Article Written by Ronald Poon

Everyone can play a role in innovation. Innovation isn’t invention. It’s not coming up with a brand new widget necessarily, it’s about how to do things better, quicker, more efficiently — in a different way than it’s been done before.” — Rick

Friendships that transcend geographical borders and company departments are perhaps not the first things you would think of when hosting a large-scale hackathon for over 600 participants. But for Rick Pollock, Director, Innovation at Capgemini, these are some of the defining hallmarks and legacies of the innovation work Capgemini has done for one of its largest global brand clients.

Capgemini is being seen more innovatively through their work on this global hackathon. By bringing fun into their client’s business, Capgemini is transforming what it means to work and be a part of a large global brand’s technology department.

We’re seeing a lot of the same folks coming back every year. We’re seeing interactions between people that never would have crossed paths before, so that’s been a great benefit to the hackathon story.” — Rick

For these employees, it is a special chance for them to step out of their day-to-day. To make new friends and work in teams that are comprised of individuals from across the globe — in countries such as India and Japan. In addition to working and collaborating with new people from the company, it is a chance for them to get their ideas and solutions heard by the people who can make a real difference — senior leaders and executives within the organization.

The gravity and uniqueness of an event like this should never be lost on leaders and organizers. It is a special part of the innovation fabric and work culture that makes the world’s best technology departments run smoothly and stay one step ahead of the curve.

It's really seen as one of the marquee events, both on the client side, but also within Capgemini for the account.” — Rick

It is no surprise that Rick constantly has people asking him when the next hackathon will be. Everyone wants to be involved with the event. And for good reason too.

Knowing that you’re part of a greater mission that extends beyond the geographical borders of your country is both tremendously motivating and deeply humbling. It’s hard to replicate that feeling of true interconnectedness on an ordinary, regular business day.

What makes a hackathon special is knowing that anywhere across the globe participants get the same 24 or 36 hours to build out their solutions. That somewhere around the world a colleague is prototyping, playing the same game of trivia as you, catching up on some much-needed sleep, or polishing their final presentation.

The great fun of the hackathon, both in planning and running the event, has brought Rick back year after year. The hackathon is no longer seen as a side gig. It is now one of Rick’s yearly objectives at Capgemini.

Scroll down below if you would like to view our full video interview with Rick Pollock on the global hackathon that he and Capgemini, in partnership with Onova, help run and host.

📽️ About The Series

Welcome to “The Founder Mindset With Onova” — where we peel back the layers of Fortune 500 innovation and meet the changemakers who are rewriting the rules.

In this series, we’ll be interviewing founders and leaders who have helped build and shape long-lasting innovation cultures within their companies. More specifically, we’ll be delving deeper into the mindset it takes to be a founder within a large Fortune 500 company.

This “founder mindset”, covers all things, such as where to begin when looking for inspiration, how to start a new initiative and assemble the right people. This series also uncovers the emotional elements and risks behind proposing a new venture.

🎙 About The Episode

Rick Pollock, Director, Innovation at Capgemini, has helped spearhead a large internal corporate hackathon for one of their global brand accounts. In this episode, we dive deeper into Rick’s innovation philosophy and how he was able to foster intentional global collaboration (across six continents) within business, customer operations and digital technology teams.

Season 1 Episode 2:

  • Intro
  • Rick’s technology career and journey at Capgemini
  • The work Capgemini does for its clients and initially meeting Victor
  • The appeal for Global CIOs in hosting a hackathon
  • The role that Rick founded and created for himself at Capgemini
  • Key success factors and challenges of forming an entirely new team
  • How the hackathon has played into Rick’s greater role in innovation
  • Overcoming the hurdles and obstacles of hosting a hackathon during the pandemic
  • Travelling all the way to Pune, India for a global event
  • The tangible innovation impact that came out of the hackathon
  • Memorable moments and what continues to bring Rick back year-over-year
  • Maintaining close personal friendships alongside professional working relationships
  • Advice for individuals aiming to spearhead new initiatives within their company

🤔 Key Takeaways

1. Hackathons as a Catalyst for Fun and Interaction:

The main objective for the CIO at Capgemini’s global brand client was to make the company a fun place to work. Never underestimate the impact of fun and real human interaction on company morale and creativity.

2. Repeat Participation Signifies Success:

There’s a good reason why a lot of the same folks come back every year to the hackathon. The event not only brings a whole heap of fun but also helps foster meaningful collaboration and intentional innovation. Successful events create their own momentum, interest and growth. A high return rate of past participants shows you’re doing something right when it comes to internal company culture.

3. Redefining Innovation Beyond Invention:

While it may be tempting to completely redesign the wheel and come up with a brand-new product invention, innovation can also help solve recurring problems and pain points through process improvements. As Rick mentioned, "Innovation isn’t invention... it’s about how to do things better, quicker, and more efficiently”.

4. Global Reach through Virtual Inclusion:

Seeing challenges as new opportunities is a large part of the founder's mindset. That is exactly what Capgemini and Onova were able to do for their client’s global hackathon when the pandemic hit. The event is now hybrid and able to reach more employees from all corners of the globe (including countries such as India and Japan).

5. Building Relationships Beyond the Event:

Friendships that transcend geographical boundaries and internal company departments. The hackathon helps build long-term professional networks and relationships at all levels of the organization. One of the key highlights of the event is always the newfound friendships and professional working relationships that persist well after the hackathon is over.

6. Leadership's Role in Driving Innovation:

Having senior leadership engagement, not only in the front end with formulating the challenges, but also in the evaluation and judging process, is extremely critical in driving both immediate and long-term innovation within a company. Their feedback is invaluable in the innovation process and helps employees create better and more tailored solutions that actually solve core challenges and pain points within the company.

🗣️ The Best Quotes from Rick

1. “The new CIO had some experience with Hackathons and really valued that in his prior organization. So I was able to make that a reality for the client through the work that I have been doing with Victor and Onova since.”
2. “And the other thing that I found really interesting is last year we offered to our India team, if somebody won the hackathon, we would bring them back to Chicago. One of the winning teams included somebody from our India team. The rest of his team was outside of India. It was across other parts of the client business in other parts of the world. And so this summer, we brought him over from India and had a lunch with all of the people from his team, people he never would have worked with before, not only geographically, but also just because of the types of work that they do. But we all came together for lunch, and it was as if they were friends, had been friends for life.
3. “You need to find a way to do something you truly love, and it doesn't have to be your full-time job. Get involved in a group within your company or engage in activities on the side at night. Ensure that you're doing something that excites you because those are the things that will keep you going and can create new opportunities.
4. “Constantly innovate yourself, come up with the next version of yourself, and ensure there's always something driving you. It doesn't mean you'll love every part of your job, but if you find enough things that truly fuel your passion, you'll excel at them. Ideally, focus more and more on those things and less on those that don't bring you joy.

🔗 Connect with Rick or Victor on LinkedIn

Rick | Victor

🔊 Episode Transcript

Download the episode transcript

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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