How about trying a speed hackathon to make progress quickly?

Without being given any notice have you ever had to participate in something new and enjoyed the experience? Part of learning for a child is full of experiences like this, but as adults we don’t seem to get as many instances where we need to adapt quickly. Or is it that we’re set in our ways and don’t recognise or maximise learning opportunities?

Recently I was literally thrown into a speed hackathon and guess what – it made so much sense to me that I believe there’s potentially application for many environments and situations. More on that later – let’s start with what a hackathon actually is.

Hackathons, also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest originated in the IT industry where programmers would spend full weekends collaborating with other coders to try to move really fast and break things. There’d be a large goal identified for the weekend (often something that in normal circumstances could take weeks to achieve) but the hackathon presented a fast paced focussed opportunity to learn new technologies, write a stack of code and hopefully achieve the desired goal. (I’m sort of picturing meals of pizza propped up with lots of coke and coffee!!!).

Hackathons were also made famous by many IT companies (Facebook, Google, Netflix) running internal hackathons. For instance, the Facebook “Like button” and “Chat” functionality were apparently created during hackathons.

Personally, the thought of a hackathon has not interested me or sounded like much fun so I’d never really considered hackathons to be relevant. But then my views changed when I got to participate in a speed hackathon. How did this happen?

As a business owner I’m also a student at the Thought Leaders Business School http://www.tlbusinessschool.com/aus/?setgeo=aus As part of the business school I collaborate online with other business owners who inspire and challenge me each day, do a bunch of activities and deliverables to build my IP each week, attend a 3 day immersion each quarter, have a mentor assigned to me and generally learn so much. And it was during the February immersion in Sydney where I had hands-on experience with a speed hackathon.    

The scenario was Lynne Cazaly http://www.lynnecazaly.com.au/ (who’s also a member at the business school) facilitated a speed hackathon session in building IP. Here I am sitting there with 150 other business owners (many who are the leading experts in their chosen field) thinking is this possible because it usually takes me a long time to develop my IP. Anyway Lynne masterfully facilitates the session and what do you know – I’ve managed to build a lot of IP in 1 hour. I have to admit my IP wasn’t all perfect, but where it wasn’t I’d at least made a good start that I could develop further later.

So while hackathons can be long (a day, weekend or week) they don’t need to be. How about 1 – 2 hour speed hackathons as focussed time to make collaborative progress quickly? Think about how many initiatives at work could do with a boost in focus and action. In a sense I liken it to watching a recorded show on Foxtel and skipping through the advertisements.

Finally, this quote on speed hackathons from Dave Kerpen CEO at Likeable Local “I don't think we've had a single better use of my company's time, in 8 years in business and across 2 ventures, than our hackathons together. So we'll keep hacking away.”