Written by Sara Guo I 2 min read

24 hours. 

That’s how long it took for our team to develop a fully interactive, multifaceted AI personal shopping assistant. 

It all started with a challenge, a tight timeline, and an unwavering determination to push the boundaries of what's possible in the world of AI-driven innovation. Especially in the fast-paced world of AI, being able to rapidly ideate, iterate, and execute is paramount to staying at the forefront of technological advancements. At Onova, we recently embarked on an exhilarating 24-hour innovation sprint at our Toronto office that not only resulted in the birth of an impressive virtual AI chatbot but also shed light on the incredible impact of innovation under a pressing deadline.

Why Create An AI Personal Shopping Assistant?

Inspired by one of our team members, our personal shopping assistant was called RachelAI. But, the AI assistant wasn’t always designed to elevate the customer experience. Initially created as the face of GenAI Hackathon 2023, Capgemini's inaugural generative AI hackathon, RachelAI had a different purpose. Learn more about RachelAI's creation process here.

We recognized a need in the retail space for a tool that can answer real-time questions, provide tailored product suggestions and increase accessibility for all potential customers. 

24 Hours At The Office 

With a two-week window to submit RachelAI to GenAI Hackathon 2023, the typical approach would involve days of meticulous planning, rounds of discussions, and aligning efforts. This time, however, we decided to do things differently. With RachelAI, our 3D AI Avatar, at the center of our focus, we embarked on a unique challenge: refining and expanding its capabilities to unprecedented heights in just 24 hours. 

Our team each individually working on an aspect of RachelAI at the office.

The camaraderie and the drive to propel RachelAI beyond a 3D avatar reached new heights during this intense sprint. Our internal team management skills faced the test as we navigated sleepless hours, pushing ourselves to deliver excellence within the tight deadline.

We found ourselves doing a "hackathon within a hackathon." The office became our second home as we embraced the challenge with open arms. Sleep took a back seat, and makeshift workstations became our refuge. Amidst the late-night coding and caffeinated brainstorming sessions, we discovered the true power of collaboration under pressure.

Why Innovation Sprints Triumph 

Our 24-hour sprint with RachelAI unveiled a fundamental truth about innovation: Constraints can be catalysts for innovation. The constraints of time forced us to prioritize, make swift decisions, and streamline our ideas into actionable outcomes. It's in these high-stakes environments that the most inventive solutions are often born, proving that deadlines can be powerful catalysts for pushing the boundaries of innovation. 

In Jake Knapp’s book “Sprint” (summarized by Nelson Almanzar here), he talks about numerous principles illustrating the impact that constraints have on innovation. Two that resonate with us are…

  1. Work Together, Alone

All team members are working on the same task, but, doing so individually. There is a prevalent belief in the value of group discussions for generating innovative ideas. While this holds true, it's important to consider that initiating such discussions prematurely during the idea-generation phase can result in the undue influence of the most outspoken/senior individual upon the viewpoints of others.

  1. Be Fast & Decisive

Group discussions can be time-consuming and feel endless. In a sprint, your team should have structured conversations with quick “yes” and “no” decisions. There is one main person on the team to help with finalizing decisions.

Onova’s Winning Culture

At Onova, we are committed to creating a winning culture where team members have the ability to develop personally, and professionally and in turn, this translates into heightened productivity. An example of how we foster company culture while also continuously innovating is the internal cottage sprints we organize two times a year. Through these sprints, we have created a year’s worth of marketing content and developed the first prototype of Earth, our hackathon management platform recently used by 1021 participants in the Google x Capgemini generative AI hackathon.

Team photo taken at our 2022 internal cottage sprint

Final Thoughts

In the end, our 24-hour sprint not only led to the birth of an extraordinary AI personal shopping assistant but also reinforced the idea that hackathons, in general, are effective ways to generate hundreds of ideas in a short period of time. With the right blend of passion, teamwork, and determination, we've shown that we can turn ambitious visions into reality, even within the tightest of deadlines.

At Onova, we've validated that the spirit of innovation knows no bounds—merely 24 hours was all we required to transform an idea into a tangible, transformative reality.

Interested in seeing how we can support you and your business in your innovation initiatives? Book an introductory call with Victor Li, Founder & CEO of Onova.
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