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A Practical Guide to Ideathons

Talent Assessment | 6 Min Read

A Practical Guide to Ideathons

Successful companies globally attest to the fact that innovation is the cornerstone of organizational growth. Modern-day businesses are usually playing catch up with fast-evolving consumer preferences and technological advances, mandating continual amelioration of processes and products to retain their competitive advantage. 

It is equally true that innovation cannot be undertaken daily or alongside routine undertakings, as it requires unwavering focus and attention to detail. Therefore, numerous organizations are setting aside time to utilize innovation platforms such as ideathons to foster a culture of intra-organizational collaboration and ideation. Some others are also employing these ideation platforms for brand building and recruitment. 

The onset of remote work has changed the nature of work, resulting in dwindling employee engagement and motivation levels. For many employees, learning has taken a backseat as they become accustomed to the demands of the new ‘normal.’ The ease of collaborating and ideating with colleagues is no longer viable given the ongoing pandemic, which calls for greater focus on creativity and innovation. Organizations must invest in employee engagement innovations, and ideathons are a sure-shot way to get the ball rolling!


What Is an Ideathon?

Ideathons are intensive brainstorming events where individuals from different backgrounds, skills and interests converge to diagnose predefined problems, identify the best opportunities and ideate the most viable solution. An ideathon may require just ideas, a solution, a roadmap or an actionable plan. Ideathons are typically time-bound, spanning a few hours to a couple of days. 

Many corporates use ideathons as an innovation platform for internal and external competitions. Internal ideathons focus on employee engagement, team building and solving a longstanding business problem. External ideathons are mostly employed during campus recruitment to establish brand connect with fresh graduates. Participants usually work in teams, present multiple ideas and solutions, subsequently working toward the most suitable of the lot. An ideathon provides opportunities to learn, collaborate, innovate and change.

The corporate world is striving to shift all its processes online. An increasing number of companies are exploring avenues to achieve digital transformation. Thus, ideathons and hackathons have been gaining popularity, serving as great innovation ideas platforms.


The Importance of an Ideathon

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 achieve a breakthrough is by crowdsourcing ideas and getting new perspectives through different ideation tools and platforms.


Importance of an Ideathon


Ideathons emphasize the importance of teamwork and a group’s collective ability to always offer better results and solutions. Thus, they 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 in all domains. Ideathons, and even hackathons, to an extent, are not just for a limited group today. Every business is relying on innovation and technology, directly or indirectly. In the current customer-driven market, an increasing number of companies want to use innovation to understand the customer psyche better, to track usability, personalize their experiences 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 period. Usually, a minimum viable product (MVP), or even a solution roadmap, takes months of planning and execution. However, what makes ideathons unique is their ability to enable brainstorming a solution in a much shorter timeframe. There is hardly any parallel to such an enabler that nearly produces the same result.


Ideathons don’t just guarantee innovation; they guarantee innovation at speed, precisely what the world of business needs right now. Ideathons offer exceptional agility.

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.


Benefits of an Ideathon

While hackathons have been 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 find solutions to long-standing business problems. It could be designing a logo, revamping a website, coming up with a brand/product tagline or creating a prototype, etc.

Ideathons is a great way to make inroads into campuses and build a brand connect with talented young graduates. With the right marketing and problem statement, you can attract participants, assess them on a range of skills and competencies, even shortlist them for jobs or internships. Many organizations invest in ideathon contests to find critical thinkers, innovators and leading analytical business minds, especially in B-schools.

The ongoing pandemic has altered established norms, most notably the way work is conducted in offices. ‘Work from home’ has assumed center stage and become the new normal. However, the development has its pitfalls too. Employees often feel disconnected from the organization’s vision, working in isolation without being in physical proximity to their colleagues. Ideathons present a great opportunity to give employees a much-needed pause, connect with their colleagues, and devise ingenious ideas and breakthroughs, benefitting both the organization and the employees. Ideathons are excellent forums to foster internal collaboration, encourage employees to move away from their usual routine, and ideate in a focused manner.

