What’s one way to immerse a business school’s
newest students quickly and deeply into the
entrepreneurial process? A hackathon. For the
last two summers, EDHEC Business School in
France has held a 25-hour hackathon for its 700
students entering their pre-master’s year. Held in
August before classes begin, the hackathon welcomes students to
campus and kickstarts their development of skills in four key areas:
creativity, cooperation, communication, and positive criticism.
Last year, the theme for the EDHEC Hackathon was “Tech for
Society.” For 25 uninterrupted hours—from one afternoon to the
next—teams of six to seven students imagined new ways to use
technology to bring society together and improve people’s quality
of life. Guiding them were EDHEC faculty, staff, and master’s students,
as well as 36 coaches and designers.
After learning the basics of innovation and design thinking,
students could explore one of several questions. For example, how
can workers adapt to frequent job changes? How can businesses
embrace the circular economy? What services will people require as
they age? How can the world adapt to the diseases of the future?
Next, students formed teams to observe the problems, generate
ideas, and create prototypes. The event integrated brief rest
breaks, including games and even a morning “wake-up” exercise.
The hackathon culminated in each team pitching its idea to judges.
Winning projects included one idea to deploy drones to detect forest
fires, and another to create an app that encourages people to upload
images of themselves picking up trash to earn points and receive
prizes. Students who wanted to continue their projects could apply
to EDHEC’s startup program or its incubator, EDHEC Entrepreneurs.
In May 2019, the school delivered a similar 32-hour hackathon
with partner TechCrunch at the VivaTech expo in Paris. More than 60
participants—students from IT, design, engineering, and marketing—
formed teams to develop creative digital solutions to help young
people make wise career choices.