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What On Earth is a Non-Hackathon?

Here at Ericsson, we host global Hackathons several times every year. In our largest event so far, almost 600 participants across twenty sites around the world developed over 200 ideas for 28 straight hours – a truly inspiring effort!
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In October 2013 some coaches and line managers at Ericsson Finland decided to participate in a Hackathon. The thing is, we didn’t really want to code. So instead, we had the first ever Non-Hackathon – in other words, a non-coding Hackathon. Why would we do this? Because we wanted to concentrate on learning culture and collaborating with the developers who were hacking. As a result, the Learning Lifestyle community was born – and so was a whole new kind of Hackathon. We call them Ericsson Global Hackathons/Non-Hackathons.

Why do we call them that? Because we want our participants to have the opportunity to go beyond the code, to help spur innovation across our global company. Most Hackathon/Non-Hackathon participants are still coding, of course. But we also have teams doing things like coming up with ideas for improving ways of working, and designing new team building activities. This new format is so intriguing we’ve even had leadership teams participating!

The real magic happens when teams work on the same idea from different angles. We’ve had examples of a Hackathon team doing development, while a Non-Hackathon team refines the business case for the idea. This split can turn out to be very valuable, resulting in both getting a Proof of Concept (PoC) done as well as having a strong business case and several use-cases for the idea. The business case and use-cases enabled the team to drive the idea forward, and therefore increased the value of the original idea!

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In the latest Hackathon/Non-Hackathon, I was working together with some Hackathon newbies, Leila and Kati. Together we came up with a whole “Kids who learn” initiative, to teach kids to make apps and websites and to be security-smart. Leila and Kati were participating in a Hackathon/Non-Hackathon for the first time, and were happy to share their experiences:


“The spring Non-Hackathon was the first time ever that I participated in a Hackathon. I had heard about them and seen the demos, but never dared to take part. This time I had a topic in my mind, which I got from discussions started during International Women’s Day, and which was related to Girls in ICT. I wanted to form a code school agenda together with my colleagues. At the end of the Non-Hackathon we had formed three agendas for kids: “Kids who code,” “Kids who innovate,” and “Kids who make apps.” Even after the Non-Hackathon, the ideas have gone further and the wiki page for “Kids who learn” has more and more topics, also containing “Teens who are security smart.” The mission is not only to attract and concentrate on girls, but equally to boys and girls. We need to keep in mind that the girls might need some more encouragement, when discussing about ICT, what it is and that it is for everyone.

The Non-Hackathon itself was well-organized. We started by syncing with other Hackathon sites, and then got started. It was nice to hear what other local teams were attempting, and quite quickly after the opening we started to think up our own topic. We had four participants in our hacking team and we started by writing down all our ideas. Everyone had come with an open mind, and each one of us had the chance to share their ideas. The time really flew by! At the end of the day we had a good structure on the white board. I was not able to participate fully on the second day, so the rest of the team continued and made very good progress.”


“On the second day of the Hackathon we had meetings with different people in our organization who had expertise in one or more of the topics we had planned to teach. The goal of these meetings was to get other’s reactions to our plans, and whether or not they would be interested in sharing their knowledge and organizing the events with us. The feedback was very positive and we got new good ideas. In the afternoon it was time to present the Hackathon/Non-Hackathon demos, and we proudly presented our “Kids who learn” initiative.

The event was interesting and fruitful! It was fun to brainstorm with colleagues and create something new. I had also seen the Hackathons Non-Hackathons before, but didn’t have the courage to participate because I didn’t know any other participants, and wasn’t sure if I could participate. However this time I knew Leila and she had this idea already in mind so it was easy to join.

I encourage everyone to participate in a Hackathon/Non-Hackathon!”

At Ericsson Finland, we had our first Code School for Kids already, back in 2014. Our new concept will ensure that we will continue learning together with our kids.

Once again both the Hackathon and the Non-Hackathon rocked!

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