How Lob Identifies Top Projects and Engages Employees with Real-Time Hackathon Voting
Lob is an automation platform for direct mail — helping 11,000 companies like Booking.com and Gusto intelligently send direct mail marketing campaigns.
RankedVote spoke with Walker Palecek, Developer Relations, about how Lob identifies top ideas from company hackathons using ranked-choice voting.
Hackathons are a great technique to unleash employee creativity and deliver something unexpected for the business. Under a tight deadline (usually 48 hours or less), teams crank on their projects with the hope that they'll have something to show for it before time runs out.
The results range from process improvements to internal tools to entirely new businesses (what is now Zapier came out of a hackathon and is currently valued in the billions).
After the frenetic excitement of the hackathon, the business is left with dozens of wide-ranging projects and one big challenge...
How to determine which ones are "best?"
Lob turned to the "wisdom of the crowd" to determine their answer. Specifically, their "employee crowd" to vote on which projects were best.
Lob's employees deeply understand their customers' needs. This makes them a good proxy for judging which projects could be the most impactful. But, like all people, they can be quickly swayed by a charismatic presentation or a "herd mentality" rallying around a popular idea.
Using Ranked-Choice Voting to Uncover Broad Support
With a typical, single-choice "most votes wins" approach, the results could be heavily swayed by these effects. Not to mention that participating teams often rank their own projects #1.
Ranked-choice voting mitigates these issues by allowing for higher-fidelity voting. If a team ranks their own project #1 and no one else does, then that project is eliminated and the team that voted for it has their votes count for their next ranked choice.
Ultimately, ranked-choice voting allows projects with the broadest base of support to rise to the top.
To bring ranked-choice to their hackathons, Lob turned to RankedVote.
"We wanted employees across Lob to help us find the best hackathon projects. What could provide the most value to the company? RankedVote gave us a transparent, fair, and fun way to do that."Walker Palecek
Developer relations, Lob
Cutting it on Slack
It was critical to Lob that all employees across the company have the chance to participate. That meant the voting step had to be easy, fast, and work with the tools Lob was already using.
"I shared the RankedVote link on Slack and then put the results page up on Zoom. Within minutes, everyone voted and we could see the results," said Palecek.
RankedVote works on any device with a modern browser and an internet connection. There's no app to install. All voters use the same link to cast their votes. This makes it easy to share on group channels, threads, emails, or any other way the organization uses to communicate.
Lob's hackathons delivered for the business. New revenue-generating ideas were developed. Numerous processes were streamlined. And employees emerged excited and revitalized.
With RankedVote, Lob also ended up with...
High Employee Participation
Dozens of votes flowed in once the link was shared on Slack. Within minutes, over 60% of the company had participated.
The hackathon organizers and the employees immediately saw which projects rose to the top. There was no separate tallying. No "Jeopardy Music" played to fill time while someone toiled over a spreadsheet. The instant results helped to instill a feeling of fairness. And, the visualized results gave everyone transparency into how the final outcomes were determined.
Multiple Projects in Market
Breakthrough improvements came out of the hackathons. The winning project from an early 2022 hackathon allowed Lob customers to add QR codes to their direct mail campaigns. This allows direct mail performance to be far more measurable than before. Customers can even customize their direct mail campaigns to send recipients to personalized websites.
Other winning projects included new Open Source code libraries, billing system improvements, and numerous process efficiencies.
Get Everyone Up to Speed on Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV)
"Make sure people know what RCV is beforehand. For a lot of people, this is something new. How it works, the eliminations, the redistributions...it's better, but it's new.
"I created an 'Explainer' page on Notion that described how things would work and linked to RankedVote's resources and Demo page. Then, I made sure to share it broadly over Slack and email before voting began."
— Walker Palacek, Developer Relations, Lob