Often corporate directives and long-term roadmaps get in the way of creating and building innovative products that have the potential to give you a competitive advantage. It can be difficult to justify bumping something proven, but ‘me-too,’ in the roadmap for a risky, unproven innovative feature. So departments continue to execute on the roadmap, with low-priority differentiating features continually bumped down so that they never end up getting done. A potential cure for this disease is to hold a Hackathon.
A Hackathon brings together employees from various departments to collaborate on building a demonstrable prototype on an idea discussed and fleshed out in the group. Many times the entire event occurs in one day, so in the span of 9 hours teams are formed, ideas are brainstormed, and prototypes are built and demonstrated. The idea is to get out of the box of the products you are currently working on and spark creativity by being forced to go very fast, utilizing the more intuitive part of your brain. You also get to collaborate with employees that you may not normally work with, which may show you different perspectives or give you a glimpse of how some other departments see the products or the market space. The end result is a demonstrable prototype of the idea, which may have a better chance of getting that product onto the roadmap than a powerpoint on the idea. Or the product can be launched on its own as a minimum viable product to get customer feedback and iterate on it as necessary. As a bonus, Hackathons are fun!