Fraunhofer IMW

Hackathon of the 19th Innovation Forum

News | Leipzig / October 28, 2020

In addition to the online format, there was new aspect at the Innovation Forum this year. For the first time, the PFI-D also offered students a targeted podium - with a hybrid hackathon initiated by the Fraunhofer IMW's Data Mining and Value Creation group. This took place parallel to the entrepreneur workshops. 

Around 25 students in addition to ten coaches from different disciplines from all over Germany made up the Hackathon. They were called upon to develop ideas on specific questions and work out solution spaces in four competing groups. One group of students, for example, sought an answer to the question: How can professional development be shaped without physical proximity in the company and beyond?

“What we are currently experiencing is a disruptive change in the world of work. To believe that I can simply translate my offline communication from the coffee kitchen into a virtual coffee kitchen falls short for many reasons. We need to think in a completely new way about our own working methods and processes,” says Elisabeth Breitenstein, a research assistant at the Fraunhofer IMW who worked on 'career development in virtual space' at the hackathon.

How can you build relationships with colleagues you never or rarely meet offline? What does the home office career of the future look like? How can you build a career when contact with superiors is severely limited? To ensure that informal communication or virtual proximity in companies does not languish, which in turn would have an impact on career development, their group developed approaches for recommendations for action in companies. This was evident, through the topic of transparency: Ms. Mustermann has been working in a virtual team since March, in which the work results are made public via SharePoint and in the teams chat with a status update so that the other team members can orient themselves to the current status. However, she is very afraid to make her interim status public because she fears that there will be too many errors. Ms. Mustermann actually wanted to talk to her supervisor about the next development steps in the company but she is not at all aware of her employee's valuable work because the work has not been made transparent. Here, one could rethink the error culture in the company and the reasons why results are not made public. The fact that employees hoard their knowledge in order to gain a lofty position or because solution processes are not understood as a joint effort also plays a role here. 

“There are a lot of great ideas that are currently being tried out,” says Elisabeth, “but at the same time, there are still many levers that companies can use to create the shift toward effective virtual teamwork in terms of informal communication.”

The tools and recommendations for action that the students developed at the hackathon can help optimize daily work routines. As these routines  are increasingly shaped virtually by Corona they will also be further developed in follow-up events.