The challenges of the modern workplace aren’t new: low levels of engagement and morale, industry disruption putting pressure on the business, silos and disconnected teams, a slow pace of internal change due to resistance or lack of buy in and general busy-ness overload.
It could sound a bit dull and depressing :-( yet when you look a little closer, you might find pockets of the business where ‘all is good’.
For many people, teams and units across a business, a breath of fresh air and a jolt of innovation and inspiration is what’s needed to press ‘reset’ and embark on a new financial year or a new project or kick-off a fresh start.
So I’m here to tell ya: the hack is the way.
Yes, the hack.
Not breaking-into-computers hacking, but rather coming-up-with-ingenious-ideas-for-tricky-problems hacking.
Known as the ‘hack day’ or ‘hackathon’, increasingly clued-up businesses are bringing their teams together to identify top talent, reconnect their people, speed up the identification of ideas and shift up the vibe of the business’ culture.
This article gives you three reasons why… this one reckons all businesses should be hacking.
Too often in team days or dull planning sessions the loudest voices drown out fresh and upcoming idea makers in a workplace. Or worse, it's a meteor shower of PowerPoint bullet points. And even when ideas are presented, there’s a lack ofaccountability or responsibility or follow through to get things done to see if they’ll actually work.
So enter, the hack. A half, one or multi-day hacking event is proving to be a culture shaker, an innovation maker and a rut breaker!
Full on input… and output
Through these creative, collaborative, ingenious and full-on sessions, teams work together to design and deliver something; they create solutions to respond to real customer challenges. Whether that's a new strategy, or a new product. With an increasing focus on the customer, businesses of all sizes are seeing this is a sharp and clever angle for competitive advantage.
The hackathon helps develop prototypes that can be put into practice quick smart.
Best of all, you get a taste of agile - a taste of agility and of productivity. You get to play with some of the super human approaches and ways of working of leading global businesses who use hacks to their advantage. Think Google, NASA, Facebook, Salesforce, Uber, eBay, Qantas, Atlassian…
But hey, hackathons don’t have to be about technology; it’s where they were born, yes, but you can apply hacks to creativity and innovation in almost any aspect of your business, team, unit or industry.
I recently facilitated a hack session at a multi-industry conference; more than 100 people all working on individual projects and tasks but their outputs could only have been achieved in that timeframe using hacking techniques. It looks like we could be starting to hack the hack!
Cool companies hack
Big and small companies, teams and projects the world over are seeing the benefits of the hack.
They get teams of people together to work intensively and rapidly to:
- create new products
- focus on customers
- align the team and enterprise
- create solutions to tricky problems
- lift innovative thinking and
- create collaborative environments.
And wait, there's more. I love how hack events help you see how people work under pressure. This type of environment helps you identify top talent, high potentials and high performers who may have been previously hidden, stifled or just uninspired!
Plus it's time to find other ways to break out of those dull ruts and patterns that a team may have fallen victim to over recent times. It's so easy to get comfortable and stay there.
Most of all I love seeing teams mixing together - particularly when they're working across silos. People are enjoying the work (because : happiness!) and they're bringing a competitive and cheeky team spirit to the event. The energy is electric and the solutions are often mind blowing!
'Wha?! How did they come up with THAT?' is a phrase that's often heard.
With a customer focus, a hackathon or hack day helps create some big reasons to connect and talk more deeply with customers; to research and gather information, to uncover insights and to map out customer experiences. In these insights are genius solutions and ideas that the team can create during the hack.
Practical ... and Keep Going
Many hackers rave about how practical and productive hackathons are. It's not about talking all day. Yawn! Hack days are about getting sh*t done, doing things. It’s about short sprints of activity over the day or days and teams working rapidly, pushing through doubt or procrastination and experiencing a highly productive environment where delivery is everything.
And then with the experience of the hack, teams take hacking elements back to their workplace and workspace and find they’re able to generate innovative ideas and work productively by applying same, again and again.
One team I worked with recently continued using their 'Hack Pack': it's a bunch of practices I run in a hack day. When they want to re-live the experience of the hackathon in their everyday work, they simply choose a technique from the Hack Pack ... and go!
Now, before you go all crazy and book a venue and invite everyone to hack together, think about these 7 things first:
1. Focus: why are we going to hack and what might the theme be?
2. Hackers: who's in? Who wants to come, needs to be there or would benefit from the lift of the hack?
3. Schedule: what's going to happen when on the day? What's the schedule of things?
4. Process: how are you going to hack? What will you do when? Who will facilitate it for you (yes of course, let's talk about this!)
5. Celebrate: how will you cheer on the ideas, outputs and progress the hackers make throughout the day?
6. Implement: how will you bring the prototypes you create to fruition and put them into practice beyond the hack?
7. Integrate: how will you weave the learnings from the event into your culture for ongoing benefits, ROI and overall hacking goodness?
Leading companies and businesses across so many industries (beyond technology) are learning that today's challenges need new ways of thinking, acting and working. They're looking for better ways to drive creativity and ingenuity - yet all the while still solving problems and challenges. (Oh and let's maintain or strengthen our competitive advantage at the same time!)
When you need to get all of that done, they know - and you do too - that where there’s a hack ... there’s a way!