By Daniel Hunter

Organisations are not keeping up with the pace of change, and radical action is required to avoid many more being added to the roll call of organisations overtaken by smaller, nimbler insurgent competitors in recent years.

These are the initial conclusions of the CIPD/MIX hackathon, a mass-engagement open-access experiment designed to reinvent the way organisations change, and which attracted 1,700 volunteer participants, at all levels, across all sectors, and spread across six continents.

Over the last six months the participants, or “hackers”, have come together online to define 12 major enemies of adaptability, including hierarchy, fear, bias in favour of the status quo, centralisation, short-term thinking, rigidity and inflexibility.

Building on this, the process then turned to the definition of nine core design principles of truly adaptable organisations, including experimentation and learning, autonomy and trust, purpose and meaning, diversity, creativity and collaboration.

Building on these starting points, teams of volunteers have now worked on “mini hacks” to develop real world solutions to overcoming the barriers and embedding the design principles. The completed mini-hacks are designed to provide inspiration for organisations looking to boost agility and adaptability, and particularly to increase the capacity of HR and learning and development to lead this objective.

Commenting on the report, which is being launched at the CIPD Annual Conference taking place this week in Manchester, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive, CIPD, said: “If we’re to truly learn the lessons of the last few years, we need to be bold. Organisations can’t afford to see change as something that only happens every few years. Change is happening all around us, at an unprecedented rate. HR has got to step up to the task of creating agile organisations with the capacity to change constantly, and without that getting in the way of purpose and delivery. The hackathon we’ve worked with Gary Hamel and other thought leaders to facilitate has been an energising experience. The participants have shown what can be achieved if we challenge everything and collaborate to drive innovation.

“The workshop at our Annual Conference will feature some of the most lively and ground-breaking ideas we’ve seen to date. We’ll be using this session to encourage organisations to volunteer to experiment with the ideas and trial them in the real world — as some of the hackers have already begun to do.

"The participants in the hackathon have come up with exactly the kind of radical thinking that we need to employ to deliver organisations that can change at the pace required in today’s world. The challenge now is to apply them in real life, and to use the insights gained to turn today’s radical thinking into practical guidance that can be adapted and applied in other organisations.”

Gary Hamel, co-founder, Management Innovation eXchange, said: “The quality of the thinking and the level of the commitment from our hackers has been inspiring. All of the finished management hacks add value. ut we’ve picked a collection of some of the most powerful and compelling hacks to emerge from the hackathon to highlight in the report — ones that did most to address a key barrier to adaptability, were the boldest, the clearest, and had the greatest potential to be put into action on the ground.

"We were particularly taken with the proposal to “chuck out your chintz” — to ditch any common HR processes where the purpose could not be articulated in a simple sentence. We liked the “corporate earthquakes”, in which organisations conducted their own in-house hackathons to work out how they’d respond to extreme or even apocalyptic events.

"This helped them to focus on how to deliver major change before they encountered external events that might otherwise have left them exposed and stranded. And we were inspired by the idea of “self-build job roles” where individuals were freed to develop elements of their role and devote segments of their time to “flex” opportunities to stretch, grow and be stimulated in their roles.

“Our goal for the coming months is to turn these and other practical hacks into prototypes that could be tested cheaply and easily. We look forward to working with organisations interested in hosting management experiments based on ideas generated from the hackathon.”

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