That's a hackathon in the high-tech world, and you can grab a good description of it in this interview with John Oringer, chief executive of Shutterstock:
We have hackathons, which are pretty fun. A lot of people get really excited about them, and they can build whatever they want for the company — it could be crazy, practical, whatever. We actually wind up implementing a lot of those things throughout the year. It pushes a lot of thinking. It’s pretty amazing what people can get done in 24 hours. Sometimes we talk about a new product feature and it can take three months to build. Then someone will prototype it overnight....Sometimes as a company you tend to overthink things. If you just sit down and try to do it, it turns out to maybe be easier than setting up meeting after meeting to get it done. So it’s a good reset point for us every year to remind us, “Yeah, we can just get things done quickly.”There's your recipe: Keep it short, and wide open. Implement what's created, even if only as a pilot project. Encourage creative solutions to problems your team faces. That might mean rethinking whether you issue press releases, creating a new way of monitoring coverage, and more.
Hackathons can backfire if you're not ready to support what results from them. In Leadership lessons from the end of Google Reader, you're asked "How do you help ensure your staff shares its best thinking with the organization?" The caution comes because Reader's creator says now that he wouldn't have started it within Google if he'd known they would eventually kill the service; instead, he'd start it up himself. So it's not enough to just hold that hackathon. You've got to encourage your team to create solutions you're interested in supporting for the long haul. Have you had a communications hackathon?
I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall, and you get good discounts if you register this month for Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!