Ideathons are no longer an executioner’s nightmare. With the availability of virtual corporate innovation platforms and idea management software packages, ideathons are all about convenient innovation. Campuses or corporates can easily conduct online ideathon contests for engagement.

Innovation can also be affected by heterogeneity. With an online ideathon conducted on robust ideation software, you can solve for diversity and bring together people from different walks of life from the world over. You can address a problem affecting larger communities.

People can surprise you with their ideas. Ideathons provide the perfect platform to listen to ideas and act on the best ones. Ideathons can also be used to engage customers in return for coupons, cash prizes, etc.


How to Choose the Right Innovation Platform to Conduct an Ideathon

Depending on your ideathon themes, the use case and objectives, the right innovation platform should cater to formats for crowdsourcing ideas, team collaboration & engagement and idea-sharing.


Types of Ideathons


A task-specific ideathon, as the name suggests, revolves around a specific task. A perfect ideathon example for this is the famous Lays campaign, where consumers were invited to participate and come up with a new flavor of chips. An open-ended ideathon is where all new ideas are welcome. For example, an organization opens the forum for ideas on improving customer service.

An end-to-end idea management system can be employed for hosting both kinds of ideathons online. This innovation software needs to support the ideation and the innovation process.

features and functionalities


Factors Impacting Innovation - The Problem Statement

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

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

Choosing a problem statement related to a wider audience will ensure enthusiastic solutions, a better participation rate and deeper engagement. The problem statement is important for both the organizers and the participants. A good problem statement embodies the wider objective of the ideathon, inspiring 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 to make it actionable.
  • If you are looking at benefitting your product/business with this ideathon, ensure to interact with the stakeholders to identify business topics that need innovation.
  • Ensure your problem statement arises participants’ interest and curiosity - onboard your marketing team to give words to your idea that communicates effectively.
  • Answer all the questions related to your objective and the problem statement - 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, the final impact and where the gaps lie. For this, define the ideathon 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 on your industry’s business functions. You must use these market insights when deciding your theme and the problem statement. Afterward, let the participants surprise you with their innovative solutions.

Every ideathon is distinctive, and your organization can lend its uniqueness to the nature of the problem statement, fuelling innovation.


Xathon: The Most Seamless Innovation Platform

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


Mercer | Mettl’s ideation tools are fully customizable for ease-of-use of both participants and organizers. It lets you set up and launch your own ideathon with just a few clicks. Mercer | Mettl’s ideathon platform is a one-of-its-kind tool. It supports use cases, such as crowd-sourced idea generation, collaboration, idea sharing, engagement and shortlisting via voting, rating and commenting on ideas.


To organize your next ideathon, all you need to do


Admin view


Participant view





Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject:


How to run an ideathon?

To run an ideathon, all you need to do is:

  • Come up with an engaging problem statement. 
  • Create an event page.
  • Invite registrations.
  • Define stages, rules and the number of ideas each team/individual can submit.
  • Let participants share their ideas on social media for upvotes and footprint.
  • Take complete control of the ideathon, sort ideas based on top votes/rating/timestamp and shortlist or reject ideas.
  • Set parameters, assign judges and announce the results.


What are innovation platforms? 

Innovation platforms, also known as innovation software or idea management software, are tools that support the process of ideation and innovation. They facilitate brainstorming, collaboration, refinement, and prototyping for organizational growth. Organizations can use innovation platforms for internal and external competitions to achieve employee engagement, brand building, even recruitment. Ideation software tools make conducting ideathons easily manageable and trackable.


Originally published September 3 2019, Updated August 5 2021

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.

About This Topic

A hackathon or ideathon is an event where people with different skill sets come together to solve predefined challenges within a specified time frame. Ideathons and hackathons are increasingly being used for corporate branding, hiring at speed, innovating and engaging employees.

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