It is hard to deny the positive impact that many credited with genius have contributed to modern society. However, it is interesting that many heralded as genius now, frequently encountered resistance at varying points in their journey for their vision and ambition to be groundbreakingly unique; a goal only achieved by stepping outside of their comfort zone. But isn’t that the essence of innovation - not accepting the status quo in a quest to improve the world as we know it, whilst navigating a landscape often occupied by people resistant to change?
Many characters in the global story of genius share common themes. Each exhibit huge ambition, rooted in honest, often humble beginnings, at times not even the main character in their own story! Each ultimately becomes the protagonist in a wider world narrative, following the momentous impact of their work, finally paying homage to a vision that often only became clear for many with the benefit of hindsight that not all geniuses live to see! Applause and accolades well-earned but how often do we consider what our experience of the world would be without their contributions? For such stalwarts of innovation, the prevailing question was consistently not if but when would they convert the audience to their belief system?
Hackathon 2.0 was the response to our very own innovation quandary; how could we continue to combine our thinking and foster inclusive collaboration across all our workstreams? In the year leading up to the pandemic, our first ServiceNow Hackathon was delivered in person. With 2.0 in the wings, we were faced with the reality that our in-person Hackathon would not happen. With our fast adoption and roll out of MS Teams, we barely missed a beat and quickly changed the event to virtual. Established during the pandemic at a time when digital transformation was accelerating at an unprecedented pace that showed no sign of abating, our response enabled our people to design and build innovative real-time technology solutions for clients and communities across the globe.
The ServiceNow Hackathon was designed to engineer robust communities between subject matter experts and those who may not usually engage with the ServiceNow team. This empowering union was strengthened by a flat hierarchical approach which served as the catalyst for innovation enabling multiple market propositions that can inspire and captivate clients and communities across the globe.
The ServiceNow Hackathon followed the community model. It developed a community around the intended outcomes, which in turn produced the delivery of industry leading solutions. People are at the heart of this philosophy and it is plain to see that people are and will continue to be central to the success of Hackathon.
I am convinced one of the reasons behind Hackathon’s success was rooted in its ability to encourage and embody Inclusion and Diversity providing an opportunity to amplify the organisations often quieter voices. The power of Inclusion and Diversity is not a new realization. 20+ years ago, when Lou Gerstner took the helm at a world leading computer manufacturer, resulting in its famous turnaround, his primary focus was the people, linking diversity goals with business goals. Once the idea had been implemented and sustained, many employees, as interviewed by David A. Thomas for Harvard Business1 Review described “…a significant philosophical shift—from a long tradition of minimizing differences to amplifying them and to seizing on the business opportunities they present…”. Said Gerstner, “It’s about understanding our markets, which are diverse and multicultural.”
The ServiceNow Hackathon 3.0 produced some great results, further reinforced by a resounding call for future events. Through leveraging digital solutions such as automation, predictive analytics, and machine learning, ServiceNow has helped numerous organisations across the globe achieve operational excellence which a Multinational Energy Company and ServiceNow customer concluded “isn’t a destination but an ongoing journey.”
Another customer, a leading US provider of retail lease-purchase solutions that implemented ServiceNow as its IT platform, noted a 75% reduction in call times enabling stores to return to helping customers instead of wrestling with internal processes.
However, despite the multiple success stories, I find myself considering where we would be without the contributions that emerged through this initiative. Feedback from participants post event revealed an interesting theme highlighting people as the centrifugal force behind the initiative’s success.
The ServiceNow Hackathon is an opportunity to provide a platform to our often-unsung heroes who work tirelessly to deliver amazing outcomes. Our Hackathons embody all elements of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion and allow us to look beyond the normal way of working and embrace the people and cultures we work with to drive innovation around very complex issues.
One of my early mentors’ mantra was “change begins at the end of your comfort zone” and this became a personal challenge for me. This mantra is always in the back of my mind and is the reason I find myself in situations where I do not always “fit” the expected mould of what success looks like.
And although that hasn’t stopped me, I often reflect on how it might hinder others who are quieter or not encouraged to step out of their comfort zone as I was. And at what cost? Could these people be the undiscovered geniuses of our era providing valuable contributions and improvements to the world as we know it?
As we look to the future as agents of change, it is important to remember the many examples provided that demonstrate the power diversity of thought provides. It must be our duty to empower all those who are willing, and appreciate that they may not be who or what we typically expect at the onset, but may be a future leader or an all important component of an ecosystem driving change!
In a world that is transforming at such an alarming rate, we should embrace the “new reality” and accept this as an opportunity to look at ourselves, the people we work with and decide how uncomfortable are we ready to be? Or are we content to remain in our comfort zone, where unrealised innovation and growth go to die?
1 Harvard Business Review – September 2004 (David A Thomas) Diversity as Strategy (hbr.org)
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