It's 8:08 AM as I type this and every employee of Likeable Local is furiously working on a hack to improve our business. The cool thing is, of our 40 employees, only 6 are actually hackers, or developers. The rest of the team is in sales, or marketing, or customer success, or creative. Or true skill-less people like me, the CEO.
Three months ago, at an executive planning retreat, our CTO Hugh Morgenbesser had an idea: To help everyone understand the hacker mentality made famous by Facebook, ("Move fast and break things") we would hold our own internal hackathons. We decided to have 3 hack mornings this quarter, and challenged the whole company to engage in these hackathons, working either alone or with a team. I'm writing this article live, as part of the third hack morning.
For the uninitiated, a hackathon is an event whereby people work tirelessly over a defined period of time to build something. Hackathons are most typically executed by engineers, but Facebook and others have done hackathons with non-technical employees such as sales. At Likeable, we've had 3 hackathons this quarter, each with a theme: Content, Data Integrity, and today, promoting our new free Likeable Hub VIP app. At each hack morning, teams work for 2 hours straight on taking their ideas and making them a reality, and then the whole company votes for their favorite hack, and the winning team gets a cash prize.
The results from the first two hackathons were so successful, that I am spending this hackathon writing, to share with you the three reasons you should strongly consider integrating hackathons at your business:
1) Hackathons bring employees together and increase morale.
I've been amazed at watching my employees across different departments come together to hack and compete. While a few people have competed as individuals, most of our employees have worked with teams. There's nothing like exploring a new project for hours together, uninterrupted to bond teammates with one another. Team morale has been higher than ever before, thanks to these hackathons.
2) Hackathons reinforce the right values.
Working hard, working fast, working tirelessly, working intensely, and working with your team. What entrepreneur or leader wouldn't want their employees to embrace these values? While it's difficult if not impossible to maintain the "hackathon" pace and drive during most workdays, it's amazing for everyone to see how much can actually get done when there are no meetings, no phone calls, and no interruptions- just people working together towards a common goal.
3) Hackathons leave you with lasting ideas- and even products.
What I've actually been most impressed by is how many useable ideas, prototypes, and product features we've walked away with at the end of each hackathon. Two hours is very little time, and yet each hackathon we've done has produced lots of interesting work, much of which we've been able to actually use at the company.
I know what some of you are thinking - "I don't know the first thing about hacking." or "Why would I want to take all of my employees away from what they're working on and waste their time on a hackathon?"
The reality is, most of my my team had no idea what hacking was until we tried. And then we built stuff. Coders built programs, but salespeople built email templates, and designers built posters, and marketers built campaigns. Once you get into hacking, the sky's the limit in what you can build.
As for "wasting time," I don't we've had a single better use of my company's time, in 8 years in business and across 2 ventures, than our hackathons together. So we'll keep hacking away. I hope you will too.
By the way, the hack Hugh built during our 3rd hackathon is now live! Try out the new Likeable Hub app for free here, then click on "Settings" to share the app and enter to win $1,000!