This week’s on ramp is inspired by the San Francisco office’s Amy Young, who noticed similarities between hackathons, and Prophet’s supporting pillars of liberating ideas, inspiring people, and driving impact.
For those not familiar, hackathons, which usually occur within the software tech sector, are hardcore coding sessions during which engineers, programmers, and other techies collaborate to build new, or improve upon existing, products or product features. The intensive sessions, which last anywhere from 24 hours to one week, often serve multiple purposes – one part social or educational and the other part creating a usable product. (One of the first hackathons was a four day session in 1999 focused on writing java programming for the Palm V.)
Most hackathons follow a similar format beginning with initial idea identification, followed by an iterative development process. Sessions start with sharing out the objectives and key subject matter with the group at large. The group shares initial ideas, then breaks out into smaller teams based on interests and expertise. These small teams begin an iterative development process – testing and learning until the session is over. The tone and energy of the sessions are shaped by the 24 hour nature of the approach, and often include pizza dinners, sleeping bags, and caffeine.
Interestingly, organizations are expanding beyond software and applying the characteristics of the original hackathons to new objectives, including white space identification, solving social issues, and even talent identification. For example, Random-Hacks-of-Kindness is a hackathon organized by tech companies (including Google and Microsoft) in collaboration with NASA and the World Bank. The goal is to develop new innovations in disaster response and crisis relief.
An early Random-Hacks-Of-Kindness output was a “mobile notification app that can be used when regular cellular networks are so bogged down people can’t make phone calls. Using the “I’m OK” app, people can easily notify friends and family members that they are safe via SMS by clicking one button. The “I’m OK” message is then instantly distributed to everyone a user has designated on a pre-set contact list.” (cNet Elinor Mills)
How might you apply the characteristics and approach of a Hackathon to your objectives?
*Each Monday, Prophet’s Chief Curator and Provocateur, Andy Stefanovich, or a member of our innovation team shares an on-ramp to Monday with Prophet employees across the globe. We’d like to share the inspiration and expand the footprint of these weekly jump starts by sharing them here. This week’s post was written by Geof Hammond in our Richmond office. Happy Monday!