Driving Collaborative Innovation: Hackathons

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Tom againThe dust has settled on my first Future of Work Masterclass, a fascinating insight into the innovation, ecosystem and architecture of collaboration, and now is the time to reflect. I enjoyed a number of discussions concerning new means of collaborative innovation and the best way to foster a dynamic collaborative space. One subject that cropped up a number of times was that of a ‘hackathon’.

A hackathon is defined by Google as an event of typically a few days, where a range of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming – usually to identify process improvements, or provide immediate solutions to weaknesses within systems. Yet hackathons are no longer the preserve of the tech community. Outside the realms of engineering or software, hackathons are being used as a new way to engage employees, transforming the use of time and opening opportunities for innovation. Indeed hackathons are a variant of our existing Fowlab jam platform, where ideas are crowdsourced to determine actionable solutions.

The hackathon’s wide appeal alludes to a growing awareness of underutilised creativity, talent and resources within organisations, and offers an unconventional means of developing innovative ideas and new products. The efficiency of the teams, expected to move from concept to prototype in a few days, encourages proactive engagement. Hackathons have even been adapted, through companies such as ‘StaffUp’, for use as recruiting and networking tools.

From the interactive sessions within last week’s Masterclass, it was clear that some Consortium members are already using hackathons to rejuvenate systems. One recent example contained within a wider FoW case study is that of Dutch food and agriculture bank Rabobank, who successfully launched a hackathon to find practical solutions to food waste. We also heard comments from Randstad and Shell highlighting their use of hackathons in the innovation process.

Looking outside of the Consortium, RJMetrics – a business intelligence company – has put the concept to internal use, aligning the dynamism of the event to their company culture. Having noticed that employees often struggled to find time for innovation, they decided to introduce a 24-hour period for working on experimental projects. These hackathons provided the biggest disruptive force on the product development line and formed new strategic ambitions for the company.

At the Hot Spots Movement, we have noted a similar trend towards the use of our jam platform. Managers are increasingly aware of the need to address complex challenges, provide clear communication channels and instil a collaborative drive towards engagement. Over a more sustained period our jam platform has been used to: identify issues, formulate provocations, strategically communicate and crowdsource solutions over a 72 hour period of real-time collaboration.

The widespread adoption of innovative collaborative techniques such as hackathons and jams alludes to the changing nature of how employees invest their time – an interesting topic that will receive further insight as a future FoW theme.

We are interested to see how these events develop and would be delighted to hear from any of our members if they are using hackathons within their organisation. Please feel free to get in touch here.

2013: Oh, what a year!

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Tina Schneidermann - Portrait 03 by LK - CONTRASTby Tina Schneidermann, COO, Hot Spots Movement

As 2013 comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about everything that has happened here at Hot Spots Movement, and I thought it seemed right to make my final blog post of the year a round-up of our highlights.

2013 was the year of the FoWlab Jam, with more and more companies realising the value of tapping into the wisdom of their crowd. We’re also increasingly seeing that it’s a very powerful change management tool. We’ve really enjoyed honing and perfecting our processes and platform, too, and taking the jam experience from strength to strength. Recently one user commented that it would be great to have ‘a permanent jam” and we say: “Bring it on!”

It’s been a great year for Lynda, too – her book The Shift experienced phenomenal success in Japan this year , which has been very exciting, and we were all very proud when she won HR Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement award in October. This year also saw Lynda ranked once again in the top 15 of the Thinkers 50.

2013 also saw The Future of Work Research Consortium enter its fifth year, focusing on the key themes of New Ways of Working, Engagement 2.0 and Resilience. As well as contributions from some of the most innovative companies we know – including Knack, ODesk, Holition and Tycoon Systems – we’re collaborating with Central St Martins on a multimedia project around the engagement theme. We were also really pleased to welcome a number of members from Japan and China, joining us for the first time. Our Inclusion and Diversity Research consortium went right to the heart of key issues such as the ‘root causes’ of I & D programmes not having delivered on their promises, and in true Hot Spots Movement style, it brought about some surprising insights.

Collaboration emerged as a major theme for us this year. We’ve come to realise that in today’s super-connected world, collaboration is part of the fabric of everything we do – and yet it’s harder than ever with issues such as diversity and virtualisation are making it increasingly challenging. It’s such an important topic for everyone we speak to that we’re keen to explore it further by making it the subject of a brand new consortium – contact me if you’d like to know more. With all this activity, it’s no surprise that we expanded our team in 2013, with Emma, Kyle and Sarah all joining Hot Spots since the start of the year, and adding their signature styles to our activities.

We’ll be taking a short break over the end of year holidays, but next year promises to be just as action-packed. We’re kicking the year off with the final Inclusion and Diversity masterclass, FoW will be taking a closer look at Engagement 2.0 and Resilience, and we’ll be calling participants together for a new Collaboration consortium. So, all that’s left to say is all the best for Happy New Year in 2014!