Tech hackaton: the real business value to my team

Time: 3AM. Location: 39,000 feet above ground. Status: thrilled.

Travelling, to Dublin as a final destination, with my Rubix by Deloitte team to participate in a blockchain hackathon and I couldn’t be more excited. In the days leading up to the departure, I’ve been asked: “what is a hackathon”? When I respond that it’s a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming, it leads to the question: “why are you going, I thought it was only for experienced developers”?

My answer varies, but boils down to the importance of having balanced views enabled by the cross- disciplinary nature of the teams participating.

Hackathons are a fairly new concept but in the past few years have become increasingly popular. I suspect this point to a larger paradigm shift, a slow, non-fully obvious one, but it is happening. A shift from the old world where decisions are made by a select few that influence many. Classic examples are closed door public policy decisions, sometimes made without adequate external consultation.

The paradigm shift I’m noting is driven by technology; enabling inherently flat, cross border, cross functional teams to come together. Teams are most often connected by mutual interest. Now, all of a sudden, mutual interest becomes the center from which all decisions are then made and outcomes are influenced. This is all part of the shift towards user-centric design with cross functional teams, the prevalence of new management innovation philosophies (Doblin), and the rising acceptance of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing.

Although study after study shoes the importance of having diversity of thoughts and experience, I don’t think that captures the whole picture. What’s critical in this new world is a mutual interest in a common outcome.

Let’s go back to the hackathon this weekend — it’s bringing together 150 participants on the subject of blockchain technology and its impacts. This is not an FSI think tank, nor a government or purely private sector initiative, it’s significantly broader. Individuals driven by the big picture will pitch ideas, self-form and organize teams, work on solutions prototypes to issues that are of interest to them and that will in turn affect a broader audience. Result: end users get a product that was designed with their best interests in mind. Many of the projects that will be built this weekend may never extend beyond the walls of the DCU innovation lab today, or even be picked up in any meaningful way in another 5 years. But the seeds of ideas are planted. And if there’s one lesson that I’ve learned from the dynamics of our Rubix by Deloitte team, is that our accomplishments are driven by ideas first, tempered with technology implementations and current limitations (as a consideration only, because frankly, we’re of the belief that if it can be imagined, the technological obstacles will be overcome), all of course, balanced by the drive to go beyond rhetoric to actually action, design, and create.

Over the next few days, as a collective group, we will not sleep much, we will be in close quarters with a group of 150 people, and we will separate as a team and participate and contribute as individuals on other teams.

What are we working on at the hackathon? Are we pushing the ideas that we’re currently working on or exploring as the Rubix team? Not really.

Rubix has quite the pipeline of opportunities, but we’re being selective about where we put our efforts, based on what blockchain use cases are of interest, what is timely, where there is (or likely will be) budding market demand, and where we think we can make the biggest impact as a team, bringing together all of our unique skills sets.

What’s different about this weekend is that we’re splitting up as a team, letting the ideas drive which projects we works on.

This is an opportunity to allow personal budding interest in concepts that are not necessarily entirely linked to our Rubix by Deloitte team goals, in an attempt to broaden our horizons, challenge the approaches to ideation and solutioning that we’re starting to get used to — all in the interest of solving meaningful problems, creating something new, and having fun.

The development of each members’ skillsets will ultimately help back at the Rubix mothership as we come back reinvigorated, and with fresh opinions to contribute to the causes that unite us a team. That, is the value of attending.

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