Hackathons Do Not Grow Radishes • Derek Cheshire

ByKaryl Bilotto

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hackathons do not grow radishes

Hackathons! I bet you have noticed posts about them or maybe even been to a few.

They can be fun, they can even help young entrepreneurs get a feel for getting into the world of business.

Some produce good ideas, but fundamentally they are rubbish.

So why do I think they are bad? It will most certainly not be everyone’s opinion but here is mine. I’d like to hear yours too so please get in touch with your comments.

Are there pros and cons? Yes of course and here are the main points you will discover after doing a little research:


Students and employees can experiment with or learn skills that they would not be able to do in a classroom or lecture room. They are easy to organise and most people know (vaguely) what they are.


If held within an organisation they can be a distraction from the real issues facing it. They tend to be formulaic and not representative of real world situations. Goals can be unrealistic and the whole situation stressful. They also develop a herd mentality (not quite groupthink). Also, research shows that the output of very few hackathons ever sees the light of day.

So what is the answer? Well first of all we should address real problems, I find it useful when assessing the innovation potential of a business to highlight one or two problem areas that are suitable for problem solving amongst the workforce. Assuming that management provides support, employees become engaged and the results usually work out.

Many businesses simply recognise the existence of ideas and give their employees the time and resources to develop them. Almost anything is possible!

High value is created when you solve a problem. Maybe you solve a business problem in which case a business (or businesses) might pay you some money. But there are other problems such as availability of medicines, food, clean water, decent housing etc.

So if you are a school, college or community group then why not take one of the above?

You might say that the answer to these already exists, grow more, make more etc but innovation needs to happen. Things can be produced locally (but maybe in a different way) or perhaps the supply chain requires a change.

However, you look at it there are problems to be solved – everywhere, and wherever you solve a problem value will always be created.

As one of my network commented the other day ‘hackathons do not grow radishes’.

Let’s talk about setting up a challenge for you …