How can technology and a group of creative minds help build a more human and truly social enterprise that is designed for the 21st century world and restores trust between business and society? That was the big question tackled by the interdisciplinary Reinvent Business hackathon – a collaborative, rapid ideation and software programming event – we recently hosted our San Francisco studio.
Co-developed by frog and LRN, and in partnership with Blumberg Capital, BSR, Carnegie Mellon University, Cue Ball, Dachis Group, Fast Company, Net Impact, Silicon Valley Bank, and the World Economic Forum, Reinvent Business brought together a diverse group of 150 software developers, designers, gamers, filmmakers, storytellers, and business leaders to design and build innovative products and services that have the capacity to change corporate behavior from within. Based on the belief that social technology and design present a unique opportunity to drive higher levels of transparency, empathy, and self-governance within companies, our goal was to create concepts and prototypes for software applications that translate values and principles into concrete interactions and tangible experiences at the workplace.
The event began on Friday evening with a private reception for participants hosted by Blumberg Capital. The next morning, the official contest kicked off with a rousing speech by LRN founder, chairman, and CEO Dov Seidman (also the author of the book How), who framed the hackathon challenge in philosophical terms and stressed the urgency of creating more humanist businesses: “We need to cultivate the humanity inside of our organizations, deepen the connections between business and society, and shape the kinds of positive behaviors we need in a more interconnected and interdependent world.” “True reinvention can only happen with multiple stakeholders contributing to the solution, sharing their ideas from the bottom up and not just the top down. We believe in the power of convening. Our hope is that by bringing together some of the brightest minds and passionate leaders we can create sustainable ideas for shaping organizations capable of thriving uniquely in the 21st century,” he said.
Inspired by Seidman’s words, frog then facilitated a 45-min immersion activity along five main themes that helped the participants translate a somewhat abstract challenge into a series of specific opportunity areas around which to form teams. Subsequently, the teams (with 7-8 members each) were organized to brainstorm, sketch, design, and code their concepts. A group of frog mentors helped them shape their designs, ensuring the greatest levels of quality, adoptability, and potential for positive impact.
At the end of an intense two days in an extremely crowded San Francisco studio, all 20 teams presented their final concepts to the jury, which comprised of Brian Behlendorf (CTO and Managing Director, World Economic Forum), Alexa Clay (Director, Social Intrapreneurship and New Economy, Ashoka Changemakers, and author of The Misfits Economy), Kathleen Edmond (Chief Ethics Officer, Best Buy), Jim Fruchterman (CEO, Benetech), Ted Howes (Director, Consumer Products and Innovation, BSR), Raj Kapoor (Managing Director, Mayfield Fund), Peter Kim (Chief Strategy Officer, Dachis Group, and author of Social Business By Design), Liz Maw (CEO, Net Impact), Ebele Okobi (Director, Business and Human Rights Program, Yahoo!), Kal Patel (Executive Committee Member, LRN), Joe Werner (Silicon Valley Bank), and Nick de la Mare (Executive Creative Director, frog).
The winning team (which had worked on a web-based platform called SkillCloud) received a $5,000 cash prize from Silicon Valley Bank and a free all-day workshop from frog and LRN to further refine their idea.
The outcome of the hackathon by far exceeded our expectations: We were overwhelmed by the turn-out (we had a long waitlist, and some of the participants had flown in from Mozambique, New Zealand, and Romania for this event), the passion and commitment of everyone involved, the amazing spirit throughout the event, and the enthusiastic feedback afterwards.