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Interview: Assunta Cucca, Tesco.com

Techniques

Popular for fast-building and prototyping new concepts, hackathons are also great for building a team’s collective creativity. People put their individual skills to use for the benefit of the group, and rally around to produce something tangible before an impending deadline. Getting a group of talented and creative people together in a focused and fun environment can also work wonders for morale, and can create a sense of meaning and achievement as they work effectively together and see instant results.

We were thrilled when Tesco.com’s entire innovation team booked themselves onto one of our open workshops last year. We’ve kept in touch since, and when we heard they were planning a 24-hour hackathon of their own at their Welwyn Garden City HQ, we got the lowdown from innovation manager Assunta Cucca.

Who attended the Hackathon?
The Hackathon was opened to everyone in Tesco (business), and was also attended by our design agency Ribot, plus people from DunnHumbyBlinkBox and WE7. We had about 70 people from all different parts of the business (developers, PM, designers etc.), a judges’ panel composed of senior managers and directors, and an audience of about hundred people watching the final ceremony from different corners of the office.

What were your hopes for it?
As a part of our mission of fostering a culture of innovation, the aim of the event was to create a space and time for our people to build something cool and innovative without the constraints of work deadlines. We aimed to engage not just developers, but also people without any coding skills and to also encourage knowledge sharing, collaboration and work across teams.

How long did it take to plan?
About 3 months after approving the date.

Did you take inspiration from any particular past hackathons?
The Hackathon is a popular event among tech companies; however it was a new concept for Tesco until last year when we ran the first one. We always get inspiration from what is outside, but in terms of format we tried to follow the one that better suited our people. We ran it in the office, across 24-hours; we gave a very general topic (Enhance customer experience and/or make Tesco a better workplace), food, drinks were sponsored by Coca Cola. Lots of fun!

At the end of the 24-hours the teams had 3 minutes to present their hacks in front of a judges’ panel. The hacks were judged based on the technology used, level of implementation, creativity, wow factor, boldness, and originality. The best 6 were rewarded with prizes.

What was ‘hacked’, and what were the results?
Secret I am afraid! However, generally speaking there were a couple of hacks which aimed to make navigating around our campus much easier and enjoyable; another one that could keep track of the daily mood of the employees; a service that allows you to compare product prizes in store. The winner hack allowed you to manage your basket at the check-out making it healthier or cheaper. No more info available for now!

Did you get anything else from it other than innovation? i.e. motivation, team bonding etc.
Yes. Collaboration; team bonding; engagement; inspiration; buzz. The energy that the Hackathon created can still be felt now.

Does the hackathon fit into any other creative culture initiatives? What else is planned?
Secret again! But, the Hackathon is just one of the innovation events we run with the aim of fostering a culture of Innovation at Tesco. We run Lunch & Learn sessions for example, all around the business, inviting external companies such as Mozilla and Arup to share with us their innovation knowledge and ideas. We are also working on defining and producing ideation tools to allow our people to contribute with ideas. More exciting stuff to come.

Many thanks to Assunta & Tesco.com for speaking to us.

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