Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

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Highlights of the Mini Hacking Sprint

By Chris Grams on July 2, 2022

Our hackathon team developed an unprecedented 138 mini hacks during Sprint 2.1. In this post, we’ll share a few of the contributions the hackathon guide team feels have great potential to be developed further into fully-formed hacks during Phase 3.

Our hackathon team developed an unprecedented 138 mini hacks during Sprint 2.1. In this post, we’ll share a few of the contributions the hackathon guide team feels have great potential to be developed further into fully-formed hacks during Phase 3.

We hope that as you read this post, many of you will sign up to join those who created these mini hacks in building them out over the next few months. Each hacking team is limited to 5 people, so be sure to sign up quickly to get your choice of hacks.

Learning and Development

In The Prize for Learning From Failure, Leonardo Zangrando builds on the need for organizations to develop an ability to learn from failure, suggesting they “offer a prize to those who were able to articulate a corporate learning after a failure.” Join this hacking team.

In Doomsday Challenges, Alberto Blanco calls for us to purposefully envision what he calls “Corporate Earthquakes” (which we also love as a name for this hack): crisis scenarios that could imperil the organization’s future. According to Alberto, “HR could have an interesting role as provocateur, guide and conspirator of corporate-wide hackathons focused on extreme, unusual, apocalyptical, and why-not, funny challenges or situations.” Join this hacking team.

Other mini hacks in the learning development category we feel have especially good potential to be developed into powerful hacks:

See all mini hacks in this category.

Performance Management

In Purpose Led Organization, Julien Pascual suggests a radical change to the operational organization of a company so that it is made up of temporary teams each created to answer a unique challenge. Each team is described by a purpose statement, which is connected to a larger organizational purpose statement. Join this hacking team.

In Invite Everyone to Evaluate the Strategy, Eerik Lundmark would like to see if organizations could become more adaptable if they invited all employees to weigh in on the strategy process. Join this hacking team.


See all mini hacks in this category.

Organizational Development

Patrick Malcor’s contribution Eliminate HR had the most likes of any mini hack, along with plenty of interesting comments. In this mini hack, Patrick suggests that there is no need for a formal HR department, but in its place organizations seeking to improve adaptability can put more development tools in the hands of managers. Join this hacking team.


See all mini hacks in this category.

Talent Acquisition

In Talent Spotting Alliances, Keith Gulliver makes an interesting observation that organizations wanting to increase adaptability could consider collaborating and partnering with each other to jointly develop recruitment programs that attract adaptable people. Join this hacking team.

In Experimentation Up Front, Edna Pasher suggests replacing long and expensive recruiting processes with a lower risk way of trying out new employees through a graduate student training program. Join this hacking team.


See all mini hacks in this category.

Talent Deployment

In Self-Build Job Roles, Keith Gulliver recommends organizations take an adaptive approach to work, giving people regular opportunities to choose a portion of what they do rather than having it determined for them. Join this hacking team.

In Mix It Up, Deb Seidman suggests a programmatic approach to cross-pollinating ideas and perspectives within an organization by building “rotations” (both inside and outside the company) into each employee’s responsibilities. These “annual visits" not only could help people bring their perspectives to the problems faced elsewhere but also gain knowledge, perspective, and interpersonal connections to help them make shifts in their regular jobs. Join this hacking team.


See all mini hacks in this category.


In Less “Is”, More “Could Be” Compensation, Sean Schofield imagines turning the traditional compensation model on its head. He recommends replacing it with a regular conversation between the employee and the organization where “employees are compensated in the way most personally meaningful to them” while “companies are still controlling their compensation costs.” Join this hacking team.

In Rewarding Adaptability and Crowdfunding, Ian Davidson suggests creating an internal market for adaptability activities where employees can bid on resources and employees to bet on the most promising ideas. Join this hacking team.

See all mini hacks in this category.

HR Metrics and Information Systems

In What’s Your Gottman Score, Stephen Remedios recommends keeping a metric around the ratio of positive to negative feedback in an organization, while attempting to reach 5x more positive than negative feedback. Join this hacking team.


See all mini hacks in this category.

Other Hacks

In Chuck Out Your Chintz, Gemma Reucroft recommends we “radically review all of those processes that we slavishly follow in HR, or think of as 'best practice'.” Then, if we can’t articulate the value of something in the length of a tweet, consider just not doing it anymore. Join this hacking team.

In Non-Compliance: Problem or Gift?, Heidi De Wolf suggests that non-compliance is not a problem, but instead an opportunity that should be taken advantage of to get additional feedback. Join this hacking team.

See all mini hacks in this category.


Whew! There were so many great mini hacks that the only thing we are sure about in the list above is that we missed a lot of wonderful ones. If there are any mini hacks you see missing from the list above that you think should definitely be developed into full hacks during Phase 3, please share them in the comments section below (and sign up to work on them!).

