John Deere uses the power of hackathons to drive innovation, collaboration, and empowerment.

The company also believes in involving employees from legal, accounting, marketing, and operations to create an inclusive mix of all ideas. By doing so, hackathons allow John Deere to match problems with creative solutions.

people working in a virtual space

"The basic premise," Josh Carson, senior staff engineer at John Deere's ISG-Urbandale, said, "is getting shared time for many people to open up doors and make something more awesome." While that "more awesome" may be a new product or a new process, it's really a culture that makes hackathons a success.

By stressing their importance, senior leadership has made hackathons a valued priority in employees' training and development. This focus increases participation, which has been aided by a virtual, global connection. Sometimes industry-changing products are an end result. During a 2018 hackathon, product marketing colleagues and Ray Liu, guidance engineer for autonomy, each set out to solve a problem involving inefficiencies during harvest.

animation of a green tractor following a gray line

Curtis Maeder, systems engineer, noticed that both parties were each approaching the same project from different angles and encouraged the forming of one team. Roughly six weeks later, a working prototype was moving through the field. From there AutoPath™ software — a revolutionary technology that helps farmers collect data from the first pass in the field to establish row guidance for all subsequent field passes — was born.

Having real-world examples to point to helps employees see the value in hackathons and helps to tell the John Deere story. Carson said when it comes to recruiting, hackathons position the company as a technology leader in the manufacturing world and a technology player in the innovation field.

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