October 27, 2017
Hackathons: A better way to innovate
By: Roisin Connolly
Hackathons: A better way to innovate

When most people hear the word “hackathon,” images of groups of people hunched over their laptops staying up all night fuelled on pizza and beers tends to come to mind. The type of Hackathons which we, The UK Innovation Programme run, are quite different to this description. Our Hackathons are a series of innovation sprints to break patterns, re-imagine and prototype new products, services and experiences in a way that disrupts the market, delivers commercial value and supports adaptation. These sprints provide organisational learning benefits and Proof Points to help clients develop their commercial innovation know-how. They are all about learning by doing because participants compete in teams to develop the best solution–low fidelity prototypes–for a specific problem.

We also avoid the pitfalls that come with stressing technological outcomes over end user or human ones. With some hacks, the former dominates and human outcomes are forgotten, leading to solutions where the adoption rate is poor. We use Design Thinking methodology, where end users collaborate and co-create the brief and co-design problem-solving prototypes with innovation and hack specialists. This de-risks adoption and delivers more meaningful, user-centric experiences.

Design doing
We take a user-centric design and innovation process to explore, to generate new thinking, new services, products and models. The process we use has been tried and tested many times. It breaks into four stages and these are illustrated in the plan below:

  1. Understand
    Research including workshops with end users, to drive understanding of the problem to be solved, develop the brief and what a solution needs to do to delight the user

  2. Create
    Research synthesis to create insight and help generate ideas, a vision, and a compelling proposition

  3. Deliver
    Prototyping the ideas to deliver the tangible thing we can share and use as a demo or to get investment

  4. Transition
    Digging deeper into the concept and establishing a forward strategy that connects what the hackathon generated to investment and the development process.

What our clients actually get:

They will generate new product, service and business model ideas that can be taken forward for development and achieve these outcomes:
  • Accelerated learning about innovation–what it is, how you "do" it, the know how you need

  • Clear opportunities to differentiate–propositions, skills and ways of working that gives you an edge

  • Cross team connection/join up–the ability to leverage your own and your organisation’s talent

  • Closer collaborative connection with end users–a deeper understanding of their needs and desires

  • Learning-based, innovative culture–less silo style working and more learning and sharing

  • Transition plan for rapid implementation–developing early solutions and a route to market

  • Ability to scale–the means to run hackathons and develop outputs across multiple territories

  • Great stories–the opportunity to use the talent we have to deliver lasting, positive change

Achieving diversity
Not all hackathons are designed and delivered in the way we recommend–some can lack focus, or be a little too wild and crazy–and some solutions lack relevance. To stop this from happening, we work with a variety of organisations with specialist skills to deliver more empathetic, meaningful and viable outputs. We pull upon people from different disciplines such as psychology, user experience and interaction design, data and analytics, software development, art, video and urban design.

Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Find out how here. For more information, you can contact

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