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Talent Assessment | 6 Min Read

Ideathons: Innovation At Speed

What is an Ideathon?

Ideathons are events where people from different backgrounds, such as designers, business strategists, marketers, analysts, etc., come together to brainstorm on a predefined problem statement within a specified time-frame to come up with ideas, solutions, sometimes even a  roadmap, for a product/service/business model. 

While hackathons are more popular within tech communities, ideathons look beyond professions and educational qualifications and focus on innovation, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking. Ideathons are great ideation tools to get solutions to longstanding business problems, it could be designing a logo, revamping a website, coming up with a brand/product tagline, creating a prototype of an app, etc.

In a world striving for digital transformation, more and more companies are exploring new avenues for innovation, and thus, ideathons and hackathons have been gaining popularity, serving as innovation ideas platforms.

The Importance of an Ideathon as an Innovation Platform

New ideas are the bedrock of innovation. Organizations are always in need of new perspectives and ideas to evolve. A great way for any organization to have a breakthrough is by crowdsourcing ideas and getting new perspectives through different ideation tools and platforms.

Ideathons are a classic example of the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ phenomenon, which can be dated back to Aristotle. One of the most common examples of this is a contest to estimate the weight of an ox at a country fair in Plymouth in 1906. 800 people participated in it and statisticians observed that the median guess was closer to the actual weight of the ox. The median came to be within 1% of the actual weight, while no individual guesses came so close.

It stressed on the importance of teamwork and the collective ability of a group to always give better results and solutions. Thus, ideathons are a great way to innovate a business problem/product/service by inspiring the participants with the right theme and problem statement.

Automation and digital transformation are affecting businesses of all domains. Ideathons, and even hackathons to some extent, are not just for a limited group today. Every business is relying on innovation and technology directly or indirectly. In a customer-driven market like today, more and more companies want to use innovation to understand customer psyche better to be able to track usability, personalize their experience, and build more customer-friendly and dynamic products. Ideathons provide your business with an innovation platform by bringing together the best minds.

Ideathons and hackathons are increasingly becoming a norm in the industry as they provide a playground for problem solvers to explore endless possibilities and deep dive for a fixed but continuous stretch of time. Usually, a minimum viable product or MVP, or even a solution roadmap, takes months of planning and execution. However, what makes ideathons and hackathons unique are their ability to brainstorm a solution in one-tenth of that time. There is hardly any other situation that nearly produces the same result as this.

Ideathons don’t just guarantee innovation, they guarantee innovation at speed, which is exactly what the world of business needs right now. The agility of an ideathon or a hackathon is exceptional.

Innovation can also be affected by heterogeneity. With an online ideathon, conducted on a robust ideation software, you can solve for diversity and bring together people from different walks of life, scattered across the globe, and address a problem that affects a larger community.

A reliable solution for continuous innovation, ideathons prove to be quite advantageous and effective in a world where innovation and creative thinking are linked to the growth and success of businesses.

Factors Impacting Innovation - The Problem Statement

Ideathons are a reservoir of innovation, and only a good problem statement can produce the desired result. Identify your target audience, the type of ideathon you want to conduct, and the mode of its engagement.

With innovation as your larger objective, involve your organization’s leadership in the process to bring a visionary angle to the discussion and think ahead in terms of the future business roadmap.

Choosing a problem statement that a wider audience can relate to will ensure whole-hearted solutions, a better participation rate, and a deeper level of engagement. The problem statement is important for both the organizers as well as the participants. A good problem statement embodies the wider objective of the ideathon that inspires participants to create an innovative solution that solves a real need.

Here are a few tips on how to hit the target with your problem statement:

  • Tie the problem statement with the eventual impact, for it to be actionable.
  • If you are looking at benefitting your product/business with this ideathon, make sure to interact with the stakeholders to identify topics that the business needs innovation in.
  • Make sure your problem statement arises a sense of interest and curiosity in the participants. Get your marketing team on board to give words to your ideas that communicate effectively.
  • Answer all the questions related to your objective and the problem statement at hand - what, why, its need, its use case, its importance, etc.
  • Build credibility by providing data or resources that support your problem statement. It could be a preliminary reading provided to the participants.

The problem statement needs to cover the current state of the situation at hand, the final impact, and where the gap lies. For this, define the theme – it could be a social problem, a business obstacle, a trending industry topic, etc. It is likely that you have enough research and insights around the industry your business functions in. Put these market insights to use when deciding your theme and problem statement, and then let participants surprise you with their innovative solutions.

Every ideathon is distinctive and your organization can bring its own uniqueness to the table with the kind of problem statement you put forth that fuels the process of innovation.

How Mercer | Mettl Can Help?

Xathon, Mercer | Mettl’s innovation software, is an ideation platform that facilitates collaboration and innovation. Mercer | Mettl’s offerings don’t just limit themselves with an easy-to-use ideation platform with stellar built-in features, but one also gets access to Mercer | Mettl’s subject matter experts who can help devise the perfect problem statement that helps organizations look beyond the periphery of their innovation process.

Conduct an ideathon, promote innovation!

Choose Xathon, facilitate innovation!

Originally published September 3 2019, Updated August 6 2020

Bhuvi Kathpalia

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

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