What is a hackathon?
Hackathons have become increasingly popular in recent years as a modern tool for innovation. It is a concept in which solutions for complex problems, products, and services are developed within a short time. In this article, you can find what a hackathon is and how it works in practice.
The role of the hackathon in the innovation process
The word hackathon is a combination of the words "hack" and "marathon" where hack stands for experimental, creative problem solving with a playful approach and marathon stands for the duration of the event. The hackathon has its origin in software and hardware engineering, but the concept is now also successfully applied in other industries for developing innovative solutions.
A hackathon lasts between 24 and 48 hours and is dedicated to a specific topic or challenge. The participants work in small groups in a unique environment that encourages creative thinking and leads to surprisingly innovative new concepts, ideas, and prototypes. The result of the hackathon is a finished prototype for an innovative product, service or business model.
Setting & selection of participants
Hackathons can be implemented in many different ways. The LEAD Innovation Hackathon is a two-day event that brings together three companies from various industries but the same value chain. LEAD Innovation determines the theme of the hackathon.
Each company works with two teams on a challenge related to the overall theme of the hackathon. The individual groups consist of industry experts, experts from analog fields, LEAD users, creative minds from startups, universities, etc., as well as internal team members of the company.
Before the actual hackathon can take place, each company must specify the challenge and select the right experts:
1. Formulate the challenge
Each company formulates its challenge for the topic defined by LEAD Innovation and submits it to us. If a company has difficulties in defining a certain search field or the specification of the challenge, we are there to assist.
2. Announce and promote the challenge
To promote the challenge and find the right experts, LEAD Innovation creates a short video for each participating company explaining in more detail the topic of the challenge. The video will then be disseminated online and in the LEAD expert network (19,000 people).
3. Search for suitable team members
LEAD Innovation is responsible for the search and selection of suitable experts. Each team consists of six people (2 experts from the respective company, 2 from the target market and 2 from analogous industries).
The hackathon process
The hackathon should take place in a unique environment that encourages creative thinking. We, therefore, search for a venue in Vienna and its surroundings.
1. Introduction & scope of tasks
The hackathon starts with a short introduction of the participating companies. The participants must receive enough information on the subject and the problem statement: Which subject area do participants dedicate themselves to? What is the task? Which problem should be solved? Defined groups start working right after the introduction.
2. Identification of needs and problems
The first step is to analyze the search field by discussing the most significant problems and needs that users have already identified on this topic. Especially the LEAD users as affected users in this area play a central role.
3. Idea generation and prototypes
It is crucial to make sure that the teams have an equal level of knowledge, and they understand the importance of the topic. After a short lunch, the teams start generating ideas and work on the prototypes.
4. Presentation of interim results and feedback
In the afternoon, the teams present their first results to get feedback from other participants and the companies. The results are at least two prototypes and business models for each company and numerous ideas.
5. Hackathon night
After an interim presentation and feedback, the teams continue to work on their ideas and prototypes. Should any group reach an impasse, LEAD Innovation supports them with advice and suitable methods.
Day 2 is dedicated to prototyping. The teams work intensively on the basic models or design of the product/service according to the concept.
During a hackathon, the teams build and discard several prototypes. However, they have an opportunity to get feedback from both experts and companies to bring their ideas and prototypes to perfection.
8. Development of a business model
Depending on the search field, the teams create a business model that is an essential part of the final pitch as it explains how the team is going to earn money.
9. Pitching of ideas and prototypes
At the end of Day 2, the teams pitch their final ideas and prototypes, including the corresponding business model.
10. Closing program
All participants end the day ends with an evening program and open networking.
Conclusion: Hackathon - The short way to innovation
A hackathon is a great opportunity to develop and introduce new solutions to the market faster and with fewer resources. The method is not only profitable for corporations or companies in the technology industry, but it can also make sense for smaller companies and companies from other sectors to take part in a hackathon. You can read why this is the case in our article:
Born in Vienna. At LEAD Innovation he works as Innovation Manager.