A hackathon to innovate the world of work

Published on Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Remote working has many advantages. But when the pandemic made it a necessity, Enel questioned how it could be possible to recreate the spontaneity of informal relationships that is so important in the work environment to circulate new ideas and create moments of serendipity – those happy discoveries made seemingly by chance. This was the reason behind the creation of the hackathon “Design for Sustainable Social Interactions”, organized by our Group from November 30 to December 4 and involving 50 participants (internal and external) committed to finding innovative and sustainable solutions.

Alessia Sterpetti, Head of Open Innovation Culture and Idea Hub, explained how the choice of this methodology is one of many examples of Open Innovation that, as a company, we have been driving forward since 2015. Innovating together and sharing different perspectives certainly gives good results: our ecosystem is open to the outside because ideas really can come from anywhere. The hackathon is an additional tool alongside the Enel Innovation Hubs that scout for startups, crowdfunding through the OpenInnovability® platform and the Idea Factory to stimulate creativity among our colleagues.

Nevertheless, every innovation must be sustainable; in fact, sustainability is both an accelerator and the driving force of our openness to new ideas. A hackathon, from this perspective, offers opportunities to come up with solutions quickly, encouraging the meeting of minds from inside and outside the company, leading – as in this case – to fruitful results.

The winning project was (b)e-curious, designed by Marta Collu, Alberto De Bin, Hend Elayek, Fabio Gabbarelli and Giovanna Resende de Menezes. Convinced of the necessity to reorganize corporate work, which is increasingly becoming remote working, the group concentrated on learning and training: seeing serendipity as a “chance” encounter, one that always presupposes a keenness to learn and discover. The application (b)e-curious, designed during the hackathon, was created to allow users to find a colleague available for a brief meeting, a quick chat, or a shadowing opportunity, online or in-person, by entering key words related to a question, a need or simple curiosity. Whether it’s the desire to learn about topics from another sector, meet new colleagues or solve a work-related problem, this app generates informal relationships and exchanges of ideas in a simple, fast and efficient way.

In second place was Linkeable team, created by Giulia Altobelli, Sara Solfaroli Camillocci, Alessandro Fantacci, Enrica Fiore and Gabriele Ianzano, with T.O.M. (Time On Me), a platform capable of replacing in-person time with quality time.

Third place went to the team The timelo(o)sers, consisting of Matteo Cepale, Valentina Mantovani, Irene Patria, Veronica Polverelli and Dejan Trajkovic, with the project Recreate.

The presence of multi-disciplinary and mixed teams – each group contained two Enel employees and three external participants selected through an open application process – has undoubtedly fostered creative development and the birth of innovative ideas, but also tangible, sustainable and feasible ones, aimed at enabling rich and engaging social interactions between colleagues. The projects were examined by a jury composed of Enel staff, who judged the projects based on five criteria: the research (both initial and that used to validate the prototype), the “wow” factor, the quality of the presentation, the feasibility and the positive social impact. It was difficult to choose the winners since all ten groups harnessed their enthusiasm and creativity to produce innovative ideas.

 “Innovation is part of Enel’s company culture and is one of the company’s core values, together with trust, responsibility and proactivity,” stressed Carlo Albini, Head of Innovability® People and Organization, Innovation & Sustainability, who took part in the hackathon as a member of the jury. “Involving internal Enel staff was a way to expose them directly to the challenges of innovation. The real return comes in the form of practical experience in the field and hands-on training in the powerful and vitally important element of our company culture.”

Anna Lottersberger, co-founder of LAND Education and one of the organizers of the hackathon, explained how, for these events, it is essential to have in mind a theme that is sufficiently clear and inspirational in order to foster an imaginative process of future scenarios. Lottersberger also outlined how the creation of this event itself was the fruit of a moment of serendipity: the involvement of Andrea Valcalda, Head of Internal Communications at Enel, enabled the seed of the hackathon project to really take root and transform into a tangible project.

Vacalda also emphasized the spirit behind the entire initiative: “Looking at the hackathon and interacting with the various sections, I saw things that really struck me, in a positive sense: the thing I noticed the most was the wonderful interaction between Enel colleagues and young people that bring all of their fresh energy and their vision of the world. This is precisely what we call Open Innovability®, and I think that this extremely fruitful relationship should be developed in the future beyond specific solutions. This way of mixing and facilitating interactions between different worlds is a great resource, brings many new ideas and I believe that it is a way of working that’s worth adopting even after the hackathon, in order to learn more from others.”

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