• Donald Davis

Hacking Improvements Into Your Culture

Recently on a project I had a discussion about implementing monthly or quarterly challenges that would push the limits of the team toward completing goals. In part, this reminds me of a traditional Hackathon.

Hackathon Definition (Wikipedia) – A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest, datathon or codefest; a portmanteau of hacking marathon) is a design sprint-like event; often, in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, domain experts, and others collaborate intensively on software projects.

The goal of a hackathon is to create functioning software or hardware by the end of the event. Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, which can include the programming language used, the operating system, an application, an API, or the subject and the demographic group of the programmers. In other cases, there is no restriction on the type of software being created.

In a traditional way these events were meant to bring people together to develop software. Music Hack Days have also evolved out of this traditional Hackathon where Music is created or Science Hack Days where science is created.

When we are challenged, there is natural friction that sometimes pushes us to be creative. In my lifetime, I have seen many versions of this type of challenge. One of the greatest that I can recall was the Darpa Grand Challenge in 2004 when the goal was to create an autonomous vehicle that would navigate itself from Barstow, CA to Primm, NV. This past year we saw the same thing with vaccine creation where many of the pharma companies leveraged previous technologies to find a solution for COVID-19.


Similarly, in my past work in Lean, you typically will hold “Kaizen” (Change for the better) events that are meant to solve problems in 3-5 days so the solutions are in place the following Monday. This friction and time bounding is tough and teams have to work extremely hard. However, we would often see tremendous advantages in moving big problems forward during these events.

Hackathons do not just need to be code-based, they could represent opportunities to overcome a significant challenge in a sustainable way in your organization. Rather than letting someone outside your organization create the challenge and the ground rules why not develop events of your own that are run monthly or quarterly that force creative thought and time-bound solutions.

If you want to do this:

What resources would be needed?

How would you gain alignment ahead of time?

Can you help to push teams to provide a new solution that is fully in place by Monday?

Time to go and create your own Hackathon!!!!

#culture #darpa #hackathon #kaizen

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