Reflection: My First Hackathon

I recently ran my first internal non-software hackathon to support the creation of a management development program.

I had forgotten what it was like to do something I had never done before.

It was scary. I was nervous.  I didn’t have enough time to plan.  My colleagues, though they really wanted to, only had time for a quick review of the plan.  I created something in a vacuum and to top it off,  I had to talk to people on a topic I was still trying to learn myself.

I thought it was going to be a disaster because I felt like I had done something all alone. It wasn’t. You wan’t to know why?  Because I did actually have help.

There is no vacuum

The event wasn’t created in a vacuum because I utilized the well tested resources of the folks in my network who have run non-software hacks to create the plan:

My colleagues who couldn’t support as much as the wanted with the creation of the event, supported the day of by taking notes, managing logistics, and jumping in to help me rephrase instructions when they weren’t clear (which happened a lot).

The participants came with an open mind, where willing to experiment, go with the flow & adjust on the fly.  That made a huge difference.

Here’s what else I learned:

External networks are critical

Obviously I would have loved for my colleagues to be more involved in creating something new to us but sometimes they don’t have enough time or there is a tight timeline (or in this case both). It’s these situations that make me even more grateful for my network of peeps. 90% of the time these folks have already tried it and are more then willing to share their methods & lesson’s learned.

Communities are essential to problem solving

I have always believed this to be true, but never before had I really seen it in action.  If we create the spaces (and time) for people who face similar challenges to think about, discuss, share, collaborate, & co-create, solutions will emerge. They will also realize that they don’t need us . . .

The role of L&D is changing

What also emerges when we create the space & time for a community to engage around a shared challenge, is the realization that they don’t need to wait for L&D to come up with a formal program or “project plans” to start implementing solutions.  A lot of what our mangers came up with are simple things that they could do on their own (or as a group).

Side note: I won’t get into the ways in which the role of L&D is changing (or needs to change) becasue Jane Hart has that well covered.  Let’s just say that this hack event was such an awesome validation of some of these concepts.

Have you participated in a non-software hack event?  If so, would love to know your experiences in the comments.  If not, I am happy to share my experience in more detail if it would help inspire you.

WOL Note: In the interest of working out loud, here is a copy of the participant packet we handed out at the event in case you want to try your own (it is striped of any company info but consolidates a lot of the resources mentioned above).




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