Retail HackGames 2020: Reframing the Retail Challenge

8 days, 2 virtual events, 50 retail players and hours of collaboration!

As the dust settles on our inaugural Retail HackGames and we look back on the mountains of great ideas, iso-meltdowns and late nights that went into getting it off the ground, we are finally ready to put some words to paper – digital paper that is!  

The HackGames Explained

Those of you who have never read the word ‘Hackathon’ you may be envisioning something within the realm of a running a marathon and hacking away at a chunk of wood. Not quite!  
On the flip side, there’s probably a number of you who have heard the term dropped conversation, “That’s that thing sneaker-wearing Silicon Valley tech-heads do, right?’ A little closer!  
According to old mate Wikipedia, a hackathon is,  

“A design sprint-like event; often, in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, domain experts, and others collaborate intensively on software projects.” 

Wikipedia: Hackathon

The key phrases here are a ‘sprint-like event’ whereby teams ‘collaborate intensively’. These were the seeds from which this idea grew!

Originally planned as an in-person event, our Retail Hack Games e-Edition evolved into a one-week intensive Hack format where teams utilised a suite of remote-working tools to collaborate and devise solutions for the following problem statement.

Survival & Revival. Applying considered and insightful innovation for retail’s new normal. 

Create a solution that can challenge an existing retail model to future-proof our existence and fuel the revival of retail. 

How did this work?

We are going to take a page out of the Colonel’s book and keep a secret sauce recipe…well, mostly secret!  
In summary, this is how the format our the HackGames worked!

The Kick-Off

The Kick-Off was a one-hour virtual event where our 50 retail players, judges and industry mentors met for the first time to learn of the rules, tools and processes for collaboration.

Hack Week

Then there was Hack Week. In windows of time after work or at lunch our teams unpacked the problem statement to collaborate and apply considered innovation for retail’s new normal  

Players used collaboration tool Miro to work through the pre-defined templates. Keen to try Miro in your organisation? Click here!

Grand Finale

Hack Week was a collision of collaboration, ideas and innovation all leading up to our Grand Finale where the teams pitched their solutions to our panel of expert judges: Grant Arnott (Power Retail), Alex Waldelton (Author of Right Brain Workout) and Shria Levine (Fanchismo).  

“We needed to adapt fast if we were to support the survival and revival of our industry. MI Academy’s mission has always been to spread the power of creative problem solving, enhance the potential of people and ignite organisational change – the HackGames gave us a high-energy environment to do exactly this. Create meaningful connections for impactful collaboration.” 

Alita Harvey-Rodriguez, Founder of MI Academy and Creator of the HackGames

Who Was Involved?

There has always been something George Clooney-esque about Alita, and she proved her swagger once again in the way she expertly formed our Ocean’s Eleven worthy hack teams. 

From the beginning, we understood that in order for our teams to produce some bloody-good never seen before ideas, we need to survey them to discover their true skills and experience. 

Based on their answers we carefully curated our teams. Throw in a few marketing maestros, a sprinkle of sales experience, a touch of product and operations expertise and a few dashes of tech tactical skills. It took time, but the final product was perfect: five all-star teams with talent from all sides of the eCommerce sphere.

Why MI Academy and Why Now  

“We’re an industry that relies heavily on our ability to connect and share ideas, and we want to ensure this continues. There’s no strategy in anyone’s playbook as to what step we should next take, but we do believe with the right minds on the job, we can help real solutions begin to come to life.” 

Alita in our very first press release for the HackGames
Behind the scenes at the HackGames Grand Finale

There truly was no play in anyone’s playbook for this. In fact, the playbook is about as useful as some Ikea instructions in times like these!  

Our mission has always been to empower teams with the ability to think creatively and critically and approach their challenges with a design thinking mentality. These are skills that help organisations thrive in a regular climate, but more importantly, they are the backbone of organisations that are able to rise above adversity.  

If you want to know what organisations were equipped with these skills pre-pandemic, then you only need to take a look around. Spoiler! They are the ones NOT running around like headless chooks!  
Organisations that were yet to adopt creative and critical thinking came to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit. They flipped through the retail playbook desperately looking for a way out only to find that all the ‘plays’ were too rigid to stand up to an industry climate that is everchanging and uncertain. It’s like putting a bandaid on a broken leg. 

Uncertain times call for creative measures!  

“It will be the businesses that encourage and embrace creativity, innovation and collaboration that succeed during these challenging times.”

