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Over the years, I have been involved in some extremely innovative companies. I’ve learned that rarely do the truly great ideas come from “the top.” So, at Lingotek, we embrace an Agile software development lifecycle that encourages collaboration across the entire team. Everyone on our development teams is responsible for identifying the problem or opportunity, exploring potential solutions, choosing a path forward, figuring out how to do it, and then making it happen. Product people are involved in the discussions around architecture, and engineers are involved in discussions around product requirements and priorities. It’s how we’re built, and we know it drives the right result, so that is how we operate every day.

Another big piece of this puzzle for us is having regular Hack-A-Thons – a time when our teams are given a break from day-to-day responsibilities and the Backlog, and instead are permitted to explore the unexplored – a chance to pursue and demonstrate their ideas!

“…explore the unexplored…”

I have brought this concept to various companies along the way, with mixed results, and what I love about Lingotek is how easily they embraced and broadened it.

Often, this is an exercise for just the development team, but not at Lingotek. Here we include everyone in the company – Sales, Language Services, Client Success, Finance, Marketing, and yes, Product Development – all working together on something they think is worth pursuing.

Often, this is an exercise in lip service – the time is given, the results reviewed and judged, the kudos passed out, but that’s where it ends. At Lingotek, we act on these ideas and incorporate them into our business and our product – more often than not. In this latest Hack-A-Thon, we immediately added over one-third of our ‘hacks’ to our official Backlog and intend to execute and release them as a part of our Platform within the next 3-6 months; more than half were given the time and budget to take the next step – more discovery to determine their feasibility and potential impact. Overall, 88% were acted upon, which is absolutely amazing.

I am often asked whether spending the time on Hack-A-Thons is worth it, and honestly, it all depends on the motivation. It can be used to give the team a break from things and clear the mind – and that can have value, I suppose. Perhaps there is even some value validating and rewarding the ideas without then acting on them. 

But, if you are open to new ideas (especially the ones that go against the “current thinking”), are inclusive of everyone who may have that brilliant idea, and are willing to invest in the ideas that come out of the process – then it is invaluable. Hack-A-Thons can play a big part in the innovation engine for your organization – and that’s an engine that must be finely tuned.

As for us, we are already planning the next one!

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