong I think it would have killed the ideas and the process. You never know where the next idea will spring from.
- Need more resources for research, or who know the issues better. “Look on the internet” is not the way that companies look at issues 😉
- I think it would have been easier if the topic was a more practical problem for us to come up with possible solutions.
- It was a bit confusing at first. More clarity in the beginning as to what the “goal” is.
- Encourage final presentations to be short and to the point; less is more.
- Clearly state expectations and what to achieve at the end. Open ended outcome was good for this 1st session but it would be better next time so that the work groups can put more focus on the deliverables.
- I would encourage: – a more defined problem to solve or hack – a more structured agenda and/or deliverables – examples of previous solutions – more discussions within the larger group
finally, how did it participants feel…
- Great opportunity to meet and work with people from other departments that you don’t normally work with, cross-brainstorming and teambuilding!
- It makes people work and think differently. “outside the box”
- Always surprised at how doing something as small as this (5 hrs in a year is pretty small time commitment – compare it to time spent on timesheet for example). Yet from that 5 hrs I feel much more connected to others I work with. and I have more confidence in my own problem solving skills. That’s a lot to help someone achieve.
- It was great working with people in other departments, and I learned a lot about the business in the process, which I really appreciated.
- I found this quite fun and interesting. There are many ideas (good / bad / stupid) and I found that listing all of them puts a much better perspective on things. ie: the idea may be “stupid”, but parts of it may work with other ideas.
- It was a fun way of working with new colleagues on big ideas that will shape the future of our industry. I left feeling a bit more excited / engaged to be working here. It reminded me to try new ways of thinking and working when tackling a new problem.
- think big, work backwards.
- I really liked it. It was a lot of fun and I wish we could do it more often.
- Trying new things is great. I actually was able to reflect on how much I learned since I started here by sharing experiences and seeing what ideas I could come up with based on my knowledge so it was somewhat a confidence builder. Cross-training is something I would also love to participate in if offered. Interesting to hear about other team members’ expertise as well! Overall I had fun, was a nice “escape” from the norm. Would love to have more people involved next time!
- I loved getting together with a few people I knew and 1 I didn’t. Seeing the contributions from all and the active discussions how they took shape was great. I like the cross-functionality idea, take someone from their comfort zone and you may be amazed what they come up with.
- It was awesome to work with people in the organization I’d either never met, or worked with. Everyone was very supportive of each persons ideas and that made it a good environment to be yourself and bounce ideas against the wall. It’s too bad the topic didn’t allow for us to hack something we know or could make a different in… this was a little above all our skill level? BUT! I would like to do this again and think we could benefit from doing a cross-organization one again. I hope you plan one!
And that is that. I asked “should I do this again?” and the feedback was “Yes.”
A few others have asked, “hey, when are doing another hack so I can join?” I am not certain I will do it again though, unless I can get a topic / project more refined to business outcomes. We shall see.
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