For the last two years, Disruptor’s Handbook have been working with Qantas to create an innovation program that brings the power, agility and speed of the startups into their customer journeys. With a focus on customer experience, these weekend intensives, known as the Codeshare Hackathons, expose Qantas business challenges to the scrutiny – and creativity – of the hackers, hipsters and hustlers of the startup world.

It’s a form of open innovation that we’ve developed specifically to deliver new product opportunities rapidly and at scale. This approach takes a leaf out of the startup book (should I say the Startup Bible), Lean Startup by Eric Ries – focusing however, not on product-market fit but on market-product fit. That means that we help our corporate clients focus on the business challenges they face, coach them through a process of articulation, reverse pitching and presentation, and then open the challenges to startups, students and entrepreneurs.

Then, in a matter of days, we all collaboratively develop working prototypes – what is known as an MVP (a minimum viable product) – to the stated challenges. I call it “marketing-led innovation”.

The secret sauce of corporate hackathons

To the outside world, hackathons are like a cauldron of mystery. We throw in some ingredients, mix them up, and emerge some time later with a magic solution. Somewhere in the middle of the process, a secret sauce is added. But this is anything like Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe. You see, it’s all about process and people.

Over the last couple of years, we have been building out a process that reduces the risk of innovation. We use systems and design thinking approaches, add a dash of lean startup, good old fashioned project and event management and highly targeted coaching and mentoring. We consult with clients, manage stakeholder expectations and do so within what is a relatively controlled and safe environment.

And the results are stunning. New products. New collaborations. New businesses and startups. In many ways, it’s marketing in action. And we’ve got more planned. Get involved, you’ll be amazed at how tasty the secret sauce really is.