A Week to Learn and a Lifetime to Master

Twice per year Harvest has a team hack week. We seek to get the mental juices flowing; exploring many things we do not get to experience in our day-to-day. It's a wonderful time of experimentation, quick wins, and rapid failures.

This hack week we discovered a suggestion can go a long way. As we thought about our goals for the week, we decided to focus on internal tools. Our hack weeks are pretty much open season, so working on tools was by no means a requirement. Yet the suggestion resulted in a flood of ideas. We discovered that a lot people at Harvest indeed felt like we were lacking in our tools.

The number of hack week ideas piled up like never before. It was wonderful! Leading up to previous hack weeks there was a bit of a struggle collecting project ideas. Sometimes it is hard to pull oneself out of one's daily work to think about what one would do if given a week to work on anything. Providing a theme was great for idea generation.

Yet at the conclusion of the week many did not feel very "hacky" about what was accomplished. In a lot of ways hack week turned out to be a work week viewed from a different perspective. It was not quite as exhilarating as previous hack weeks, which we approached with reckless abandon.

As beneficial as the theme was for idea generation, it definitely took away from the hack vibes. That was unfortunate. I will not say that themes are verboten from future Harvest hack weeks. Perhaps an abstract suggestion of "speed" or "green" could serve as an effective constraint and trigger ideas without limiting the distance one might travel away from one's comfort zone. We want our hack weeks to be wild and invigorating.

To focus on the positive, a great discovery was made during Harvest's latest hack week: the need to maintain and act upon a list of all the things our development team has thought about to make our tools, process and systems better. Some of the tools created during hack week are already being used by our team. Many of the projects laid groundwork for future improvements. When the team focused on looking for deficiencies in our process and tools they found many opportunities. Recognizing this fact has given us the motivation to continuously shore up our internals, making us as nimble as possible for whatever the future brings.