Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

michele-zanini_4's picture

A short guide to developing “mini hacks” for HR

By Michele Zanini on June 7, 2022

As we move into Phase 2 and begin our first “hacking” sprint of the hackathon, we wanted to provide some background that should help you prepare for the most exciting and creative stages of the hackathon.

As we move into Phase 2 and begin our first “hacking” sprint of the hackathon, we wanted to provide some background that should help you prepare for the most exciting and creative stages of the hackathon. 

What is a management hack and what is a mini hack?

Management hacks are bold new ideas for changing the way an organization is managed (e.g., the way it sets direction, allocates resources, evaluates people, measures and managers performance).  The best hacks create radical-yet-practical fixes to that help us overcome barriers like the enemies of adaptability we identified in Sprint 1.1.

By way of example, here is a popular management hack shared on the MIX by SEMCO’s Ricardo Semler: Retire-a-Little.

One of the primary objectives of this hackathon is to jointly develop a number of hacks to core HR processes and practices that can help spur adaptability across the organization.  As a first step in the process, during Sprint 2.1 we are focusing on developing what we call “mini hacks”—early-stage ideas from which we’ll select the most promising to develop further. 

How do I create a mini hack?

For a mini hack, we’re looking for no more than a few paragraphs that lay out the essence of your idea and its practical impact. You don’t need to worry if your idea is not entirely “baked” yet because you’ll have a chance to develop it further in subsequent sprints. For now, the important thing is to get your idea out there, where others can comment and build upon it.

We’ve pre-seeded the site with a few sample mini hacks to give you a better sense for what we’re looking for.

What specific problems are we “hacking?”  What are some of the levers we should consider pulling as we construct our mini-hacks?

Our goal is to overcome the enemies of adaptability we identified in Sprint 1.2 (e.g., hierarchy, fear, rigid structures, skills deficit). 

When searching for inspiration, you might want to reflect on how to embed the principles we’ve just discussed in Sprint 1.3 (e.g., transparency & openness, experimentation & learning, diversity) into one or more strategic HR processes, such as hiring, performance management, or change management. 

For instance, what changes might you make to:

  • Create and execute change programs that are highly transparent and truly inclusive?
  • Build organizations that are defined by smaller units and fluid, project-based structures?
  • Enlarge the company’s capacity for experimentation by building skills in experimental design and prototyping?
  • Ensure talent acquisition processes are sourcing talent a truly diverse set of backgrounds, skills, and perspectives?
  • Facilitate work that occurs based on peer-to-peer collaboration and review, vs. top-down command and control?

To help you generate ideas like these, we’ve put together a simple matrix that arrays some of the most strategic HR processes on one axis and a selection of design principles on the other.

>> Download the matrix now (pdf) >>


A few other questions you should ask yourself as you brainstorm mini hacks:

  1. Is my hack “deep”—that is, does it address a key barrier to adaptability?
  2. Is my hack bold—does it offer a clever and unconventional approach compared to existing HR practices or processes?
  3. Is my hack specific—are the key elements of the solution clearly outlined, even if at a high level?
  4. Is my hack doable—can you see how this hack could be prototyped or experimented with in your organization without requiring a big budget or CEO approval?

What happens after we develop mini hacks?

After this sprint ends on June 24,we’ll spend some time coalescing around the most promising mini hacks. These will then be further fleshed out collaboratively—with your peers and with direct input from the hackathon coaches and us.

The most compelling hacks will be featured at the CIPD Annual Conference in November 2013, a final hackathon report, and on the CIPD, MIX, and partner sites (e.g., Fortune.com).

We look forward to seeing your ideas. Happy hacking!

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frederic-jleconte's picture

Hi Michele,
Sure helps.
Your tag app is easy to use and a smart building up collective intelligence feature.

I can also dream of a cloud gathering ideas and a mapping of all ideas (or groups) being applied on your matrix.
So to materialize coverage, distribution, overlaps and black spots.

michele-zanini_4's picture

Great suggestion, Frederic--let us think about that a bit more...

michele-zanini_4's picture

Hi Frederic, thanks for your note--here are a few ways to check whether your idea might have been expressed elsewhere in the hackathon:

1. Look at the popular tags on the summary page with all the mini-hacks: http://www.mixhackathon.org/hackathon/cipdhack/sprint-21?view=contributi...

2. Sort by HR process (there is a drop-down menu) at the top of the summary list of all the mini-hacks.

Hope this helps... thanks again!


frederic-jleconte's picture

Very helpful guidelines.
Let's get radical and practical.

Does anyone has a tip to cross-check that a "bright bold idea of myself" is not already expressed by the dynamic community of the min-hackers? For sure I would love to read in depth all materials.....but is there a guided path to tags/key leads ?