What Does the Ideal Hackathon Team Look Like?

February 18, 2019

The F10 FinTech Hackathon in Zurich is the biggest FinTech Hackathon in Europe and attendants with backgrounds in tech, finance, banking, computer science, web design, management as well as marketing come together to tackle challenges that the finance industry is currently facing. What needs to be considered when building Hackathon teams? Learn more about the characteristics of successful teams.

Changing customer demands, digitalization and globalization: the global finance industry is undergoing far-reaching changes. FinTech offers financial institutions countless options to improve customer experience and stay attractive in a market where change is happening at a fast pace. The participants of the F10 FinTech Hackathon in Zurich are invited to solve one out of five real-life challenges. They can either exploit Big Data for more efficiency and stability in financial markets, use banking API to shape the banking of the future, develop a Blockchain-based service or product reinventing the financial infrastructure, virtually create the private touch for private banking or promote green growth in developing economies. These challenges have been provided by the premium and platinum sponsors as well as by F10. Alternatively, teams can further innovation in banking and finance by realizing their own ideas. After 48 hours of programming and ideation, the groups get the opportunity to pitch their business ideas and prototypes in front of a constructive-minded audience. The best teams can win fantastic prices. Each member of the winning teams will be able to choose from a pool of the latest and coolest tech gadgets. We also give away a Golden Ticket for our P2 “Prototype to Product” program in Switzerland. This six-month Incubation Program is tailored for FinTech, RegTech and InsurTech Startups with innovative prototypes (that have for example been developed during the F10 FinTech Hackathon in Zurich.

Who should the Hackathon participants team up with to tackle the current problems of the finance industry? We have analysed what makes teams successful. Most importantly, the teams should consist of members with complementary skills. The limitations of people’s information-processing capacity make it impossible for one individual to solve multi-faceted problems like the challenges of the global finance industry on their own. Bringing people with different know-how and abilities together does not only compensate for the shortcomings of each team member, but also leads to more objective decisions as people from different backgrounds often also have different styles and approaches to solving problems. The main ingredients to integrate those different styles, viewpoints, and approaches into the team build are mutual trust and respect. According to the Association for Project Management, “teamworking is most effective when people with complementary skills and behaviours are committed to a common objective and method of working”.

Gender-diverse teams perform better than homogenous groups

Another characteristic of successful teams is diversity. Organizational behaviour expert Anita Woolley and Thomas W. Malone, founding director of the MIT centre for Collective Intelligence, led a study about the correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. The research team gave 18- to 60-year old men and women intelligence tests and afterwards assigned the subjects randomly to teams. Each group had to complete several tasks including brainstorming, decision making as well as visual puzzles and to solve one complex problem. The teams were given intelligence scores based on their performance. Surprisingly, the groups that had the members with most IQ points did not earn significantly higher scores – but gender-diverse teams that had more women did.“In theory, the ten smartest people could make the smartest group, but it would not be just because they were the most intelligent individuals. What do you hear about great groups? Not that the members are all brilliant, but that they listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They’re not autocratic. And in our study we saw pretty clearly that groups that had smart people dominating the conversation were not very intelligent groups”, Woolley explained in an interview with the “Harvard Business Review”.

The social context of decision-making matters

In another study conducted in Texas and Singapore, scientists placed people with experience in finance in either ethnically diverse or homogenous teams. The groups were then put in simulated markets and asked to price stocks. Individuals who were part of the diverse teams were 58 percent more likely to price stocks correctly, whereas those in homogenous groups were more prone to errors, according to the study published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America” (PNAS). “The findings suggest that price bubbles arise not only from individual errors or financial conditions, but also from the social context of decision-making”, the study authors conclude. Multiple other studies have come to similar conclusions and we therefore highly encourage the Hackathon participants to build diverse teams.

Once the team is set, it is essential that every member of the group understands the goal – reshaping the future of banking and finance in the case of the F10 FinTech Hackathon in Zurich – and is committed to achieving it. According to a blog post by the career planning advisor “The Balance Careers” in which tips for better teamwork are provided, “team members must have an overall mission that is agreed upon, and that provides the umbrella for all that the team tries to do.” Good teams always stay focused on their goals. Have fun, connect with inspiring people and enjoy tasty midnight snacks with your new Hackathon friends – but never lose focus on the purpose of spending 48 hours of programming and ideation together. How do you and your teammates want to revolutionize the finance industry?

Each group member brings in different skills and abilities

Every team member should feel free to express their thoughts, opinions and potential solutions. In successful teams, “people feel as if they are heard out and listened to by team members who are attempting to understand. Team members ask questions for clarity and spend their thought time listening rather than forming rebuttals”, according to the blog post by “The Balance Careers”. The individuals forming the group must recognize “that the strength in having a team is that every member brings diverseness to the effort to solve a problem, improve a process, reach a goal or create something new and exciting.”Creating something exciting is what we are aiming for at the F10 FinTech Hackathon in Zurich.

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