All forward-thinking companies are focused on innovation – but successful innovation isn’t something that just happens. It’s pursued, intentionally, with great focus, by the right people making the right decisions based on any number of variables along the way.
Those “right people” include both internal and external stakeholders whose subject matter expertise and creative vision allows them to harness the brainpower of everyone else around them – keeping lines of communication open so all can participate, while wrangling idea management for maximum efficiency.
If an overall culture of innovation isn’t something your company has been focused on in the past, one of the best ways to debut your innovation program and get others quickly on board is by hosting a hackathon – a marathon brainstorming event where teams of participants work together to solve company challenges.
But it’s not something you can just throw together. There are a lot of moving parts to deal with – especially if this is your first hackathon. To make it easier Brightidea has compiled a list to make your hackathon a success.
The Planning Stages
Brightidea has found that a minimum of 30 days is needed to get your hackathon planned successfully. First, the basics:
- Goal – Before you can do anything, you need to know what you hope to accomplish with your hackathon. It should be in line with the company’s overall goals.
- Time - Choose a date that doesn’t conflict with other company events, so anyone who wants to be involved can be. Saturdays are best for single-day hackathons, and Fridays are ideal for overnight events.
- Location - An outside venue makes the event feel special (crucial to lighting those creative fires), versus just another day at the office. Look for included WiFi, audio and video equipment -- plus set-up and test before your event.
- Budget – Sponsors are always a cost-saving solution. Approach whomever could benefit from whatever you’re hacking, from in-house departments to outside sources with a vested interest in your project.
- Decide if Your Hackathon is Internal or External – Internal hackathons (those open to employees only) are more common and easier to manage for first-timers. However, these guidelines apply to both, except where otherwise specified. If you decide to include external communities, Brightidea has partnered with IdeaConnection and can help you get access to an external community quickly.
Once you have the basics nailed down, you can start getting into the real fun:
Specialists - When hosting an internal hackathon, consider bringing in “specialists” – outside parties with knowledge in your space – to offer a fresh point of view to motivate participants in the role of speakers, team mentors or judges. Enlist the aid of your HR department or leverage C-level connections to find them. Be sure to have outside specialists sign a nondisclosure agreement to protect your innovations.
Promotion – You want everyone excited to attend and participate in your hackathon, and it’s even better if you can get them to start participating BEFORE the event. Here’s how:
- Webstorm– Part of the Brightidea Innovation platform, a Webstorm is a place for people to submit their project ideas and sign up for teams; it also functions as an event homepage, with all hackathon details easily accessible. With an external hackathon you can include the Webstorm link on your Eventbrite page.
- Social Media – With an external hackathon you’ll also want to use social media to spread the word (an area-specific “Subreddit” on Reddit, for example), along with reaching out to local developer groups for additional networking help.