Hackathon and Innovation at Movinga
Every day, there are new devices, new platforms, new markets to be explored and new ways of consuming information to be experienced. At this point, everyone knows that in order to succeed and keep up with the market, any tech company needs to support innovation practices.
Even when everyone is aware of it, that does not make it any easier to innovate. Actually, the subject of “innovation practices” has been discussed for hundreds of years now, and one thing we all know for sure is:
There is no general rule or recipe for innovation.
There are several practices that can help you improve, but they will have to be adjusted for your company. Mostly because it is different for every company, market, target and purpose.
Instead of trying to find the “perfect solution” by implementing processes, we can create an environment that drives people to innovate — and let them do it in their own way.
‘Innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect’
— Steven Johnson
At Movinga, we have decided to start by providing one of the most expensive and useful resources for innovation: time.
Movinga is a young and dynamic company, aiming to disrupt the moving industry in Europe by creating the best end-to-end moving experience by acting as a middleman between the customer and mover. We provide the platform for booking moves, intended to bring the moving industry into the internet age with easy and efficient web and mobile applications as well as custom contact during the moving process.
Every quarter at Movinga, we stop the whole tech department to innovate. This may seem a bit dramatic from a business perspective, or even from a customer one, but trust me when I say:
The outcome is (un)surprisingly amazing!
From our perspective, for innovation to happen it is crucial to stop and focus on it, because it is difficult to innovate within a sprint when you have to estimate a „percentage of your time to innovate“ – and even harder, when you want to gather an entire team to do it.
Basically, some of the reasons that drove us to stop for a whole week to innovate were having more time and staying focused on new ideas.
‘If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got’
— Albert Einstein
As I have mentioned before, the outcome was amazing, and we can prove that by the smiles.
In “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation”, Steve Johnson writes a lot about the factors and similarities of the environments where the new ideas come from. One of my favourite quotes is:
‘Chance favors the connected mind’
— Steven Johnson
The most important part of all that was the interaction between people and the prototyping. Most of those ideas never got the chance to be discussed before. The hackathon acts like a “mini-trial”, where we can create things without any restrictions and understand what they would look like.
We plan to collect those ideas and start analysing what makes sense to our customers and partners, what can we create to make our customers lives easier? Or even: How can we be more productive?
Hosting a Hackathon
If you have enjoyed the concept of hackathon and you are thinking about hosting your own, here is some advice.
As mentioned before, time is crucial. Provide stress-free times. If you can’t do that for a whole week, do it for 2 days. However, be sure of creating a distraction free environment for those 2 days.
Choose a theme
In between so many ideas, it is nice to have a theme, or a goal for your hackathon. That can be performance, User Experience, conversion, or even something more vague like accessibility. The theme will guide the participants, usually it is related to the company work or priorities for a short-term future.
No backlog allowed
It is important to establish that we are trying to innovate. Most of the time, people tend to use the hackathons as a way to put into practice things we are already planning to do for sure. There is no inherent problem in doing this – if it is a long-term idea. However, it is important to favour new ideas.
No one should work alone, but also, no one should work with their usual team members. As mentioned before, one of the great outcomes of the hackathon is the interaction between people from different parts of the company, different skills, and different mindsets.
Throw it out
It is wonderful, when an idea comes to life in the hackathon. However, we have to understand that even though something may look ready, it is likely that the ideas have not been approved or well tested enough to go into production.
There is no need to hurry up or to make any effort on compatibility with the current system / project. Always focus on the core of your ideas and not on how are they going to be implemented.
First, you focus on achieving the idea. With the prototype, you can proof your hypothesis right or wrong. Then, you throw it out and focus on how to implement it properly, given the discoveries of the prototype.
An interesting read about discovery and prototypes are Google’s Design Sprint practices.
Every team must present their work at the end of the hackathon. That is a nice way to put individuals in the spotlight, give them a chance to show what they capable of, what drives them and what motivates them.
Food & Drinks
A bit obvious, but: People need to eat and drink. It is also always nice to have some time between hacking to interact with other teams.
Personally, I don’t like the idea of having an internal competition, winners and the like. Mostly, because I think it may lead to unexpected outcomes. People may become scared of sharing their ideas, and the lack of filter is one of the most powerful tools of innovation.
Metrics & Feedback
Finally, collect metrics, analyse what went well, what you can improve for the next one, what can you make it happen in production… It is always nice to hear the participants and reinvent your company every now and then.
Happy hackathon 🎉 !!!
I hope you have enjoyed the read. Take a look at Movinga’s careers page, we have a lot of openings. If you feel like it, come hack with us!