How to run a successful hackathon in 5 easy steps

Liana Vickery

May 24, 2017

Innovation in technology and research methodologies have been a core value of ours for almost twenty years. We are always exploring new ways of doing things and motivating our staff. After running several successful in-house hackathons that have generated new ideas and genuine development share our experience of how to encourage innovation in the workplace. Kayliegh Chapman and Lydia Taylor explore the top tips for running a successful in-house Hackathon.

In modern day companies, there usually is very little reason for people in different departments to work together unless it is collaborating on a specific project for a client. This is where an initiative such as a Hackathon can bring the teams together, motivate staff and keep the work environment as innovative as possible.

A hackathon, however, does not need to only be about technology, it may be a way that you introduce newcomers into the fold, by giving them a task and requiring that they work with their team to come up with some new ideas for the company/client. Putting innovation at the forefront of the hackathon will ensure that you get the best results possible.

5 Top Tips for Running a Successful Hackathon

1. Point them at a particular business challenge

Hackathons present a great opportunity for participants to action their own ideas, but providing guidance in the form of a specified business challenge to solve will ensure the output has real business value.

Our in-house hackathons so far have yielded new ideas for product innovation as well as efficiency developments providing real value and outputs for the whole business.

Within a competitive setting, it may also draw out a more innovative approach than would otherwise have been identified.

2. Encourage teams to diverse and not just stick to their department

You should see a hackathon as an opportunity to encourage people in other departments to learn what is happening in other areas of the business. Each department will face a unique set of challenges which will be beneficial to have an outside perspective look upon it and give their critique.

Innovation is about much more than writing code. By bringing different perspectives together teams are more likely to think outside the box.

3. Make it different to a regular day in the office

One of the most fundamental aspects is that a hackathon is time-bound, a hackathon takes place in a  short space of time therefore by, making this time frame longer than the working day gives teams the opportunity to go that extra mile. It goes without saying that working out of hours is not mandatory nor expected but if there are extra perks added to the hackathon, such as free pizza; most teams will be grateful for the extra prep time and more so perhaps the free pizza.

4. Make sure the teams have something to compete for

Internal PR is important at this stage, hackathons need to be a companywide platform to showcase rising talent. Most companies use incentives when running these events, ranging from a meal voucher to a substantial cash prize for the winning team.

5. Give them time to test and present

As already mentioned a winning hackathon should find its way into the company spotlight. This means giving teams an opportunity to share their ideas to a wider business audience. Give your teams the opportunity to polish their presentation, test demos and if possible make sure there is someone on hand who is available for coaching.

This will allow them to receive constructive feedback in real-time that the teams can action in their final presentation, ensuring a positive experience and providing teams with an opportunist skills workshop that will help with personal development.