5 Reasons why Hack Days are a valuable use of Company $

Amanda showcasing off her Hack Day project to David

Last Friday, Nulogy took the entire day off to ‘hack’.

Teams came together to build things which would help our organization level-up.

There were no restrictions or limitations on what it meant to ‘hack’; our teams didn’t need to work on building new features for our software, or have mandated projects — they just had fun trying new things!

On a product-development team of over 35 people, that’s close to 300 hours diverted from core programming work.

Why do this?

Five reasons why Hack Days are a good use of company time and money:

5. Hack Days build stronger teams.

☝️ Here’s Shah really getting into the facilitation of opening ceremonies. 
This time around we had some classic improv games. There were lots of giggles, and everyone was out of their element.

A staple in the Nulogy library is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni writes that an absence of trust and an unwillingness to be vulnerable within a group is the first barrier to strong teams.

These light-hearted opening ceremonies build towards a culture of communal trust, as they express vulnerability in a fun way.

4. Hack Days are a practice of distributed leadership.

In our opinion, the executive team should be completely hands-off for Hack Days.

Actually, we think that the executive team should be hands-off for many things…

We’re a flat organization, even though our team is 100+ people and growing. By ‘flat’ we mean that we make choices based on consensus rather than top-down decision-making, and most of our teams are self-managed (with no middle management). Staying flat injects autonomy and ownership into individual projects, such as planning this Hack Day.

Flat organizations are easy to maintain when you’re a startup of 10 or less, but once you have multiple people in each department it is natural for hierarchy-structures to form.

Whether you’re scaling your team from small numbers, or your company is at a growth stage — Hack Days are a practice of distributed leadership that encourage teams to stay flat. They provides an opportunity to test-run decentralized planning (where no one person is a team lead).

In the above photo you can see Diogo our ‘Master of Ceremonies’ on the right, and Ella (that’s me), who helped with the set-up and organization of the day.

3. Hack Days allow an organization to practice what they preach.

Your company says that “You will always be learning on the job”.

Is that true?

Hack Days should allow teams to take time away from their work and explore intrinsically-motivated projects.

Psychology researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has coined the term ‘flow state’ to reference a state of mind in which a person is fully immersed in a task and at their most focused for learning. In order to achieve flow state, learning has to be motivated by internal rewards.

We let the teams pick their own projects and level-up through tinkering and exploration.

This lets you learn on the job for real.

2. Your team will impress you.

This Hack Day, we saw Amanda (on the right), one of our Systems Integrations Designers, build her first Chrome extension. When she showed what she had built, the room lit up with applause. (She won the people’s choice Hack Day award!)

Maksim (not pictured), who was in his first week with us, built a Google Calendar integration that visually mapped meeting rooms!

Showcasing creativity and ingenuity builds newfound respect and trust among team members.

1. Without dependencies on customer data, solutions become bolder and unexpected.

You will get to dive into experimental solutions for problems that you don’t normally get a chance to focus on. While the goal isn’t necessarily to deliver working software, Hack Days can validate solutions through diagrams, wireframes, or a smoke-and-mirrors prototypes.


Hack Day Creations

One of our most used Hack Day creations is FacePage, an internal Linkedin, where a user can see employees by name and team. It’s a useful tool everyone uses to get to know Nu-hires!

Some other popular projects:

github.com/nulogy/vorpal

github.com/nulogy/Gorgon


🔑 Key Takeaways 🔑

Those 300 hours away from our typical workflows made our team stronger.

  • We built stronger teams through low-risk vulnerability activities
  • It was another chance to practice distributed-leadership, which allows us to reduce middle management as our team grows
  • We improve our learning culture through intrinsically-motivated work
  • Respect and admiration was gained as our own teammates blew us away with their projects
  • We actually built tools we will put to use everyday

If you work on a team that doesn’t run Hack Days, use this article as a basis to explain their value!

This article was written by Nulogite, Ella Gorevalov.

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