We’ll briefly go over what it is. I’m assuming if you are a regular reader of TechCommunity blogs you have a general idea of what hackathons are and probably attended one or more of them.
The word hackathon is coined by mixing two words - ‘Hack’ and ‘Marathon’. As the word suggests, you can think of hacking (it’s normal to imagine the word ‘crude’) out solutions (MVP) or a slideware during a focused period of time. The event could be a day or multiple days.
Funnily enough, even the ‘Design Competition’ proposed by Gandhi in July 1929 could be considered one of the first ‘hackathons’. This competition was set up to encourage people of India (with monetary prize) to take up the spinning wheel into their own hands and produce their own textiles. Instead of importing from Great Britain.
However, the origin of the modern-day hackathon (coined by Niels Provos from OpenBSD), also known as a hack day or hackfest goes back to 1999 when OpenBSD organized a cryptographic development event in Alberta on June 4th. Wikipedia reveals that ten developers came together in this hackathon to avoid legal problems caused due to export regulations of cryptographic software from the US.
Why is it so popular in the tech industry?
There are different means to create tech intensity (Microsoft jargon :smiling_face_with_smiling_eyes:; to learn and grow in technical prowess): Trainings, bootcamps, etc. However, it’s not that simple to cultivate a culture, let alone an innovative one.
One of the best ways to encourage innovation is to create a collaborative space for individuals to feel safe (pt. 1 ) to express their ideas and work together to solve a problem that they are all passionate about. Hackathons can be the catalyst for that innovative culture; HackCulture.
Here are few reasons why Hackathon is so critical in creating a #HackCulture:
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable –
As mentioned in our previous blog this is going to help fight our inner imposter syndrome as people try new things with other people who are there to support and challenge one another.
Hence, having a collaborative space is crucial in making your hackathons successful. Creating a place that is intense and focused, yet safe to share different ideas with one another.
Problem Solving -
Once a company understands a need for change what is it that they need a change in? How do they go about implementing the changes? Are there specific problems they need to solve in the company? In their industry?
Hackathons are generally short and not made for teams to come up with a be-all, end-all solution. Hackathons encourage participants to think critically and break big problems down to something digestible.
This will help understand the needs VS. the wants and help with which features should go in the output/product at the end of a hackathon.
Confidence Building -
People will get a confidence boost once they start to express their thoughts and solve smaller problems at a time!
From our learnings, people who have had few experiences in ‘problem-solving’ events tend to have more confidence when faced with difficult problems (or even, difficult situations) . Not because they are able to solve it right away, but they are willing to roll their sleeves to understand how they could dissect their problems into manageable sizes rather than being overwhelmed by them.
#HackCulture creates people that are willing to challenge themselves. Problems or challenges once thought were huge for them might not be too huge, anymore!
Culture of Innovation
Culture needs to be felt by everyone. Not just at an individual level, nor at a team level. It needs to be felt across the entire organization level to change a culture. There are plenty of trainings employees can go through but there’s nothing better than to for a span of few hours or days to solve problems that matter.
We’ve seen many people just doing their 9-5 without feeling empowered. Hackathons have a great potential to change that!
Think of how empowered the employees of a company will be when they can create a space for the employees to collaborate and to think critically about problems which matter to the company. When you have employees that are willing to take risks and willing to be challenged you would have started sewing the seed of an innovative culture!