From CycleHack now reaching over 40 cities across 4 continents, to KnowHow, the Glasgow Service Jam and Culture Shift Athens and Dubai; it has been a busy year for the Snook hack team and we’re only half way through! We are now getting ready for Stirling Futures in August.

Perhaps it is a good time to reflect on the value of hack events/hackathons for organisations. What benefits do organisations – private and public – find in this novel approach?

Experience workplaces that foster innovation

Nesta’s presentation at the Innovation and Prosperity in Scotland Conference explored some of the characteristics of innovative workplaces. These traits are, of course, at the core of successful hacks: interdisciplinary collaboration (Lakhani), low power distance  (Lundwall, 2010) and collaboration between tech and creative practitioners (Nesta, 2011).

Hackers are encouraged to develop an innovation mindset: optimistic, (Sharot, 2015) openness to the experience (2004) and ‘paranoia’ (Nesta, 2014) – in this case, the ticking clock that marks the time for the presentations.

Creating such workplaces is a tall order but hacks allow organisations to experience this environment and take some learning back to base.

Turbo boost development

In today’s fast-paced environment, organisations must innovate to survive. This isn’t just true for the private sector, dealing with competitors and customers’ ever-changing needs, but for the public sector who are faced with providing more services on shrinking budgets.

A hack acts as a time-bound ‘innovation team’. The interdisciplinary teams are challenged by the short timeframe of the event. Mentors are there to help them embed user-centered and design-thinking approaches and come up with ideas and solutions with real potential. Hacks stimulate creativity and regularly generate more ideas in a weekend than would normally emerge in a whole year.

Not only do new ideas come up but they can also be rapidly prototyped and tested. Do they meet users’ need? What do the users think? Can the prototype be refined?

Step out of the office

Hacks are a constructive way for organisations to build or renew relationships with businesses and local communities. Creating something together is a powerful and lasting bond.

It can an eye-opening opportunity to gather insights into customers and citizens’ lives and the challenges they face. It is also a chance to engage and involve them in articulating these issues and co-creating solutions that meet both the needs of the users and the requirements of the organisations.

By engaging with a broad range of participants, organisations are given an opportunity to widen their reach, recruit new talent and form new partnerships.

Develop skills

Where organisations invite their staff, partners and (potential) clients to take part as participants or mentors, it is a unique professional development opportunity to learn-by-doing and acquire experience in design thinking as well as person-centered and co-production approaches. They will rapidly prototype and test ideas and solutions while ‘taking risk’ in a safe environment.

This newly acquired experience may have a ripple effect across their organisation, incrementally spreading change, new ways of doing things and bringing value to the whole eco-system.

The key to success

For a hack to be successful, it should be carefully designed – taking into consideration the needs of participants, organisers and sponsors as well as the expected outcomes.

The Snook hack team can help you create an innovative, exciting and ultimately successful hack from developing your hack-idea to the smooth facilitation of the event.

Providing a space, a theme and lots of pizza might lead to some innovation, but in our experience, the successful delivery of a hack requires a little more:

  • Invite participants with diverse backgrounds and experiences,
  • Challenge them with issues that are crucial to society and the economy,
  • Provide design tools to spark their thinking and creativity,
  • Invite high-caliber mentors to help hone the solutions,
  • Involve real users who co-design and develop ideas as well as provide rapid feedback.


At Snook, we sit down with our clients and discuss the challenges they’re facing in order to outline and adapt a hack/hackathon to their needs. Any questions? Just get in touch, we’ll be happy to share our experience.