Corporate hackathons in a pandemic: Virtually impossible or possible virtually?

Posted by Patti Mikula on July 30, 2020

Year over year, we see Hackathons and Innovation Challenges playing a growing role in the innovation strategies of global companies. We have worked with some of the world’s top brands (Google, New York Life, Capital One, Government of Canada, Randstad to name a few) to use the framework of hackathons to engage employees in helping identify and design solutions to large, hairy problems. We help our clients design an event for a specialized crowd, which is given a limited amount of time and a carefully scoped challenge, to deliver a solution which will be evaluated on shared judging criteria.

But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – with offices closed and limited ability to host physical gatherings for employees in the foreseeable future, with employees feeling the strain of remote work, PLUS parenting, PLUS the stress that comes with uncertainty – is now the time to be hosting a virtual corporate hackathon? YES. YES IT IS! 

The tech companies born from the previous global recession are some of the key players today. Slack, Uber, Venmo, Instagram, WhatsApp, Airbnb and Dropbox were developed in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis. They were founded by young go-getters who were focused on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow while the market leaders of the day were still trying to put up their umbrella and weather the storm. Recession can lead to reinvention, and we will see this in 2020 not just in the startup sphere but also in the corporate sphere. 

We have already seen companies and industries resistant to change reinventing their business models on the fly out of necessity. Distilleries have retooled their production lines to produce hand sanitizer. China built an entire hospital in 10 days. And call centres around the world have languished, empty, with their agents working from kitchen tables and makeshift home offices. 

Prioritizing innovation today is crucial to both surviving the crisis of the moment and unlocking post crisis growth.

Companies that innovate to reinvent themselves now will do well (think of Netflix, Microsoft and Disney) whereas those who refuse to adapt to the coming change will get left behind (Blockbuster, Toys"R"Us and the like)

But a virtual hackathon isn’t just moving your event to Zoom. It’s an entirely different beast, and you need to give consideration to each element to ensure that your participants have an exceptional experience and you get the business benefits you need. In this ebook we will share some of our key learnings from hosting virtual hackathons over the past ten years. 

As you consider your own virtual hackathon, download our Virtual Hackathon ebook, and feel free to reach out to us to see how we can help. Many hands make light work, and our team of innovation experts stands ready to help.

 

 

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