4 common hackathon myths demystified

Digital Leaders
Dec 4, 2019 · 4 min read

Written by Peter Paterson, Director, Client Engagement

Image for post
Image for post

Hackathons are really popular right now and they are a valuable tool for organisational change as they can foster innovation and a can-do culture.

Having been involved I realised that while many people don’t have first-hand experience of these events, there are some common misconceptions about them. Not all hackathons are the same. ORM have years of experience running hackathons, both internally and for a broad range of clients.

Here are some common misconceptions we’ve encountered.

Hackathons are just fun competitions and have no real-life application

The hackathon approach to problem-solving is based on agile delivery — a methodology that was developed as an alternative to large waterfall projects that took months, or sometimes years, to deliver working solutions. Instead, agile projects adopt an iterative approach, where smaller, working components of the bigger solutions are delivered in short work cycles called sprints.

Hackathons are rapid prototyping sessions that allow teams to quickly produce working solutions that can be tested by users, adapted and updated before they decide if the product is desirable (by users), viable (for the business) and feasible (to build). The ultimate goal is to deliver a working prototype or solution to a real-life problem, not to win a trophy.

Only software developers and techies take part in hackathons

A hackathon team should include four to six people with a broad range of skills and who represent an understanding of:

  • the problem to be solved;
  • the users of the final product;
  • how to design and build solutions;
  • the business from an internal viewpoint;
  • other perspectives and external experience to challenge the norm.

Without input from the users, people who understand the business and those at the coalface, the “techies” alone wouldn’t be able to create a product that is fit for purpose.

Hackathons = sleep deprivation

We recognise that our workdays are full of meetings or bursts of work, meaning we have less opportunity to focus on specific activities. One of the reasons why it’s possible to achieve so much at a hackathon without working through the night is because these events allow people to work together, without the distraction of meetings, phone calls, emails, etc.

In the leadup to the event it’s important for all of the stakeholders to meet and define the business problems that the group aims to address. If the problem is clearly defined, it’s easier to understand and find a solution.

The only purpose of a hackathon is to develop new tech products

Hackathons can be used to improve existing products by quickly producing new features and tools for market testing. They are also ideally suited to developing business propositions — if you’ve got a business idea that you want to develop, the right hackathon teams can help you understand what customers are looking for, what’s possible from a technology perspective and what the business case is so that you can develop your business plan. Hackathons can also be used to define new ways of working and solve existing operational problems.

Whatever the purpose of your hackathon, putting people from different disciplines together provides the added benefit of promoting better working relationships and gives people an opportunity to participate in projects that they may otherwise not have been able to.

Learn more about ORM here.

More thought leadership

Originally published at https://digileaders.com on December 4, 2019.

Digital Leaders

Thoughts on leadership, strategy and digital transformation…

Digital Leaders

Written by

Informing and inspiring innovative digital transformation digileaders.com

Digital Leaders

Thoughts on leadership, strategy and digital transformation across all sectors. Articles first published on the Digital Leaders blog at digileaders.com

Digital Leaders

Written by

Informing and inspiring innovative digital transformation digileaders.com

Digital Leaders

Thoughts on leadership, strategy and digital transformation across all sectors. Articles first published on the Digital Leaders blog at digileaders.com

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store