Blown Over by the Windy City

Blown Over by the Windy City

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4 min read

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As it turns out, posts containing "hackathon" perform even worse than those beginning with "ETH".

It's also possible that labeling events in terms of a "geneous" are also detrimental to readership numbers.

Eh, or it's the weekend. 🤷‍♂️

Let's reflect.

Big Dreams with Emphasis on Deadlines

ETH Chicago resulted in approximately 16 teams presenting projects with a focus on public goods and digital solutions for creatives. Projects included a decentralized international payment solution, emails that pay the recipient for replying, a creative dashboard for creative analysts, a governance app to give autonomy back to neighborhoods, and a housing solution that massively reduces waste and can be flawlessly constructed in days by three people.

Potentially world-changing products, all generated inside of three days on one city block in downtown Chicago.

A sprint that demands little sleep is generally not advised for long stretches. However, artificially intensified conditions can be an excellent way to generate an MVP. Receiving immediate feedback from industry experts is an added bonus.

I find hackathons exciting. I've enjoyed participating in them as a hacker, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to the community as a mentor and volunteer.

What Works Well and What Needs Improving

Clear, direct communication should not be underrated.

On the first night of the hack, a team approached me for structural advice. I asked for the 30-second elevator pitch and they delivered. As a team of only engineers, I advised them on design thinking and emphasized the need to focus on the core MVP.

Another hacker arrived with a brilliant idea that could revolutionize the way we build and purchase homes.

However, the idea was so big, he could talk about it for 15 minutes and leave your head spinning. His idea is grandiose and has been proven with a prototype, but he's been unable to distill his vision into a succinct story that helps others get on board easily.

Communication is a difficult, but vital skill.

My most successful hackathon experiences have begun with discussions that allow everyone to share who they are, what they hope to get out of the event, what type of problem they'd like to solve and develop consensus around a specific problem to address.

Back to The Comfort Zone

I talked about this yesterday, and I'll say it again (because only one person read it, assuming they made it that far), hackathons force participants to stretch out of their comfort zones. And I love that!

There's growth outside of the comfort zone.

To obtain what one has never had, one must do what they have never done.

Hackathons force participants to stretch, learn, build, and publish.

Learn, Build, Publish is a pattern I talk about often and live by. That's what these daily posts are all about! (Although I probably need to inject more learning into these articles. We'll get there...)

Taking Care of Team Members

Teams that take care of one another outperform groups that our inwardly focused.

Hackathons create artificially stressful conditions.

Understanding how each team member reacts under stress will help your team proactively compensate for one another's shortcomings.

A little empathy can go a long way.

Rather than becoming frustrated when things don't go as hoped, an empathetic team can choose to have grace. That single choice can make the difference in creating space to think of a new solution, or tail spinning into oblivion.

Meet Someone New

I also love hackathons because they have the power to bring wildly different people who share an overarching similar interest together.

Attending hackathons has allowed me to become friends with multiple persona types that I likely wouldn't have had the chance to interact with otherwise. It's allowed me to befriend founders, engineering geniuses, and mind-blowing creative artists.

And it's also nice, because, if all these amazing people enjoy talking and working with me, then it's an affirmation that I must present something of value, as well. (of course;)

Sign up for a Hackathon

So what are you waiting for? Be like this person in the photo directly above and find an upcoming hackathon; then join it!

Preferably, go to an in-person event that takes place over a weekend.

Throw yourself into the opportunity and test your abilities with a team of strangers who are destined to become friends.