How Can a Hackathon Change Company Culture?

It is clear that in most industries, technology is the main way that companies differentiate themselves from their competition. What does a hackathon teach us to help drive innovation culture to create new technologies and make our products and services even smarter?

February 19, 2019 by Fuse

How Can a Hackathon Change Company Culture?

It is clear that in most industries, technology is the main way that companies differentiate themselves from their competition. What does a hackathon teach us to help drive innovation culture to create new technologies and make our products and services even smarter?

It is clear that in most industries, technology is the main way that companies differentiate themselves from their competition. In the ag industry, we are seeing the same trend.

AGCO has implemented IoT into our manufacturing sites where productivity and product quality have drastically improved. We also have put emphasis on designing machines that enable smart farming.

However, therein lies the question: What is the formula to continue to drive innovation culture to create new technologies and make our products and services even smarter?

Matt Wong, Director of Fuse Product Strategy in North America, mentoring the students participating the AGCO Hackathon, Feb 2. 2019.

I had the pleasure of attending AGCO’s first ever hackathon over the weekend of February 2-3 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I presented one of the four hackathon challenges. While I would have loved to compete for some of the great prizes, I was most excited to see how students would approach challenges that AGCO is trying to solve today.

It was refreshing to step away from the office and see the energy and new ideas that the students brought. In 24 hours, over 60 students broken into 14 groups made working project prototypes that ultimately answered the challenges that were presented. Admittedly, I was a bit jealous of the working atmosphere—no meetings, administrative tasks, or emails to answer. The focus was directly on solving the problem at hand through the creation of something completely new. I was thinking to myself, “How do we bottle this innovative atmosphere and bring it to the corporate world?”

While I do not foresee my work schedule transitioning to working 24-hour sprints on the weekends any time soon, it is a good learning experience for AGCO to sponsor these types of activities. Bringing in fresh ideas is only part of the benefit that AGCO receives—it brings a different perspective on how we can manage and drive innovation.

Going back to my question above:

“What is the formula to continue to drive innovation culture to create new technologies and make our products and services even smarter?”

As technology continues to evolve, our company culture will need to evolve along with it. While I do not think hackathons (or similar exercises) will replace normal workdays, they can play a critical part in how we think about managing innovation.

Looking back, I see a few common innovative themes from the hackathon:

Tom More, Data Analyst for Fuse North America, presenting AgCommand, Feb 2. 2019.
  • Lack of distractions – the ability to focus on one task for a sustained duration
  • Motivation beyond prizes—the prospect of creating something great
  • No penalty for failing
  • Access to subject matter experts that are only a few feet away
  • Freedom to choose which project to work on

All too often, we rely on our own tribal knowledge, let emails and phone calls distract us, and focus too much on the daily tasks instead of the long-term objectives. And yet, no one is stopping us from working on something beyond our job scope. It’s also critical to stay in sync with customer needs, soliciting feedback early in the development process, and often. This hackathon has proven to be a highly useful exercise that broadens our perspective on how to problem solve and focus on long term objectives – on our relentless pursuit of enabling smart farms that help our customers be more profitable and efficient. This is something that will stick with me as I have the opportunity to work on projects that have the potential to be something great. I’m looking forward to the next #AGCOhack!

Written By: Tom More, Data Analyst for Fuse North America. Connect with Tom on Twitter @tmore027 or LinkedIn.

To learn more about Fuse. Visit https://www.FuseSmartFarming.com

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