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Hackathon Pilot Update #1: Our work begins!

by Chris Grams on March 21, 2011
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Hackathon Pilot Update #1: Our work begins!

I’ve spent the past week preparing for the MIX Hackathon Pilot. As I mentioned in my introductory post, our plan was to take the first week to recruit 10-20 participants.

Well, we’ve blown right through that number. Over fifty of you have raised your hands to volunteer, representing six continents and just about every type of organization you can imagine. The pilot team includes M-Prize winners, CEOs, published authors, and even some folks who are totally new to the MIX. Thanks to each of you for raising your hands, I couldn’t have asked for a more diverse, passionate group of volunteers.

So where do we start?

Define the problem/opportunity

I’ve had great success running projects like this using a design thinking process, and that is precisely what we plan to do here. The first phase of any design thinking project is to define the problem/opportunity, and for this project, we’ve articulated it this way:

Use the Hackathon Pilot to "write the chapter" on how to enable communities of passion in and around our organizations.

As I mentioned in my initial post, we plan to tackle this challenge in four phases. In the first "definition" phase we'll be focused on the following:

What exactly does it mean to enable a community of passion? What are the major “hack zones” where we have plenty of contributed material to work with in the form of existing MIX stories and hacks or where we still have a lot of ground to cover?

By the end of the definition phase, we’ll have a common understanding of the moonshot itself (maybe even resulting in a tweaked definition on this page) and some well-defined hack zones in which we’ll want to work.

So by the end of the first phase, my goal is for the pilot team to complete two projects:

1)    A list of the top “hack zones” where we’ll want to focus our energy.

2)    A clear articulation of the Enable Communities of Passion moonshot that resonates with the pilot team.

Complete the research

In a design thinking project, once you’ve defined the problem/opportunity you plan to address, the next step is to do some research. This usually means reviewing previous attempts to address the problem/opportunity, collecting real-world examples, and discovering leading thinkers and supporters who might be able to help.

Thankfully, the MIX itself is a great place to start. We’ve recruited to the pilot many of the great people who entered the recent Human Capital M-Prize Contest, which was focused on the Enable Communities of Passion moonshot.

So many of our pilot participants have contributed fantastic ideas already. What’s more, in the emails I’ve received from other volunteers, many noted they’ve done previous work enabling communities of passion as well and might have data, information, and experiences they can share.

To see what we’ve already collected on the MIX, I spent most of a weekend reading the complete text of every single entry in the Human Capital M-Prize contest. All told, those of you who entered wrote about 400 pages worth of content including comments.

I wondered whether looking at all of these entries together—looking for the forest rather than the trees—might give me some initial ideas for hack zones around the Enable Communities of Passion moonshot we might explore more deeply.

In my next post, I’ll highlight some of my favorite entries from the M-Prize contest and share an initial prototype of a set of hack zones around the Enable Communities of Passion moonshot based on what I found.

But that's where I'd like the pilot team to take over. My ideas are only a starting point, my hope is the end point will be determined by the pilot team.

It’s not too late to join

If you haven’t yet joined the pilot and would like to participate, it’s not too late. I’ll be sending an email kicking off the project to the pilot team volunteers in the next few days. If you’d like to help, simply do the following:

1)    send me an email: chris(at)

2)    include your MIX user name and links to any place I can learn more about you, LinkedIn page, Twitter account, blog, etc.

If you are already on the team, look for an email from me in the next few days officially kicking off the project. I’ll introduce the team, discuss the collaboration tools we’ll be using, and get the project going.

I’m looking forward to getting to work!

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