Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

mix-administrator's picture


To evolve more rapidly, organizations must experiment more frequently.  Management processes that seek to arrive at the “one best strategy” through top-down, analytical methods must give way to models based on the biological prin­ciples of variety (generate lots of options), selec­tion (find low-cost ways to test critical assumptions), and retention (ramp up spending once a strategy has started to gain traction). In the future, top management won’t “make” strategy but will create an environment in which there is lots of fast-paced, strategic experimentation.

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deb-seidman's picture

Experimentation is the top principle. It turns control on its head. That is, it frees people up to take control of the journey. When we feel in control of some aspects of work -- what,with whom, when, etc. we stop looking for direction and start charting our own paths -- adapting as we learn. I agree with the comment that the feedback must come from outside, rather than inside, the organization.

I think that we are really learning about learning - like what Julien said, you learn so much by iterating through a process. I remember a piece of text - let me Google it - that encapulates creative design, it applies to organisations, too.

It is widely accepted that creative design is not a matter of first fixing the problem and then searching for a satisfactory solution concept; instead it seems more to be a matter of developing and refining together both the formulation of the problem and ideas for its solution, with constant iterations of analysis, synthesis and evaluation processes between the two “spaces” - problem and solution. (Cross & Dorst, 1999.)

To me, this comes back to the sense of permission within organisations. Adaptive organisations give time & space for employees to think differently, experiment and innovate. An important part of this is accepting that mistakes will occur and probably a number of blind-alleys will be encountered during the experimentation phase. But we mustn't allow any notion of 'right first time' to constrain our thinking & actions; real innovation can spring unexpectedly from what otherwise might be classed as failure.

andy-lippok's picture

The concept of "best practice" was always a fallacy and has only ever led to mediocrity! Only through constant experimentation, failures, learning, and adapting to these lessons, will people and organisations develop capability for survival, agility and development.

Yes! And I have never liked the rule of "do it right the first time" either! HR and Business development should collaborate to allow experiments and constant improvement and renewal and learning from good practices to scale them and from failures for lessons learnt.

julien-pascual's picture

So True Edna ! I have worked projects with a "Do it right the first time"approach that finished to be endless and so failed, after having spent hundreds of millions, when a "Launch fast, learn quick, iterate" approach would have made the same project successful. The key of experiment : gather feedback, gather the most often possible, gather at each stage of your process, and if possible from the external world. Don't use internal feedback. Or not too much !