Hackathon Innovation Ritual: How we grow our best ideas

Tactical Guide: How to run a Hackathon in your company

This page explains the preparation needed for the Hackathon. The following pages help the organizers and participants through the different phases of the Hackathon.
💡 Create a copy of this document if you want to run a Hackathon in your company.
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Preparation Timelines
As early as possible
Block time in team’s calendar (see below for the meetings and durations we suggest) and announce the Hackathon

4 weeks+ ahead of time
Assemble the team of organizers. We use a team of 4 Hackathon organizers - ideally from different departments/teams - and ensure that at least one of the organizers has been part of the previous Hackathon to pass on the lessons learned.
Brainstorm and decide on the theme
And start organizing the schwag (it might relate to the theme, and you will need more time than you think for schwag)
Start communicating to everyone that Hackathon is approaching and explaining what Hackathon is (e.g. via email/slack announcements or during company-wide meetings)

2 weeks ahead of time
Make sure you adjust our template (this doc) to your organization’s specific needs

Hackathon week
See below
Optional: Organizers can hide the Pitching page and all subsequent pages and unhide it only as the Pitching, Team Formation etc phase approaches

After the Hackathon week
Thank the organizers and the participants. Congratulate the winning teams.
Nudge teams to share their demos/presentations/notes so they can be easily accessed in the future
Hackathon week
At Coda, a Hackathon is 2 days of Hacking Thu/Fri with a few meetings upfront to get organized. The event ends with internal demos. External demos are an optional component but we would recommend to leave that out for your first couple of Hackathons.
Hackathon Intro
Fr before Hackathon
30 mins
Explain the Hackathon schedule, open the Ideation part of the Hackathon doc up for idea submission (share this document with every potential participant)
💡 Ideation
no meeting needed
No meetings needed. Throughout the day anyone submits ideas in the doc, marks ideas they like, and selects ideas they are willing to pitch on tuesday
🏏 Pitches
Tue morning
1 hr
People pitch ideas they are excited about
Team Formation
no meeting needed
Participants self-organize into teams with help from the Hackathon doc (Team formation section). We encourage teams to try and recruit aggressively who they need. Wed afternoon organizers reach out and help stragglers find a team.
🥾 Hacking Kickoff
Thu morning
30 min
Short kickoff meeting, resolve any open questions and then START HACKING!! Some teams will cheat by starting to hack before the kickoff - which is allowed under Rule #3)
👽 Hackathon
All day blocked for Hackathon, no other meetings the entire day
Teams are hacking. Organizers typically join a team and help hacking but need to spend some of their time checking in with teams if they run into difficulties etc
👽 Hackathon continued
Morning blocked for Hackathon, no other meetings the entire morning
Friday afternoon
2 hrs
Teams present their results. Everybody gives feedback to the teams. Optional: Everyone votes on the People’s Choice Awards
Optional: External demos
Monday following week
2 hrs
Some time in the week after
No meeting needed
Ensure teams link their demo and finish their summary for their project in the days after the Hackathon. Announce winners, send thank you emails and the takeaways from the event.
There are no rows in this table

Phases of the Hackathon Explained
In the ideation phase ideas are generated and collected — typically many more ideas than can be worked on during the Hackathon. Participants read through the submitted ideas, like their favourites in the doc, and add their own. If someone is particularly interested in one idea, they should pitch them.
This phases starts with a pitching meeting in which a subset of the generated ideas get pitched by whoever is interested in it. This narrows down the selection of ideas. After the pitching teams form around the pitched ideas. It is quite common that only a fraction of pitched ideas find a team and proceed.
The core of the Hackathon is the Hacking phase, where the teams work hard to build a great demo, in code, as mocks, or as presentation.
The Hackathon week ends with all projects doing a demo.
In the hours and days after the demos are shown it is important to collect all the material from the different teams for future reference. We also have teams vote on the best demo and give each other feedback and kudos, strengthening the team building aspects of the Hackathon.
Anyone else run hackathons in Coda? We would love to hear how you do it.
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