Solving Challenges with Internal Hackathons
A confidential internal technical challenge was looked at by some of Siemen’s top engineers in a 48-hour hackathon environment.
Siemens Wind Power, Germany
“In only 48 hours, we have achieved the same as we would normally do in 2 years”. That was the conclusion of the jury of the Siemens Wind Power: Engineering Hackathon. This was an internal open innovation event where the company brought together their most talented engineers to work for 48 hours on a concrete technical challenge.
The participants were flown in from all over the world to work collaboratively in one location. The company engaged the services of an innovation intermediary which advised on the scope, purpose and desired outcome of the hackathon. They also helped participants to visualize their ideas and solutions.
The nature of the challenge and the outcome of the hackathon are confidential but according to reports, Siemens said the hackathon format is one that works well to solve technical challenges as well as providing employees with novel ways to work.
Additionally, nine out of ten participants said they would like to participate in something similar again. The hackathon winners were rewarded with a prize – a trip to Silicon Valley to be inspired by some of the most creative companies on the planet.
While hackathons are typically competitive affairs involving hundreds or even thousands of external innovators, internal hackathons are also popular ways by which companies can ideate, solve challenges and test novel concepts. Among the companies that organize internal hackathons are Google, Disney, Whirlpool and Facebook. They do so not only to address problems but also to engage employees and promote a collaborative work environment.
Well-known products and services that have emerged from hackathons include the Facebook “like’ button and Facebook Chat. Also, the messaging app company GroupMe started life as a project at a hackathon at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 conference. In 2011, Skype bought GroupMe for more than $40 million.
The benefits of both internal and external hackathons include but are not limited to:
• They spur creativity.
• They help firms to recruit new talent (saves the time and expense of long rounds of
• They help companies to innovate fast to better meet changing consumer needs.
• They make it easier for companies to implement innovation.
• They allow companies to find new ways of leveraging internal resources.
• They foster risk-taking in a risk-free environment.
• Internal hackathons can untangle some of the internal bureaucracy that can stifle
creativity and innovation.
• Internal hackathons can also help companies overcome the struggles they may
have with accepting innovations.
Whether through internal or external hackathons, companies can move faster, reduce time to market and stay ahead of the competition.
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