Hackathons – are they any good?
Hackathons or hacks started out as events for developers to get together to code. But hackathons aren’t confined to the tech world anymore. Other industries are starting to adopt the practise to work on all kinds of things. For companies trying to innovate, hackathons are a quick and appealing option. But just how useful can they really be?
A huge benefit of hackathons is that every participant is focused on getting results. Hackathons take place within a set amount of time (often 24 hours but sometimes more or less), so teams have to turn their ideas into fleshed out concepts or working prototypes within a tight deadline. Innovation is often slowed in organisations due to office bureaucracy but with hackathons all of that is put to the side. There’s no waiting for project approval - employees are free to take their ideas and run with them as far as they can within the time limit.
Companies can use hacks as an opportunity to mix staff from different departments together. Some hackathons are even open to people from various industries. This gives participants a chance to meet and collaborate with people they wouldn’t normally, helping to build new relationships. Participants also get to hear from individuals with different perspectives and take their views and ideas into consideration – something they’ll hopefully continue to do after the hack.
Hackathons also give employees a break from their usual job (if they’re scheduled during work hours). Doing something different for the day with different people is refreshing and taking on a new challenge, even for just a short amount of time, is a good learning opportunity.
However, hackathons can sometimes feel like hostage situations. A lot of hackathons are 24 hour affairs. Keeping employees at work outside of office hours and asking them to work on something with no sleep is probably not their idea of a good time. They can be pretty unhealthy too. On top of the lack of sleep, participants are usually fuelled by junk food and alcohol. Expecting innovative results from employees working in these conditions just seems counterproductive.
Hackathons also beg the question: how innovative can you be with such a short amount of time? Innovation is usually a long, iterative process, something that hackathons seem to ignore. Not only that, teams in hackathons can only use the resources they’re given. While the challenge and fast pace of hackathons may be appealing, wouldn’t giving people more time and resources be a better method to achieve innovation?
Despite the cons, we think hacks can be a great way to kick-start a project. That’s why we offer the Huddle Hack where we collaborate with companies to create brand concepts and app prototypes. We bring together the right people to deliver the results you need. It’s a tried and tested process, it’s efficient, and no one is forced to stay awake all night.