Spark Innovation at Corporate Events with a “Hackathon”

Posted by Kristin Arnold on July 17, 2017

I was working at a Dallas hotel and across the hall was a “hackathon” with about 100 people randomly working together.  There was a large projection screen with an internal chat feed and rows of tables with laptops.  On the sides, there were high-top tables and couches for collaborative conversations.  As far as I could tell, there was no one “running the meeting.”

When I asked one of the participants what was going on, he said, this is our company’s “hackathon.”  Now I know the term “hackathon” was once used by coders to gather together to engage in collaborative computer programming.  However, the term has gone mainstream signifying a corporate event to spark innovation, develop products and services, and improve business processes.

In my humble opinion, the process sounds eerily similar to GE’s Workout Process, but the term “hackathon” sounds way cooler and up-to-date!

According to Lori Osterback-Boettner, who has organized several hackathons at Cisco, you gather together first line managers and employees to solve cross-functional problems of their choosing.  They identify an IT partner to help (since most issues at Cisco have an IT component to it!). The team then has 24 hours to identify the problem, research the root causes and present a solution to the leadership team.

Here is Lori’s answer to a question from the audience about how the team leader gets identified:

Video courtesy of Josh Skehan Productions.  Filmed at the Chief Executive Group’s Smart Manufacturing Summit in May 2017.

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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