For an entire day, dozens of my colleagues and I came into work and didn’t do our jobs. None of us got fired. Rather, it was arguably one of the most productive and eye-opening days we have had all year. Allow me to explain.
I lead Highspot’s product marketing team. Typically, I spend my time developing go-to-market strategies, talking with customers, preparing sales teams, creating marketing content — you name it. On this day, however, I had the opportunity to participate in Highspot’s first annual competitive hackathon.
Hackathons have taken the tech industry by storm. People across disciplines leave their usual responsibilities behind and form teams to define and solve problems. Think building software prototypes in just a day — something that typically takes months. Hackathons are competitive because, at the end of the event, teams present to each other and a panel of judges awards prizes for the best ideas. This element of rivalry ups the ante and fuels innovation.
What we witnessed in the final presentations at Highspot was nothing short of astounding. Teams created ever-simpler ways of managing content at scale, fully-functional executive dashboards that provided unprecedented insights, unique features designed to empower account administrators to help their users ramp faster, and more.
Based on our experience at Highspot, I encourage everyone to organize or participate in a hackathon. Here are 5 reasons why:
Whether it’s software development, business processes, or creative marketing ideas, teams that are focused on a singular mission and uninhibited by typical constraints will make breakthroughs. Highspot’s hackathon produced fresh and exciting approaches to numerous challenges we want to help our customers solve.
Learn About Other Functions
The best way to learn what others do is to get in the trenches with them. For example, two Highspot service executives were on my team. I knew they were phenomenal because customers tell me all the time, but for the first time I experienced their talent first-hand. They have both the technical chops and the people skills to make a newly formed team feel like we’d been working together for years. It turns out those are key reasons why Highspot has the shortest implementation time relative to our competitors.
Connect with People Outside Your Discipline
Ziplining, escape rooms, happy hours — there are many popular ways to facilitate team bonding. Hackathons are one of the best. Participants inevitably experience how other people work and discover what motivates and excites them. I now have new friends and allies in services, engineering, and sales, which means that, in this age of hyper-collaboration, I’m better at my job.
Delight Your Customers
Several ideas that came out of our hackathon will absolutely delight our customers when they transform into tangible updates. We know this because we obsessively listen to our customers, and many of the hackathon ideas address very specific pains they’ve expressed to us.
Enjoy the Recognition
Your colleagues are more likely to remember you after a hackathon. I’m still stopped in the hallway with compliments about what our team accomplished. We didn’t even win, and I feel quasi-famous. It sounds a little cheesy, but it feels wonderful to be recognized. It has also given relative strangers a reason to engage with me, which enhances our culture of connection.
There are other reasons why hackathons are great, but these are the five that resonated for me. In the end, it was a win for all. Our customers will benefit from the new capabilities, insights from data, and novel approaches to their most pressing problems that came out of the hackathon, and our team left feeling inspired. The day renewed our appreciation for Highspot’s mission to “create breakthrough products that transform the way millions of people work.”
I’m not even bitter about my team not winning the prize (well, okay, maybe a little). Bring on Highspot’s Hackathon 2020.