Can we hack it?

Inspiring. Challenging. Exciting. Innovative. Fun.Collaborative.

Perhaps not how you’d describe a weekend spent at work but I’d beg to differ. Over the course of Friday and Saturday, a team of ambitious and you could say, ever so slightly competitive Realisers camped out in the office to embark on a travel themed Hackathon.

The hackers were split into cross functional teams and given a question to answer:

“How can we use technology to enhance the traveller’s journey?”

I didn’t know what to expect having never been involved in a hackathon and judging by the name, it sounded mysterious, verging on criminal.

Thankfully that wasn’t the case. It was about finding creative and innovative ways to solve the unsolved. Reflecting on my first hack, I took away many learnings but my top ones include:

1.     Question the question

The question may seem simple but it is bigger than it seems so initially we spent time questioning it. How do you define a traveller? How do you define the journey? Is the journey physical or digital or phygital? You get the gist. A small brief, endless possibilities.

2.     Solve a need or problem to fill the gap

Before brainstorming ideas, we reviewed the results of a survey we ran to better understand people’s perceptions about travel and particularly, what people most enjoyed as well as their frustrations. The research helped us validate our ideas and after some heated debate, we selected one killer idea that clearly addressed an existing need and gap in a traveller’s journey.

3.     Nail your elevator pitch early

To articulate our idea in one concise sentence, we had to pull the idea apart and piece it back together in a logical way by asking ourselves a series of questions early including:  

  • What existing need or problem does it address?
  • Who’s the target audience? Is it B2C or B2B? 
  • Does it definitely not exist, even in a slightly different form?
  • What existing technology would make this technically feasible?
  • How can make this commercially viable?
  • How can we grow the idea in the future, making it bigger and better?

4.     Create, test, iterate, repeat

Next stop was to bring our idea to life. We went straight into sketching to develop a paper prototype we could test and alongside this, developed a simple technical demo to showcase core functionality. Initial user testing on the streets of Shoreditch was invaluable as it allowed us to iterate our prototype based on real feedback ahead of the final presentation.

The hackathon was intense but personally rewarding. If you’ve never done one, do it. It was a fantastic chance to work with and learn from people across multiple disciplines and with various different skill sets and work styles. Not only that, you’d be surprised how quickly you can develop truly ground breaking ideas. And if you don’t believe me, just remember how Facebook was originally founded – amongst a few roommates at college.  As was Microsoft, Yahoo, Reddit, Google and Dell but don’t worry, there is still plenty of solving left to do so make sure you get involved.