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Drive Disruptive Innovation

Design thinking takes a traditional Hackathon to the next level.



Building upon its success as a leading digital marketing solutions company for the real estate industry, RentPath® was looking to create new disruptive consumer services in alignment with its mission of simplifying the rental experience.

Each year, RentPath would see incremental improvements in code, features and functionality from a series of hackathons conducted by its IT group. With this model in mind, the CTO dreamed about taking it to the next level by doing a company-wide hackathon. Instead of the typical IT-centric model, what would it look like to focus solely on the consumer and open the hackathon across the business to include people from marketing, sales, accounting and strategy? The challenge was to take off all the blinders and structure a human-centered hackathon experience that would disrupt the industry and create innovative new consumer services.




RentPath began this effort by investing in the development of several consumer personas. Using design thinking methodology and insights from consumer personas as a foundation, Bridge Innovate® designed and delivered a five-day Design Thinking Hackathon experience coaching more than 60 RentPath employees in six client-led design teams as they worked to create new disruptive consumer services.

The hackathon kicked-off with a Design Thinking Crash Course where participants learned the basics of human-centered design, followed by an inspiration empathy building phase for teams to dive deeper into the wants, needs, and pain points of consumers. Teams then moved into the Challenge Lab phase where they applied their design thinking skills to the challenge at hand, surfaced opportunities, and brainstormed ideas for conceptual solutions. Next came the Rapid Prototyping & Iteration phase where teams designed small prototypes, received feedback, and iterated to progress their solution designs. The hackathon culminated with a Pitch session where teams pitched their refined prototypes to a panel of RentPath’s executive leadership team for the possibility of funding to take ideas forward.



Application of design thinking principles elevated and expanded the traditional hackathon from a room full of computer programmers coding IT-centric solutions to a whole new world of opportunity. Bringing different business units together to form cross-functional teams provoked thought, accelerated learning, and generated innovative ideas to disrupt services.



RentPath’s CEO attended the final Pitch session and was so impressed by team ideas and the overall outcome of the Design Thinking Hackathon that two projects were immediately funded. Participant feedback indicated this experience was one of the best to date at the company and that cross-functional teaming helped break down departmental silos and spur disruptive ideas. The Design Thinking Hackathon experience equipped RentPath with an easily replicated vehicle for building internal innovation capability. In addition to long-term ideas for large-scale industry disruption, leaders also walked away with quick wins to take forward in the short-term.


I recently celebrated 15 years working at RentPath, and this was without a doubt a top three experience for me! I met some great people, got to ideate and work on some great concepts, and was able to participate in something that will make a really big difference.
— Design Thinking Hackathon Participants
Cross functional teams forced us to communicate with common words. This kept the pace moving since we didn’t get bogged down into details of our individual domain.
This was one of the best experiences I’ve been through at RentPath and in my career. We have not had this type of forum for innovation that has brought different groups together in this way.
This week was the best use of my time in a long time and I am proud that I was a part of it.