Hackathon Culture

How to stimulate ‘Hackathon Culture’ in our everyday routine

Written by on July 2, 2018

When I saw the card move from one side of the screen to the other and neatly sit, I was on cloud nine. This was the first time I saw an idea I had come to life. An idea that I had, just a few days ago.

Thanks to an internal hackathon at Freshworks, that idea is now alive.

Hackathons are a regular at Freshworks. We create environments for great minds to come together and build great things. Despite organizing a few hackathons occasionally, I’ve always wanted to participate.

I had an idea for a personal productivity tool and decided to pitch it with a team. We entered the hackathon in the last minute and thus our team was named ‘Team Last Minute’ (very creative indeed!). 

Once the hackathon ended, I felt like I was walking out of Disneyland. We lost track of time; I didn’t check my emails, Instagram or even return calls!

As I reflect, I want to share a few things that we can implement to simulate that hackathon culture in our everyday environment.

Set aggressive deadlines

Hackathons are a great example to prove that the best work is produced under pressure. One way to make this approach work is to set aggressive deadlines in our daily tasks! If we can do it in the duration of the hackathon, we can definitely do at least half of it in our regular time. Of course, we must be careful to not be too aggressive with the deadline, or else it might be counter–productive.

Take side projects with your hackathon group

Hackathons are not just about coding. It’s about a group of people coming together to bring an idea to life, even if it’s under a stressful environment. If you can produce great results in such a constrained environment, imagine what you can do with a little more time and resources.

If you think you’ve found a great hackathon team, then hold on to them. Work with them to take up more side projects in your free time. Every organisation has so many small cross-functional problems that needs to be solved but most of them go under the radar. Hackathon teams can be those ‘tiger teams’ that already work really well together.

Why not use them to do more? You don’t always need a hackathon to get together and solve a problem!

Stay off email and chats if you have to

I set an ‘out–of–office’ response to say “I’m in a hackathon, expect delayed responses”. I don’t understand why this isn’t acceptable during normal times. I ignored all my emails and pings during hackathon and saw a lot of other participants do the same as well. This obviously seems to improve productivity. Pick two days of the week as “Hackathon mode” and just turn everything off to see you productivity shoot up.

Always be pitching

Pitching the idea to a panel (and also other curious souls who want to know what we’re building) is always an integral part of the hackathon. There is a limited time frame within which we’ll have to make the pitch. This immediately pushes our thought process to utilize the given 10 minutes to pitch our idea in the most unique way possible.

Since we’re putting in a lot of focus on HOW we’re going to pitch the idea, we have the advantage of identifying and closing the gaps which helps us make the pitch a little more seamless. Everything we build should be ‘pitchable’. Once you finish building anything, you should be able to pitch it not just to your team but to any team in the organisation.

This is important because all of us are so engrossed in our own day to day work, we assume that others will automatically ‘get’ what we’re building. It’s important to invest time to build your pitch. Besides, it’s always great to get a couple of opinions from different people!

Learn from the other teams

Watching the best ideas being brought to life is one of the most exciting parts, for the non-finalists. Till that point, everyone is so focused on their ideas, but only when they watch a co-participant go up on stage and pitch their idea, do they realize how big the picture actually is.

The moment when the hackathon stops revolving around just your little group and you start seeing the big picture, is when you start appreciating it even more.

It is always important to know what the other team members are doing as it may potentially help you do your job better. You may even find inspiration from someone else’s work.

I haven’t slept in 36 hours but I held on long enough to complete this blog. That’s the kind of energy a hackathon can give you.

The hackathon may have ended but hopefully the spirit goes on!

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