At LMI, a different spin on a hack-a-thon

February 2, 2014

Company: LMI.

Location: McLean.

Employees: 500 locally; 1,000 worldwide.

This weekend is not bound to be a particularly restful one for employees at McLean-based consulting firm LMI.

That’s because the company is holding its annual Launch My Idea Weekend, an event that allows employees from all levels of the organization to pitch an idea for a project that they think the company should fund.

The event takes a page from the hack-a-thons that have become de rigueur in Silicon Valley: Staffers make a 60-second pitch to each other, and the group settles on several favorites to explore more deeply. Ad hoc teams then put in long hours on a tight deadline to create a proposal for bringing the ideas to life. Monday morning, the teams hope to make their final presentations, and then the company’s leadership will select one idea and put research and development dollars behind it. If your idea gets funded, you become its project manager.

“It is a great equalizer, and it does provide an opportunity for people to get exposure to the group and to the officers,” said Brennan Hogan, a manager at LMI who helps organize the event.

Last year’s winning proposal centered on linking organizations such as the Defense Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development with vendors in developing countries where they are working. The idea is that this relationship could lower costs for the international organizations while supporting the economy in the developing country.

Even ideas that don’t win funding sometimes gain traction at the organization. For example, a proposal from last year that suggested incorporating a plant-based diet at the office has been folded into the company’s broader wellness program.

Hogan said the event also has been an effective tool to help participants boost their presentation skills.

“A lot of the work that we do is highly technical, and sometimes its hard to get yourself out of that expert zone and communicate those ideas to people who are not in the field,” Hogan said.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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