PGA TOUR Hackathon

Things have been very busy here at PGA TOUR Labs & Innovation since our last post back in October. On December 8 and 9, we hosted our first PGA TOUR Hackathon and we couldn’t be happier with the results. We would like to share a few lessons learned with our readers.

About the event

We formed the Hackathon Planning Committee a few months ago, to help us design the first year’s event. Our goal was to take a conservative approach to planning since it was our first foray into the Hackathon space. The committee decided to host the event at the PGA TOUR Entertainment facility in St. Augustine, Florida to encourage collaboration and take advantage of the studio spaces. Employees from across the PGA TOUR and a few team members from OMNIGON (our digital development partner) were invited to participate in the event. This helped to ensure a diverse set of backgrounds and skillsets. A total of 40 enthusiastic participants joined the Hackathon and were formed into teams of three, four, or five members.

It was decided to pursue a theme in our first Hackathon rather than a specific challenge. The theme gave teams maximum flexibility and freedom. Our focus for this first year was the “Fan Experience.”

At most Hackathons, you will find a heavy concentration of technology and design resources. We believe great ideas come from collaboration between diverse people with different skillsets and backgrounds. With that in mind, we wanted to design an event that would allow everyone to participate, not just technical resources. Rather than asking teams to code prototypes, they were tasked with using the basic principles of Design Thinking to build empathy for our fans, identify a problem area in the Fan Experience, and propose a solution to that problem by way of presentation to a panel of judges.

Each team had access to a “Design Thinking Coach” that was responsible for helping team members understand the Design Thinking process and helping them get “unstuck” if at any point progress was stalled.

The teams had a few hours to identify the fan experience issue or problem they were going to tackle. They worked together to design the solution they would pitch to our judges. Ten PGA TOUR executives from all disciplines participated in the judging panel and watched the teams present live in the PGA TOUR Studio facilities. The presentations were also live streamed to each of the PGA TOUR buildings where employees gathered to enjoy watching their peers pitch innovative ideas.

The results were awesome. All 10 teams came up with great ideas that we plan to test in some form or fashion during the 2017 calendar year. We had planned to identify only three finalist teams but the teams had such great ideas that four teams emerged as finalists!

What was great about the Hackathon

  • People of all skill-sets and backgrounds came together and collaborated.
  • Participants approached their assignment with creativity and with the Fan Experience at the forefront of their thinking.
  • The presentation styles were all different – one group did a skit, another made a video, another group made a wireframe and supplemented with a Keynote deck, some used the tri-fold science fair approach!
  • At the last minute, we were able to live stream the presentations to our entire company thanks to PGA TOUR Entertainment!
  • The judges were totally engaged and asked great questions at the end of each presentation.

Things we learned along the way

  • The little details matter! We wish we had collected participant and judge t-shirt sizes in advance so we could create a Welcome Packet including stickers, shirt, name tag, etc. Unfortunately, we did not pre-assemble these things and had a rush in the beginning of the day well before our scheduled start time that made us feel a little behind and a bit unorganized.
  • Keep the keynote short! The keynote speech was scheduled for 1 hour. Typically, participants can only handle about 20-25 minutes of someone talking. We noticed people disappearing into their phones and yawning around the 30-minute mark. Next year, if we have a keynote speech, we will limit it to about 20 minutes.
  • Encourage participants to smash the box and design a new one! Although we had a lot of great ideas, we didn’t hear any ideas that were shocking. Next year, we would like to encourage participants not just to think “outside the box” but to smash the box and design a brand new one.
  • It takes a team! Even with a planning committee helping to guide us and make decisions that would work for the TOUR, we needed more help. Several people and teams showed up at the last minute to help make this event a success. The administrative staff, the building staff at PGATE, and the PGA TOUR Entertainment staff are just a few of the teams that helped pull together at the last minute. We will be sure to include these resources in the early planning stages for 2017.

Feedback from participants & judges

After the event, we sent out a survey to judges, participants, sponsors, and planning committee members. We got about a 50 percent response rate. One hundred percent of those that responded completed the entire survey. The survey data tells us the following:

  • 96.2 percent of participants said they would attend a 2017 Hackathon if they were invited
  • 92.3 percent of participants said they were Very Satisfied or Satisfied with the event in 2016

Here are a couple of anonymous comments from participants:

  • “I liked that an environment was created where we could be innovative, creative and problem solve freely. I think it was great to open a big group of TOUR employees’ eyes to how we can collaborate differently to identify and solve problems.”
  • “I thought that the Hackathon was an amazing opportunity for people from all over the company to come together, get creative and talk about ways to move the company forward. I wish we had more opportunities for creative brainstorming.”
  • “This was an excellent step into a direction the TOUR has never been, encouraging the company to think ahead of the curve. I love that the TOUR elected to host this event, I was honored to be a participant and I genuinely hope the TOUR will continue to host these in the future.”
  • “I think we should try and implement these types of sessions on a smaller scale within various departments. I think many groups would benefit from designating a time to do this type of problem solving within their team at least once a year.”
  • “We need to make sure we implement the winning idea. If TOUR employees know that what they’re creating will in fact make a difference in the company, I think that will grow the event and promote even more people coming together to solve problems. I wish we did this multiple times a year! Thank you!”

Closing notes

When the idea to host a Hackathon was conceived, we weren’t sure if it would be an annual event or a one-time-only event. The feedback has been so positive and the teams came up with such wonderful ideas that we are already planning for next year’s event. We may even invite fans, partners, and other interested parties to participate in the 2017 PGA TOUR Hackathon. Stay tuned for more details about the 2017 PGA TOUR Hackathon!

Photos from the event