Over the weekend I attended an amazing event held by TechStars called a Startup Weekend. The gist of the event was to generate an idea and develop it into a company pitch within a 54-hour window (Friday night to Sunday night). I was awestruck at the organizers' ability to facilitate the event and drive entrepreneurship and innovation in such a tight window.
The teams that formed varied quite a bit. Some knew each other before the event started. Others were strangers. Ages varied from kids to older adults. Backgrounds varied from tech savvy, to business minded, and to general interest. All of these people came together and accomplished a monumental task. It was even more shocking to learn that these events were happening simultaneously around the globe. Overall I was most impressed with the event's ability to teach entrepreneurship in that amount of time. No matter if the ideas presented become businesses or not, each participant now has the knowledge needed to generate a business idea.
The teams were also quite innovative. One team, the winner, developed a model and proof of concept to recycle lint. They even went so far as to 3-D print with lint. Another team, composed primarily of kids, developed an idea for an alarm clock that cannot be disabled while a person remains in bed. Another developed the groundwork to utilize AI and machine learning to optimize bus routes that could result in expense reduction.
My observations of this event lead me to believe that there is an opportunity for corporations to learn from events like this. Imagine what could be accomplished utilizing this same technique.
To implement this technique in the corporate world I would recommend the following:
- Diverse ages - try to have four generations on each team. This will give some very diverse view points for the task. An older person may have a problem that hasn't been solved in their lifetime that a young person would immediately know a solution for. Conversely a young person may see a problem that an older person knows was solved many years ago.
- Diverse backgrounds - your best tech idea may come from someone that has no tech background. A tech person may think of a very non-techy solution to a problem. Definitely do not limit this to a team of 'innovators.'
- Open forum - do not bring ranks into the teams. This should be a very open minded event.
- Open ideas - this is a creative process. Do not assume that any idea is bad. Any idea can pivot at any point and become your next great breakthrough.
- Deadlines - the goal here should not be perfection. Without strict deadlines teams could stagnate looking to perfect the solution.