There are almost 100 additional mini hacks not mentioned specifically in this post, and we’d love to see as many of them as possible turned into full hacks. So if you authored a mini hack that you’d like to continue to develop during the next phase, please send me an email and let me know before the end of this sprint.

Or, if you’d like to help out on a hack, even if it is not mentioned in this post, by all means go to the mini hack page and sign up for the team. Many of you submitted hacks that, while distinct from those in the list above, had many things in common. You might consider teaming up with someone who expressed a similar idea to your own and continuing the hacking process together.

Once this sprint ends on July 14 and teams are finalized, it’ll be time to move to Phase 3 and begin hacking!

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I'm a johnny-come-lately to this but I don't see anything on leadership
From my own research I think there are 8 attributes of highly adaptive organisations that need to be orchestrated starting with leadership. Command and control is dead, enablement and orchestration by setting the customer focused vision, purpose and values of the organisation is the way to go. High degree of compassion is required as the second component is an engaged workforce. 3rd ability to collaborate across all parts of the organisation, not in silos, also the ability to swarm around new opportunities 4. Deep sensing capabilities to really understand the customer and his or her or their environment and context out of which comes insight - sense and respond 5. delivering a superior joined up customer experience that allows for seamless x-channel and intelligent interactions including VoC feedback loops to drive continuous adaptation and improvement. 6 Pervasive and inclusive innovation - supported by effective processes to convert the best ideas into new offerings or experiences or business models. Use of crowdsourcing, open sourcing, partner/customer collaboration comes into this too.I saw a great example of this by Swiss Post, which has 60,000 members of the workforce chipping in with new ideas, and also iinstigated an innovation forum for leading organisations in Switzerland to collaborate on new ideas together.
7. joined up mission critical processes - with free information flows and cross-team accountability
8. An enterprise architecture that is open to change and adaptive.

Get all this right, and being driven by insights into what really matters to customers, then we have what I call the customer-adaptive enterprise or organisation. HR is a very minor part in that from what I can see, but I am biased as I have never really seen the value in HR, probably because mostly they live safely in their bunkers and act as policy jockeys.

richard-james-barnes's picture

Disappointing to see all the chosen hacks still focused inwards on changing HR processes (except the one asking to get rid of it!). We need to see some hacks focused on changing organisation culture and putting the customer at the heart of all the key processes, not just as some hopeful side effect of improving appraisals and L&D etc. Haven't we heard enough yet from failures in the NHS, Police, Banking, Insurance, Central Gov departments etc. and seen enough of our country's major commercial businesses get caught from left field by changing tastes and expectations caused by the impact of the digital village?

Radical change is needed at the top of organisations and in the way they are structured to empower people in constantly morphing team structures (bubbles, not silos) to deliver customer value. Sure, HR still needs to support this but unless we change the culture at the top, it is so much wasted effort on the latest HR fads.

I agree with most of this. I think an over reliance and focus on process and technology solutions has been the undoing of HR. It drove the wrong behaviours and mindset. There is too much 'police and policy' and too little focus on business outcomes. Some people we have worked with can't even describe a business, as opposed to an HR outcome! What i really think we need is to change the HR mindset, to one which is the business. stop talking about the business as if it is separate to HR. Be confident and proud of the contribution HR make and have no concerns about stepping up and taking their rightful place as leaders. If this was more prevalent we would not have issues with attracting the very best people into HR. I have to say that reading many of these hacks suggest there are lots of people with this mindset contributing. So my question is why is so much of the HR press and commentary about what we don't do rather than what we do succeed in. We need to adopt the Winner Effect more consistently in my view. sorry a bit of a rant!

richard-james-barnes's picture

As a 25 year CIPD member I wish I could agree but I think the days of HR as a 'department' are numbered and rightly so. That doesn't mean HR skills are but looking to promote HR 'winners' is simply reinforcing the silo walls. The HR Press is itself a symptom of the very problem that we see HR as a function not an enabling skillset. HR in many organisations is just a prop for poor management - "people, that's their job (fault?)" just as the dreaded Call Centre is a prop to distance the service deliverer from the customer.

Oh this could be interesting! Sorry i really don't agree that HR as a 'department' is outmoded. We REALLY have to stop down grading the skills HR professionals bring to the business. HR skills are not something to be dispersed any more than we would say Finance or marketing skills are. Yes every leader needs the ability to understand and manage people but HR is a profession. We have a unique skill set that is not 'advanced common sense' as some people describe it. The best HR professionals have a set of skills and expertise which the business needs and which is not available at the depth required anywhere else. Sorry but for me this belief that HR is outmoded is part of what is undermining the profession. P.S. i have been a CIPD member for my whole career. I think it is only in the last 5 years or so has our professional body taken a leadership role. Long may it last