“Hackathons” – An Innovative Approach to New Business Creation

Hacking is back in fashion.  I met real hackers in the Computer Science Dept at Cambridge in the very early 80s – the leftovers from the hippy days of computing.  There was one guy who was an ace hacker who was the type that didn’t wear shoes, hair down to the waist and – as I memorably read the genus described as once – “equate altruism with not washing” 🙂  But a real genius who could do cool things.

hackathonsAnd years on the spirit is back.  This time with good grooming 🙂

Recently I wrote a snappily entitled post (cough) about hacking and marketing – “Wu-wei, Growth Hacking, and The Rise of Marketing-less Marketing”.

But back to this post – what is a hackathon? Originally it was a “hacking marathon” – as in a computer programming challenge.  As such it really is a group version of what this guy whose image I can vividly recall did all night when the sun was down.

Now that is cool in itself – as one of the problems which causes so much stress in western society is the “over-individuated” nature of western employment.  You have mates and buddies and you network but ultimately on your own.  Whereas as the SAS knows a team can achieve far more than individuals.

But the concept is evolving into what I describe in the title.  And that makes it rather more sexy, fun and – well – novel than the typical MBA “dot-to-dot”, left-brained, logical approach (that is so rarely seen in practice anyway).  For those of a certain age, or those who have read Tom Wolfe’s classic:

Kool Aid Acid Test

it’s like Ken Casey’s west coast approach to LSD (Greatful Dead, freakout and overload) compared to the more cerebral East coast approach of Tim Leary (Harvard, rational, quiet).  And that’s not a coincidence as hacking (back to the original fashion comment up front (hey I don’t just throw this stuff together dudes :-D)) was a hippy, sic San Fransisco, vibe.

Back to the modern world of well-washed metrosexuals here is a great intro to more business focused hackathons by Caveman Klaus – who definitely likes grooming products 🙂

A couple of snips:

A hackathon is a weekend long burst of creative energy. It can be a mix of software development, design, product validation, making prototypes, building apps and solving problems. Any activity that brings something useful or cool into the world. This can take the form of a product, service, charity, or even an artwork, there are lot’s of different flavours of hackathons….

Hackathons are an exciting new trend in the entrepreneurial scene in London. The clusters around Tech City, Silicon Roundabout are running more and more weekend hackathons. There are now several hackathons each month and new ones are being created all the time. I realised recently that for people who work at the intersection of tech and entrepreneurship hackathons are well-known and common-place, for many people it’s a foreign concept.

A hackathon, also known as a startup weekend, sprint or makeathon (emphasis on a physical creation) is a weekend where people come together to build something.

Everyone must participate and contribute, no spectators.

Some are run as competitions with prizes, some are focused on charity, doing good or using government data, there are a whole host of different angles or themes for each one.

And to give a practical example here is an upcoming one in London this weekend:

A recent 142-country study by Gallup on Employee Engagement revealed that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work.

How do you feel about your workplace?

At the next HackHumanity weekend we Hack the Workplace.

The weekend consists of a Hackathon-on-rails format. We guide you with experiential training and fast paced actionable exercises to create your story, to design, build and grow your solution with our Heroification process.

You will learn about best practices in lean startup methodology, real-world customer validation, leadership, high performance teams, communication frameworks and organisational culture. The outcomes and value created at HackHumanity include progressing your ideas into creations, with the potential to transfer your innovations to your work and share them with your team as well as become part of the HackHumanity community and culture.

How do you relate to this?  Does your inner old-fogey come out to play and mutter or do you think it’s cool and you only find out by doing?


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