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Inside the Textio Explorathon

We’ve all heard of the programmer-centric events called hackathons. The first thing that comes to my mind is the scene in the Social Network where developers race to code their way onto the burgeoning Facebook team. Despite the extra cinematic effects in the movie, real hackathons run similarly. These sprint-like events operate within tight time constraints and strive to make audacious headway on challenging problems or new ideas.

Last quarter, Textio decided to create its own hackathon-like event but, true to Textio fashion, intentionally designed it so the entire company could participate. We called it, Explorathon.

The setup:

For two days, anyone within the company could press pause on their normal work and dedicate their time to exploring new ideas. Project concepts were submitted ahead of the event and ranged in ideas for driving customer impact or business growth, developing new products, or furthering brand awareness. Anyone in the company could submit an idea and the further reaching it was, the better.

One-minute presentations were held a day before the event so people could decide which project they’d like to join. We formed small groups around these ideas and got to work the following day.

Textios from the customer success engineering team and the front-end engineering team, working together on their project

Textios from the customer success engineering team and the front-end engineering team, working together on their project

The process:

You’re given two days to create a prototype or representation of findings you explored. No need for a final product. This allowed each group to collectively take ownership of the idea, dive in, and focus on building something new.

Since everyone from the company was included, teams were made up of colleagues from all over Textio. My group was formed by an engineer, a UX designer, an account executive, a customer success engineer, and an executive assistant. While Textio has an innate culture of breaking down silos of work, the Explorathon took this to the next level. This brought about collaboration among uniquely different perspectives and varying understandings of the product and user experience. And the results were inspiring!

The result:

Teams presented their work during our company all-hands the next day. Some presentations included detailed slides with data-driven findings, others were live demonstrations of working prototypes (there were even presentations that included song and dance). Each project that was presented showed ingenuity and creativity. Some presentations spurred more illuminating questions and many of the projects were incorporated directly into the Textio roadmap.

A group of Textio's beginning work on a new product feature

My group begins work on a new product feature

The Explorathon is an embodiment of the culture at Textio, where highly curious and passionate people were able to execute on new ideas, but demonstrate what is achievable in just a single day.


And it wouldn’t be Textio without a little gamification thrown in so of course, there were awards:

  • The Business Impact Award, for the idea that could have the biggest effect on the company
  • The Product Innovation Award, for the project that made a new or unique improvement to the product
  • The Moonshot Award, for tackling a large problem with a creative solution
  • The People’s Choice Award, voted on by everyone via Slack

My team wins The Moonshot Award—with taco socks as the prize!

My team wins The Moonshot Award—with taco socks as the prize!

As a current Account Executive and someone in night school to transition my career into UX design, the Explorathon was an opportunity to work on an idea that will directly impact the product and its users. Thankfully, Textio values inclusivity and everyone (not just product) got to be included in Textio’s first Explorathon. And I can’t wait for the next one!

By the way, we’re hiring! Check out the open roles here.

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