Jo Harris, Senior CX Consultant at MI Academy and Team Leader in the HackGames

In all honesty, it would have been easier for us to pull the plug, batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass. But the reality is that the retail industry wasn’t given the luxury of choice and if we wanted to ensure they would survive the storm, it was important that we started disaster recovery now.  

Some people get their thrills from hitting huge sales targets or unicorn-status, but our team is different. We get our thrills from ‘ah-ha’ moments, deep-work ideation sessions that see hours fly by without notice, and the expression in the eyes of someone who has just seen all the pieces fall into place.  
With a physical event off the cards, we had to pivot. And pivot we did.  

The Solution Pitches

It’s difficult to capture the aura of an event like this in a blog post or even a video, but we hope that by watching the Grand Finale you can at least get a glimpse of the level of energy and enthusiasm our teams brought.

To skip to a specific pitch, keep scrolling!

Watch the Retail HackGames Grand Finale below.

The HackGames Grand Finale

Team Couriersplease

A human/AI powered video shopping assistant to help the reluctant online shopper embrace eCommerce.  

Click here to watch Team Couriersplease pitch.

Team Steve (Our 2020 HackGames Winners!)

Steve: Connect the right employer, with the right employee, at the right time, every time. 

Click here to watch Team Steve’s pitch!

Team dotdigital (voted People’s Choice by the audience)

Introducing The Winston; 
The personal shopper you never knew you needed, and you won’t even know you’ve used. 

Bringing the best of online experiences in-store using NFC and a data-first approach, get in, get out, no old school checkout!  

Click here to watch Team dotdigital’s pitch.

Team Klarna

WantSeeShop is a fulfilment provider and marketplace offering small to mid-tier retailers a cost-effective fulfilment & eCommerce solution to scaling and financial hurdles.

Click here to watch Team Klarna’s pitch.

Team Shopify Plus 

Niles – the AI-powered platform that connects shoppers to experts wherever they are. Niles brings all the benefits of the gig economy to the retail industry.

Click here to watch team Shopify Plus’s pitch.

What we learned

Although the HackGames were, as the name suggests a ‘game’–there were some very real and 100% viable solutions that came to light.

This entire experience was very eye-opening for us and we were left with resounding confidence for the future of Australian retail.

1. Retailers are resilient, resourceful, ruthless in the pursuit of innovation  

We had high expectations for our final 50 retailers, but in truth, we hadn’t quite considered the sheer amount of determination and passion they would bring to this event. 

They pulled all-nighters, they applied full financials to their fictional solution, they even went away and did their own customer profiling.

Australian retail has been fighting an uphill battle for a while now––and you can tell. Not because they are defeated, but by the sheer resiliency, guts and determination they bring to the table.  

With brains like these of the job, you can bet Australian retail will come out the other side of this crisis stronger, smarter and more sustainable.

2. Retail is ready for a tech-evolution

Our eCommerce technology providers aren’t exactly the new kids on the block…but they’ve just had a massive popularity boost.  

During the games, our teams took inspiration from our HackGames Tech Directory. These are the solution providers leading the pack and providing truly valuable solutions to slingshot retail forward.
But like the dough kneading attachment on your new KitchenAid, retailers have always held the belief that ‘I will get it when we need it’. Well, all of a sudden, they needed it. AND FAST!

It may have taken a not-so-gentle-nudge to get them there, but we do believe retailers are ready for the tech-evolution!

3. Technology isn’t disrupting the industry, people are!

We tend to underestimate the potential of people…like really underestimate!

When we think of industry disrupters, we think of people utilising big tech, turning over millions and making real noise on LinkedIn. Technology is the vehicle for marketing innovation, but people are still in the driver seat. No self-driving cars here just yet. Sorry Elon!

In truth, we believe there are creative people capable of disruptive innovation in every business––and they’re not always C-suite professionals!

They’re your Brand Managers, Product Coordinators, Marketing Heads, Sales Leads and everything in-between. Creativity is within everyone––you just need to give space for it!

And so I want to leave you with this quote. “Give your people the power to think!”

Give space for innovation, welcome creative problem solving with open arms and forget all of your preconceived notions of “this is just how things are done around here.”

Because MY GOD do we need a whole lot of creativity right now!


In the essence of the HackGames this is our MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Stay tuned for more content from MI Academy and our event partners and sponsors!

To learn more about MI Academy’s Innovation and Team Transformation offerings, please reach out to us at

Once again THANK YOU to all of our event sponsors, partners, suppliers and tech providers. You’re total gems!

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