Recently, Facebook held its 50th hackathon, a 24-hour Red Bull- and coffee-infused get-together where coders work on innovative applications or new features for existing products. These kind of events are legendary in Silicon Valley, of course; Facebook isn’t the only company to conduct them. Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, and just about every open-source organization on the planet has been holding hackathons for years.
Why do companies embrace hackathons as a way to help techies develop product ideas but resist the idea of creative people getting together to do something similar to develop content ideas? One explanation could be that companies value hackathons for the output: the code that gets generated. But that can’t be the whole reason. Even at Facebook, where some of the code produced by the hundreds of participants eventually makes its way into the product, the majority of hackathon code never gets used.
In the Fast Company article Exclusive: Inside Facebook’s AI Hackathon, here’s how Facebook’s CTO Mike Schroepfer describes the value of the hackathon: “[The code is] all on one source control repository … I think that enables a level of creativity that in other companies you wouldn’t be able to have, because sometimes they silo off the technology between teams.” The author reports that “over the course of 50 hackathons … the bar has [been] raised for what ships, and it will keep on getting higher.”
If we tweak this wording, we reveal the opportunity that awaits businesses willing to experiment and innovative with content. Imagine saying this someday about your company:
The content is all in one repository, enabling a level of creativity that’s impossible in companies that silo off the content between teams. Over the course of many create-a-thons, we’ve raised the bar for the value of the stories we publish, and that bar will keep getting higher.
Imagine the business impact of raising the bar for what your company publishes.
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