A corporate hackathon is a great instrument to develop an internal innovator’s community, source ideas and pass the first validation steps. Looking back at such events from 30 to more than 30’000 participants, we know how they boost motivation and we have great stories to tell. But let me talk about the tricky moment after the hackathon when your employees go back to their everyday work routine.
What were your goals in the first place? Very likely you wanted to accelerate innovation by sourcing internal ideas and to identify a community of people that are like-minded. Maybe you also have invited external contributors to capture value from them using an open innovation approach. So far so good: Ideas and community.
Capturing value from ideas
As we are all aware that it’s not about the idea itself, but about its execution. Successful startups are built around people and purpose, and ideas may pivot. The same applies to corporate innovation. Or in other words, the journey of the winning teams starts at the final pitch of the hackathon. It’s a beginning, but not an end. So here are my thoughts about how to proceed with the selected ideas:
The (diverse) team is more important than the idea. Allow them to work together as a group independently of your organizational structure.
The journey from idea to value is the magic sauce. Allocate a budget, that allows the people to work on it over a longer time.
Many great ideas disrupt the existing structures. Be sure that an executive sponsor mentors the team in order to responsibly break existing rules.
Define and enforce rigorous milestones. Don’t nourish “zombie projects”, but keep a sharp focus on the constant delivery of customer value.
Building an innovator community
As already mentioned, one of your goals was very likely to gather people, and the success of the hackathon was rooted in the exchange between them. Why not keep this up and build on it?
Plan for an innovators community together with the initial hackathon, not just as a post-event task.
Make the people (internal and external) your innovation ambassadors. They don’t expect much more than opportunities to exchange and contribute.
Be attentive to cultural artifacts: Hackathons are interdisciplinary, communicative and fast-paced. This is what the community experienced and thus expects in the following time.
A community tool might help you to keep up the process and (even more importantly): The wrong tool will kill the spirit you’ve just won during the hackathon.
And your experiences?
Because open innovation processes and events are our daily job, we are very interested in hearing your opinion. Or do you want to write a guest post? Please drop a message at email@example.com.