Band of Hackers – The power of collaboration

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants ” – Isaac Newton

Last week we held a very successful hackathon at work. Employees pitched their ideas and recruited team members. Teams had a week to build the idea and then present the finished product on the final day for judging. The ideas were incredible and reaffirmed the belief I have that people who are empowered will self motivate, hold themselves accountable and create amazing results.

Another lesson for me was how fun and creative it can be to have people from different product groups team up and work towards a common goal. It was inspiring to watch diverse teams crouching over computer screens hashing out ideas, debating pros and cons while also having a laugh. Maybe even more important than the brilliant creations were the new friendships and working relationships that were forged during the week.

It got me thinking about teamwork in general. Collaboration and shared memories are so beneficial and integral to building strong relationships. Travelling and exploring a new city with friends is so much more fun than a solo experience. It’s the shared memories that make relationships stronger and are the kindle for new friendships. It’s the same with sport…and it doesn’t have to be a team sport either. It’s more about exploring something with like minded people. Take a yoga class for example. Some of the most productive classes are where the entire class synchronizes. The synchronicity increases the energy in the room and everyone benefits. When someone gets impatient, breaks rank and moves into the next pose before the group it throws off the rhythm of the class and actually fragments the energy. It’s the same as cycling, The pack breaks the headwind and conserves energy…everyone wins.

Individual customization is what everyone is doing right now, we are constantly being asked to create solo silos, and position yourself as an individual contributor. It’s good to remind ourselves about the power of team effort. When there’s synchronization it it’s like adding rocket fuel to the fire…the energy produced is mind blowing.

A group environment will always have challenges and compromises but most of the time you’ll be more productive and more importantly you’ll probably make some great friends, have shared experiences and meet new people along the way who may even teach you a thing or two.

Move on to the next question

A good rule when writing an exam is to attempt all the questions. There are easy points in every question and the majority are scored in the first 40% of time spent, after that you experience diminishing returns. Estimate time per question then be super disciplined and stick to the clock. It’s always tempting to noodle with that final math solution and so so hard to cut your losses and move to the next question. We become fixated with the final solution and lose sight of the goal, which is to pass the exam. It’s a great example of over optimization.

People over optimize in their careers all the time. They stay in the same role far too long and stop learning or being challenged. Think about how much we all learn during the early stages of a new role…new responsibilities, new negotiations and new connections…it’s some pretty serious brain yoga. Moving on means walking into a new orchard with easy pickings on the learning front.

It shouldn’t be seen as cutting your losses, but more as taking an opportunity to bank your wins and keep going forward.

Take a look at the clock, it might be time to turn the page and start the next question.