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Here’s why your company should do a hackathon

Taking time off your normal routine to just be creative, seems impossible to make a sensible argument for. But we did it anyway and in the spirit of the hackathon took a week out of the calendar to let our inner geek-imagination run wild. You should try it.

Friday was the last day of our week long hackathon. The office was buzzing as people were punching keys like mad men, in order to get their presentations ready for the afternoon finale.

Having the hackathon was overall an awesome experience for the team, and some really cool stuff got made. As you can see further down in this post, we highly encourage you to do the same with your team.

The finale

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Jess’ mockup for a referral promotion on the site.

To end of the hackathon in a fun way, we arranged a round of presentations. Each team member had 5 minutes to show off their creation and argue why their project was ever so awesome. Afterwards we all voted and celebrated the winning projects. There were prizes for the best projects in the categories: “most ambitious, “most valuable” and “best executed”.

Jens’ Chrome extension won “Best executed”. Silviu’s duplicate icon detection won “most ambitious” and my referral program won “most valuable”. Being true Danes and geeks, the prices was of course a selection of luxury beers.

Jens' working Chrome extensions

Jens’ Chrome extension also had styles filters implemented in the search string

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Martin’s Icon Designer Analytics was a working prototype which solved some challenges with easy navigation in large time-series.
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The top contributing icons sets are giving colors, while the remaining icon sets are bundled in the gray color. A neat way for icon designer to see which icon sets are contributing to their overall income.

The goals and results of the hackathon

The goal was to take time out of the normal routine, do something fun, learn new things, and come back with new perspectives and energy. Take time to explore and come up with new ways of enhancing the Iconfinder service and business.

All in all the week went great and some cool projects we created. We now have to decide which of the concepts are worth developing into final implementations and get them into the roadmap.

Should your company do a hackathon?

Yes. I think we all agreed that doing an isolated week of developing new stuff, was both good fun and yielded good results.

The projects we did all have real potential for implementation, and even those who might never get to that stage, still provided valuable technical learnings.

Isolation fosters creativity

One of the main problems being a small team working on a big product, is time. Time to focus, time to explore, time to fail and time to be creative.

“The key to being more creative, is to avoid interruption.” — John Cleese

Everyone always has so much on their plate that a lot of the, perhaps, brilliant ideas simply gets lost in everyday work. And when you sit down and plan what to work on next, it’s really hard to argue that some unproven far-fetched idea is the most important thing to do right now.

But when you collectively decide that a period of time is dedicated to just being bold and creative, people really have the chance to come up with wonderful stuff.

Doing a hackathon is not something that can be observed in a spreadsheet with the big ROI glasses on. A hackathon is an isolated period of time, where everyone are allowed to break free of both rules and routines.

Quite simply a hackathon let’s you be creative.

Since you’ve come this far, you might as well take the ten minutes to watch this amazing talk by John Cleese.

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