Innovation. Creativity. Invention. What do these words mean? For some companies, these words and concepts get talked about a lot, but frequently end up as nothing more than a poster on the wall.  At Sabre, I recently connected with a group of colleagues who are putting these words into action. They are the participants of the upcoming Sabre Innovation Garage – not your average Hackathon –   at our headquarters in Southlake, Texas.

What’s a Hackathon? It’s an event where small teams compete to build something, using technology skills, in 24 hours. Amazingly enough, the extreme time constraint is a critical catalyst to inspire and drive the entire design-through-development cycle.  It’s like a lit match gets touched to a fuse – because everyone is forced to race forward without hesitation. Can something truly exceptional be built under that time pressure? Without a doubt, and it happens every year.

Surprisingly, the deadline activates a new level of collaboration, focus, and highly directed communication among teammates. Sometimes in our normal jobs, we work on projects that are so big, that a sense of routine turns daily tasks into a dangerous monotony. Hackathons are intense-by-design competitions that enable software engineers, designers, and managers to shake up their attitudes, and super-charge their brains.

This year, Sabre has raised the level and created the Innovation Garage to engage more people across the organization. Recognizing that great ideas can come from any part of the company, this year’s event includes the additional task of creating and presenting a business case for each hack.  The desired result is cross-functional teams come together to address a technology problem or business issue from every perspective.

How can anyone have high expectations for the outcome, given the low amount of time allotted? It’s simple – because we start with high expectations.  Every competitor wants to build something memorable to impress each other and to garner attention from the judges. At the same time, it is a low-risk environment, custom-made for experimenting with new technologies and stretching toward a novel idea or solution. No doubt travel-related projects will gain more attention given that it’s the heart of Sabre’s business, but all subjects are welcome.

Who are the people willing to stay up 24 hours to start building something with an unknown finish? As I gazed into the audience at our Innovation Garage kick-off meeting last week, I saw members representing all genders, faces from a range of ages, and heard accents from many countries. I met new hires, recent grads, and industry veterans. All were exchanging visions of the remarkable proposals they dream of making. Although the tireless organizers mentioned prizes, I don’t think the assembled group was drawn to the Innovation Garage purely by winning. It was obvious that people pitched their concepts for the sake of expressing themselves in a creative outlet, and meeting like-minded individuals from across the company.

You may be wondering if this author is competing in the Innovation Garage. Without hesitation, I write yes! I can’t help myself. I love to learn, build and share. Have a coffee, consider how you can get involved with a Hackathon, and let’s do something awesome together!

Sabre’s Southlake Innovation Garage is June 11-12. Stay tuned for details about the event – and especially the results!