Driving a culture of innovation

Events such as hackathons help drive a culture of innovation by giving employees the space to free their creativity and stretch their skills and knowledge in new ways, says Simon Bennett, Global Head of Research at AVEVA.

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In today’s ever evolving and competitive business landscape, organizations that foster and encourage innovation will gain the upper hand.

Commonly, in software businesses, it’s those in marketing and sales that are considered an organization’s “creative talent,” but it’s important not to overlook the imagination of all members of the staff including engineers and technologists ­­­– problem-solving itself is a creative process. While they deal with code and logic to solve problems, inspiration and ingenuity exist to think laterally and conquer challenges in new and unique ways.

Providing the space to be creative

Often, however, day-to-day work can stifle creativity. Meetings, calls, and emails can interrupt trains of thought; plus, with the high levels of productivity expected from employees, they often become laser focused on the task at hand. There’s simply no space for thoughts to stray, and often it’s in these moments that creativity has a chance to truly flourish.

This is where hackathons come into play. Events such as these give employees an opportunity to step away from the day job, providing time and a platform to devote themselves to something completely different, stretching their skills and knowledge in new ways.

Experience has shown that for many staff, hackathons become a highlight of their year, a chance to liberate themselves from the daily grind and let their creativity run free. Simply put, they’re fun!

They’re suitable for all employees, not just technical staff, and they not only provide the opportunity to discover new ideas from across the business, but also an opportunity to learn more about the challenges each department is trying to solve.

By involving budget holders and decision makers in the hackathon process its possible for the outcomes to have an even more lasting effect, and what happens after a hackathon is even more exciting. Ideas can be taken and fast-tracked into business plans and development cycles, in time leading to new, improved business processes and/or new solutions for customers.

Driving a culture of innovation

Over the last three years we’ve held six such events at AVEVA, during which 100 teams have come up with 900 ideas. Focusing first on technical teams and then widening the events to include all members of the staff, we’ve continued to be blown away by the concepts that have come out of these events. So far, four ideas have made it into products that are now in the hands of customers, while many others are currently going through our R&D development process.

Aside from the obvious business and customer benefits, it’s also important to note that hackathons are also great platforms for staff recognition. As a way to celebrate employees’ ingenuity, these events are clearly a win-win for all involved.

Innovation events can take many forms, not just hackathons, and businesses should continue to look for new ways employees can work on passion projects or simply free their creativity.

By doing so, they’ll continue to discover new ways of solving old problems and new ideas to transform their customers’ businesses, all while creating new opportunities and innovators from across the business.

simon bennett global head of research aveva

Simon Bennett, Global Head of Research at AVEVA.

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