For the second year in a row, and third time ever at Lemonly, we held our company hackathon last week and had some outstanding results. It’s amazing what a group of people can accomplish when put together in a room (one remote person) with pizza, beer, soda, and a 24 hour deadline.
If you’re unsure what a hackathon is read my post from last year that explains what the Lemonly hackathon is and how it works. This year I want to focus on the “why” of the hackathon.
What’s the value of a hackathon?
The annual Lemonly hackathon has become a pillar of our company culture and an opportunity for us to gather every spring to make our company better. When you give your team a chance to improve THEIR company it is amazing to see their desire and ownership of the challenges and issues. It makes sense, right? If you want to fix something ask the people who work on it every single day.
The value of the Lemonly Hackathon is significant, but there are three specific values that I want to focus on. Doing a hackathon…
Builds Culture – Our annual hackathon is one of the best things we do to build culture. People who don’t normally get to work together are all of the sudden collaborating and solving problems. Designers learn more about how Project Managers think and Animators are teaching Sales Managers how they work. Plus, the 24 hour deadline encourages fast collaboration, swift decision-making, and just the right amount of pressure to build quickly, efficiently, and smart.
Lastly, the presentations at the end of 24 hours have started to turn into legit performances with this year featuring rap and dancing.
Emphasizes Solutions – When you have a problem you can either complain about it, or fix it. I think my grandpa said something like that to me growing up. A hackathon is your chance to fix it. Giving a team the task to 1) Identifying a challenge in the business 2) Determining a solution to fix it and 3) Actually fixing it, places an emphasis on solutions and not problems. Once you believe that you can solve a challenge in just 24 hours, your team now believes they can do anything. Imagine the solutions we could build if we had a month!
Gets Shit Done – Remember how the cobbler’s children are always the kids with no shoes? This problem seems to happen to companies too. We spend our days and nights working to serve our clients and create beautiful stories for them. We’ve done a much better job of telling our own story this year, but that doesn’t mean our house is clean and neatly organized. When it comes to improving your own company, systems, and processes, those to do’s often get pushed down the list.
By closing down Lemonly operations for 24 hours, we had 18 people entirely focused on the challenge of making Lemonly better. I’m confident that we accomplished four weeks of work in just 24 hours by having all hands on deck with efficiency and focus.
Here’s What Our Four Teams Accomplished
- File Organization – We do a great job of organizing our client files into folders and stored both locally and in the cloud, but we’re not so good at storing assets like fonts, textures, and stock images. One team knocked this out of the park and came up with both a process and implementation strategy.
- Project Self-Evaluation – One thing we want to improve on is spending more time reflecting and evaluating our projects when they are complete. One team created a prototype of an awesome tool to evaluate all aspects for a project from quality and experience, to timing and budget. Excited to use this!
- Manage Meetings – Do you have too many meetings? My team tackled the creation of agendas for every type of meeting at Lemonly and establish rooms in Google Calendar so every meeting has a plan and a place.
- Getting Started – At Lemonly we have our Getting Started Questions; part of our onboarding of every new client and project. These questions are helpful and work well for our systems, but we can do better. We learned that we ask our clients a lot of questions, and it can be overwhelming. This team developed a workflow for simplifying, streamlining, and shortening the process from inquiry to project start.
Start Planning Your Hackathon Today
There are dozens of ways to format and conduct a company hackathon (again, this explains how we do ours) but don’t let the logistics hold you back. The biggest thing you need is commitment from both leadership and the team. If all folks are invested in the idea of making the company better you’ll find a hackathon can be incredibly productive, and also very enjoyable.
If you have questions on how to start a hackathon at your own company, just shoot us a message on our contact page and we’d be happy to help!