Three Ways in Which Hackathons Create Value

Are hackathons worth it?

The contribution of hackathons to corporate competitiveness is long debated. Originated in software development, hackathons have become an increasingly popular way for companies to engage with interdisciplinary external talent. Despite their popularity, hackathons’ effectiveness has been questioned on the ground of limited innovation impact.

How do hackathons generate value for companies? How can you include them in your innovation strategy? Are they even worth it?

In this blog post, we share our experience as hackathons’ facilitators and we share insights from companies we have worked with.

Three ways in which hackathons create value

Fresh ideas

Hackathons are a powerful mechanism to generate ideas about pressing innovation challenges. While hackathons’ participants may not be experts in your corporate domain, they can approach your innovation challenges with fresh eyes. Hackathons are a fast and inexpensive way to generate ideas that can be co-developed with the participants or inspire internal innovation and product development teams. To reap real value from ideas, you need to provide paths for continuation through other mechanisms, such as internships, research contracts, or internal incubators. On the contrary, you risk losing momentum and causing the ideas to be abandoned.

Access to talent

As assessment centers and challenge-based recruitment become more and more popular, hackathons offer a promising avenue to identify talent to collaborate with or hire. By mentoring the teams you will have the opportunity to meet motivated young talent. To take advantage of hackathons as a tool to fill your talent pipeline, the HR department ought to be a partner early on in the definition of scope for the hackathon. The challenge brief needs to speak to the audience that best corresponds to your talent needs. For instance, if you are looking for robotics experts, it is important to present an innovation challenge that gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and include recruitment in the potential pathways for following up.

Training and inspiration

Collaborating with external innovators is a great way to inspire employees and enhance your company’s innovation culture. While hackathons may be initiated by the innovation department, extending their reach to the broader organization is pivotal. Business units’ needs have to be part of the innovation challenge to make hackathons relevant to motivated employees. During hackathons employees learn to collaborate across the corporate boundaries and experience new innovation methods. To maximise hackathons’ training effect, participating employees should be given space to apply their learnings to internal projects.

In sum…

Hackathons are neither effective nor ineffective per se. Their effectiveness depends on companies’ efforts to take actions that support and enhance value creation. Most importantly, you need to include hackathons in a broader strategic plan involving your innovation and human resource teams, as well as employees from any relevant business units.

About the InnoDays

The InnoDays bring companies and talent together to prototype ideas with a positive impact in 48 hours. We guide our participants’ innovation journey with our training program before and after the event with inspiring input and helpful methods. Find out more about InnoDays on our website.

InnoInsights aims to be a source of inspiration and guidance for how organizations can collaborate with external innovators.