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Adi is a social business blogger and community manager that writes for sites such as Social Business News and Social Media Today. Away from the computer he enjoys cycling, particularly in the Alpes. Adi is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 1290 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Could you host a hack day in your organisation?

11.20.2013
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Ok, before we get started with this post, I know the word hacking has very techie connotations, but I used it for this post because the tech community have taken this concept on board more than most.  What I’m talking about here though is an open innovation day.  I’m talking about a specially organised 24 hour period (or 8 hour if you want) where people come together and thrash about new ideas, sell those new ideas to others and so on.

So how can such a day benefit you?  Lets look at a couple of the main ways:

More ideas

May as well get the obvious one out of the way first.  The whole idea of such an event is to give people a chance to generate ideas.  If you already offer some variant of 15/20%, then it can also be a great opportunity to showcase the project you’ve been working on to a wider audience, maybe pull in other interested parties, get new ideas for improvements and generally develop the project further.  With the ideation process, it’s obviously crucial that some planning and consideration are given to how those ideas will be developed after your innovation day.  The last thing you want is for the enthusiasm generated to peter out.

Develop new connections

This is a slightly more interesting one.  Whilst it’s probably that your first innovation day will only feature internal employees, there is still a great opportunity to meet new people in your organisation, and of course to learn more about the kind of passions and ideas they have.  From a talent management perspective that’s invaluable, but also from an internal networking perspective.

Where things get really interesting though is if you invite outside people into the process as well.  Doing so can introduce you to people you’ve never met before.  Talented people that clearly have a passion and interest either for your organisation or for the kind of issues you tackle.  It could also give you greater insight into people you already have in your crosshairs.  Whether you’re looking to recruit or purchase them therefore it can be invaluable.

Deliver a social good

Whilst most of these kind of events focus attention on producing new ideas for company products, there’s no reason why the days can’t be used in a CSR way, with the focus instead aimed at solving or improving a social need in the local community.  If you’re the NHS for instance, you could host an open innovation event to improve breast feeding in a community.

When the focus is an external one, then you will want to include as many people in the day as possible from both inside and outside your organisation to ensure that a good spread of insights are added to the mix.  For the example above for instance, it could include nurses, health visitors, mums (and dads), social scientists, behavioural phsychologists, maybe even people working in gamification or consumer marketing.

Great marketing

In an age where publishers are crying out for great stories to cover, your innovation day could be just such an event.  This is especially the case if you’re trying to tackle a problem that’s of real important to the local community.  You could gain publicity from the event itself, or the ideas that emanate from the event.  What’s clear though is that it has tremendous potential to show you off in a positive light.

Suffice to say of course, generating ideas is merely part of the equation, and I’ve been writing a number of posts recently on successful implementation of ideas, and in particular how you can ensure your innovation team is setup in such a way as to encourage success.  If you want to pursue this then I recommend looking just as hard at the post-event period to ensure you get the most value from it.

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