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Ideas are the easiest part of the innovator’s journey. But not every idea is worth its weight in gold. Even if it springs ready-formed from the musings of Elon Musk. For an idea to have any currency. For it to be investible or credible there needs to be something more than just an idea.

And bringing an idea to life involves risk.

First up, it often involves an investment of some kind. It will take time, resources and/or cash. It will require focus and attention – which means that something else in your life will suffer. And it also means risking your idea in the great contestable space of “the market”.

But this is where hackathons – specifically corporate hackathons – come into their own. In these loosely framed, tightly focused events, ideas are squeezed into life. In a matter of hours, not weeks or months, hackathon teams can form, address a challenge and produce not just an idea but a prototype, a demonstrable app or platform – and a team that has proven it can work together under duress.

The safe space for innovation

But for businesses and “innovation brands”, hackathons produce far more value. We call it the eight secret benefits of hackathons and they range from the obvious (new products, innovation programs) to the unexpected (talent, sourcing and procurement) and more. But perhaps most vitally, hackathons create a new form of culture – a safe space for innovation.

Most business cultures are designed for optimisation. This means that any form of disruption – even in the guise of incremental innovation – can be viewed with suspicion. For this innovation will change the delicate optimisation that teams, processes and hierarchies have been designed for. And this means that innovation is always at risk.

But hackathons provide a new way to break out of this form of cultural complacency. By removing your teams from their physical locations, exposing them to new ways of working and to people and expertise beyond the four walls of the enterprise, you can begin the long process of “culture shift”.

PharmHack – new innovation in an old industry

One of the amazing outcomes of PharmHack – the world’s first pharmacy hackathon that we co-hosted with digital pharmacy consultancy, HealthClick – was the step change that we say in the participating teams. Bringing together pharmacists, designers, developers and marketers meant creating new forms of teaming not usually found in the pharmacy industry. And as PharmHack founder, Sabrine Elkhodr explains, it’s about creating a safe space to innovate in an industry facing disruption.

And if the pharmacy industry can tackle the challenge of disruption, yours can too.