As many of you know, I found a love for hack-a-thons after participating in a company sponsored event focused on mobile app development. I learned a lot and found some useful tips in how the hack-a-thon concept can translate well into any field, not just the techie side of your business.
Over the weekend I participated in another hack-a-thon: the Global Service Jam right here in Kansas City. The event attracted around 15-20 young professionals from the area with a variety of skill sets, but one common goal: “stop talking” and “start building”
The Global Service Jam is a world-wide organization with participants in over 100 cities working toward a solution within a common theme. This year’s theme was “Grow^” (which our group interpreted as “Grow Up”). From there it was up to us to define a problem related to the “Grow Up” theme and begin building a solution. My team focused in on increasing financial acumen among young children (helping them “Grow Up” financially). We aimed to develop a service that would allow parents to include their children in real world financial decisions, not just abstract conversations about money or allowances.
Over the next 48 hours we went to work; defining a target customer, thinking through a whole bunch of prototypes and eventually narrowing our focus to the grocery store and all of the teachable moments that live within that eco-system. We built a prototype application that breaks shopping trips into three categories related to financial acumen, utilizing two cute monsters by the name of Eenie and Meenie to keep the child engaged:
1) Needs vs. Wants – Creating the grocery list adhering to a shopping budget
2) Cost & Value – Comparison shopping in store
3) Feedback & Reward – Total target to budget and savings
We produced a VERY poorly acted video showcasing a shopping trip before and after our solution:
Needless to say….I had a blast. I went into this with a little apprehension, knowing that my precious weekend was basically shot. I justified the trade-off hoping to push my skills to the limit, comfortable with the fact that I would be extremely aggressive and never worry about failure as an outcome (something most of us aren’t OK with in our day jobs).
In addition, I made some connections that will last a lifetime with some EXTREMELY talented people from the KC area. When you put a whole bunch of people in a room who are willing to gamble their weekend away to an opportunity like this…amazing things happen.
What happens next is the key… Hack-a-thons are a blast for rapid prototyping, product/service development and a little personal discovery. You’re completely spent mentally and you walk away with something tangible to show people. Turning that tangible thing into something commercially viable is the next bridge to cross…but that will be the subject of my next blog post :-)
Thank you to the Global Service Jam organization, thank you to the local KC chapter, and more than anything…thank you to the VERY talented people who decided to give up a weekend to come hack with me. I’ll never forget it!
Follow the Kansas City Global Service Jam organization for announcements on the Fall Jam…..I’ll be there. If you want to DO SOMETHING, you should be too: