Work environments can become stagnant and monotonous, quashing creativity and making unleashing the inner entrepreneur in employees difficult. The habitual regimen of 40+ hours a week, where work consists of building a product out of requirements, can be mentally draining and limiting.

Employees need time to flex their creative sides

At 352 Inc., we have looked for many ways to break the monotony of a typical workday. We're a development shop, so we found our favored solution in the development world: a hackathon. We always push employees to own their work, and the hackathon approach fosters entrepreneurship through internal innovation without compromising the end results.

Hackathons consist of:

  • A change in the everyday environment to maximize creativity. Hackathons suspend all work and projects—even shut down digital devices, such as cell phones.
  • Employees finding solutions to different challenges. Through hackathons, employees are empowered to create their own ideas and solutions, harnessing the freedom to take their product concepts in any direction they see fit.
  • Time constraints that keep the pressure on. Hackathons encourage employees to create and demo a full product in a short period of time (typically three days). Many employees work well in competitive, time-crunch environments.
  • An incentive or prize to work towards. Employees need to be motivated (whether with a bonus, grand prize, or future dividends) to move off client work in a productive way and to be driven to give their absolute best.
  • The opportunity for your employees to take the lead. The power of hackathons is in the teams of employees that come together and work tremendously hard towards a common goal. A hackathon is a great opportunity for employees to demonstrate leadership and teamwork.

We recently hosted our third annual "Race to 352" hackathon, which has become a revered company-building event to focus on projects that excite us.

Here is how and why a hackathon became an integral part of our annual schedule

Many companies attempt to let employees work on personal projects, but others fail to realize the most important step is commitment.

Though the power of the hackathon comes from employees, the opportunity comes from management. Suspending all company work for a hackathon ensures a successful event, as this time allows every employee to participate and contribute to the project development process.

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image of Pete Bernardo

Pete Bernardo is executive vice-president of Strategy at 352 Inc., a digital product development agency specializing in product strategy, user experience design, custom Web development, and digital marketing

LinkedIn: Pete Bernardo