Hacking for the Greater Good

Despite not knowing what to expect, I decided to participate in the Cleveland Medical Hackathon, September 26th and 27th, at the Global Center for Health Innovation.

Even though I have worked in IT for over 10 years, it was the first time I ever attended a hackathon.

Maybe it’s because I’ve watched too many Hollywood movies, but I’ve always felt that the term “hacker” was reserved for those suave, fast-talking coders, who, at a moment’s notice, can whip up ominous viruses like a Trojan horse and help Danny Ocean break into a casino.

But after this Hackathon, hacking has been demystified for me, and I can safely say that not only am I more enlightened about hacking, but also convinced that it is a vehicle for championing greater good in the community.

A Passion for the Greater Good

Igniting passion for the greater good is a core value at Centric Consulting, which is typically exemplified by bestowing time and money for non-profit or charitable causes. As an organization predominantly focused on IT, we spend quite a bit of time pondering over the economics and logistics of attending community and charity events, i.e.: “Is it worth my time?” “Who does this charity really benefit?” “If I go, does it benefit my organization?” “Can I bring my kids to this event?” “Will it be a good networking opportunity?” “How much should my company budget for this cause?” “Will I get a free lunch or a T-shirt?”

As one evaluates these questions, inadvertently decision paralysis sets in, which results in inaction. We then console ourselves by thinking, “I guess I will just go for the next one.” And so it goes, the status quo.

Thus, how can the community and organizations motivate professionals to contribute more for the “Greater Good of Society?”

Collaboration and Teamwork

The essence of this hackathon involved pitching an idea, forming a team, building a business case for it, and – most importantly – repackaging existing technology to build a solution that contributes to the field of healthcare.

The event brought together prominent professionals and clinicians from hospitals, universities and community organizations with the goal of steering the teams towards a practical implementation of ideas. This meant the teams required these highly skilled individuals to help assess challenges faced by patients, health providers and businesses in a setting that deemphasized ego and job titles.

Working with these individuals to collaborate and produce pragmatic healthcare solutions over a weekend is both a substantive and efficient way of executing on the value of “Greater Good.”

Centric Consulting brought in a team of eight consultants from the Healthcare practice to this event. We made new friends, contributed to the healthcare society, and learned a lot! While my motivation for participating in the Hackathon was primarily to learn by doing, the most rewarding outcome was the strong sense of community I felt that day.

Breaking Down Walls

Great organizations are built by people who are collectively passionate about solving problems that advance the frontier of innovation. By breaking the walls of social and professional hierarchy, the medical hackathon truly placed everyone on a level playing field. So everyone who participated only gained – in other words, there were no losers. If we can apply this concept to other social or charitable endeavors, I believe that it would diminish the dilemma and skepticism of actively engaging in community events by skilled working professionals.