How do I do a hackathon

Hackathon: just spin around

A Hackathon is not a darkened room full of computer specialists and hackers trying to create the new Facebook, wearing hooded sweaters and eating nothing but caffeine and fast food. Rather, it is a modern concept in which innovations arise, solutions are developed or products are designed. The focus is on a relaxed atmosphere and great creativity. More and more companies are using hackathons, which in the best case scenario help to outperform the competition and to motivate their own employees at the same time. We explain, what a hackathon ishow it works and why there should be hackathons in your company ...

What is a hackathon?

The term is a composition of the words Hack and marathonwhich aptly shows the original idea behind the concept of a hackathon. At first it was an event that was solely based on Software and hardware development related. Programmers, technicians, those interested in computers, engineers and software developers were the first target group of the classic hackathon. The JavaOne conference, which took place in 1999, is named as the first hackathon.

But don't worry, hackathons have evolved since the beginning and have long been no longer just for hackers and IT specialists thought. Rather, the basic idea is used to develop creative solutions and new ideas together in a team.

A classic hackathon lasts between 24 and 48 hoursthat focus on a specific topic or question. The participants come together in groups and use the given time to first generate ideas and then develop prototypes of products.

The hackathon is much less formal than the daily work in the office. The event should be informal, Be fun and encourage creative thoughts. No restrictions, instead a lot of space to develop yourself. In addition, there is usually a lot of food and drinks, which are made available by the organizer of the hackathon to ensure the physical well-being of the participants.

With a good mood and a relaxed atmosphere, a hackathon should invite you to become active together with colleagues (also from other departments) outside of the classic office and working conditions and to contribute beyond the normal amount. It is important that there are no other requirements for the projects outside of the topic. Everyone can do it perfectly free, unbiased, creative or sometimes completely wacky. This is the only way to achieve the most varied of results.

At the end of each hackathon, these are the exact results in front of a jury presents. This can consist of experts on the topic, other colleagues or executives and managers of the company. Not only are the direct benefits that the products and ideas can have for the company assessed. The ingenuity and the final presentation are also included in the evaluation.

As an incentive and motivation to really work hard, the winner usually waves Cash prizes, but other rewards are also possible. In some cases, enormous sums of money are involved, for example several hundred thousand dollars are being advertised in America for the winning project of a hackathon.

The process of a hackathon

A hackathon should be easy and comfortable, but still requires a lot Organization and early planning. A suitable location has to be found, catering is required (mostly in the form of a budget, but food trucks that supply the participants on site are also modern), of course a suitable topic and a minimum number of participants, without which the entire event cannot function .

Companies should therefore raise the drum properly internally, specifically invite and motivate employees to take part in the hackathon. Once the planning has been completed and the date of the hackathon is on, it follows Course of events mostly a very similar scheme:

  • Greeting. The initial greeting from the organizer or company executives is mandatory for a hackathon. This includes thanks to all participants and a brief explanation of why the event was organized.
  • Presentation of topics. The first real section of the hackathon begins with the presentation of the topic. Which area do the participants dedicate themselves to? What is the question? Which problem should be solved?
  • Brainstorming. Afterwards, the participants have time to collect their ideas and prepare them. The teams have either already registered together in advance or can now come together in small groups who want to work on a project together.
  • Elaboration. Now the real hackathon begins. Depending on how long this is scheduled, the participants have time to put their ideas into practice,
    Realizing thoughts and developing products. For hackathons lasting several days, adequate accommodation and enough sleeping space should be provided, even if some participants consider sleep to be overrated at these events.
  • Presentation. When the time is up, all products and ideas are presented to the jury. This can be a small-scale presentation,
    which only takes place for the jury - but it can also be exciting to have all the participants there to see how creative the other teams were and what different concepts were created.
  • Award ceremony. Last but not least, the award ceremony takes place, at which the best participants are honored for their idea and implementation.

Why you also need a hackathon in your company

Hackathons are now enjoying themselves great popularity and are right on trend. It is no longer just young and modern startups or companies in Silicon Valley who organize hackathons and invite their employees to just spin around and develop creative ideas.

Not only global corporations or companies in the technology industry benefit from a hackathon. It can also make sense for smaller companies to organize a hackathon. If the topic has never come up to you, you can also make the suggestion yourself. We'll show you why a hackathon is always worthwhile for employees:

  • You can contribute your ideas.

    There is often a lot left in everyday working life too little timeto get really creative. There is simply no time to deal with unusual solutions or suggestions. Everything always runs strictly according to plan and the to-do lists are completely filled.

    At the hackathon you can finally implement everything that has been in your head for a long time. Many employees have very different ideas as to how problems could be solved or which innovations would make work easier and better - so far only that was missing Chance to bring this forward and to realize.

  • You think outside the box.

    Many employees only know colleagues from other departments by phone or email. That can often lead to frustration, there different perspectives collide. Often there is a lack of understanding of how the other person works, what goals he is pursuing and what ideas he brings with him.

    A hackathon in your company allows you to work specifically with employees from other departments. Not just indirectly, but directly in a joint team.
    That is certainly a challenge, but it also enables you to think outside the box. How does another department approach problems? What are the advantages? And what can you do learn from each other?

    The benefits go well beyond the time of the hackathon, as in the future you will better understand how other departments react and so you can use your Improve long-term collaboration.

  • You make valuable contacts.

    A large network offers many advantages. You come with me at a hackathon many new people in contact that you might never have gotten to know in everyday working life. Suddenly you are sitting together with a project manager, a programmer, a designer, a marketing expert and a middle-management executive looking for ideas and solutions together.

  • You learn to implement ideas and concepts quickly.

    A hackathon can also teach you a lot for your own way of working. Time is short, but in the end results should be produced that can be presented. Working Design products within a day and manufacturing is not child's play.

    At a hackathon, you learn to to concentrate on the essentials and really move a project forward. There is simply no time for dawdling and unproductive trivialities. Once internalized, you can also use this for yourself in your normal job.

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17th October 2020Author: Nils Warkentin

Nils Warkentin studied business administration at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. On the career bible, he is devoted to topics related to studies, career entry and everyday office life.

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