SOLVING THE TOUGHEST MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES—TOGETHER GET STARTED

Start
Finish
8/20/2013
Challenge Begins
12/20/2013
First Round Deadline
3/5/2014
Final Round Deadline

Winners

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Digital Freedom Challenge—a rich mix of real-world case studies and bold new approaches to dramatically expanding individual autonomy at work without compromising the ability to scale, coordinate, and get important things done together.

Meet the winners (in alphabetical order)!

aaron-anderson's picture
Working in Plain View: Using a wiki & social media to broadcast as you work

Anderson’s brave experiment in “open-sourcing” his job, redesigning his approach to work, and reimagining the work of leadership in the process. He recounts his adventures in blowing up the traditional, rigid boundaries of “the job” by inviting his colleagues to help define the role, and involving them and the wider university community in the work itself by doing it “in plain view” via a wiki and other social tools.

keith-gulliver's picture
Self-Build Job Roles

A powerfully detailed approach to making jobs as adaptable as the individuals who do them and as dynamic as the external environment in which they work. It’s a simple idea (but not an easy one) and a hack of the fundamental flaw in the industrial system of management: a design that treats flesh-and-blood human beings as interchangeable parts in a machine.

alanna-krause's picture
When Business met Occupy: Innovating for True Collaborative Decision-Making

A remarkable tale of the creation of a practical and peaceful tool for collaborative decision-making—and a hack of top-down, formal hierarchy. The approach transcends the tradeoff between efficiency and engagement. And, unlike most conflict-based, majority-rules approaches to group decision-making, it gives a truly diverse mix of perspectives and voices a meaningful role in the conversation, builds a deeply shared understanding of the issue at hand, and generally leads to higher-quality outcomes.

stephen-remedios's picture
The Digital TOOT (Time Out of Time)

This hack addresses the twin challenges of the difficulty of developing a comprehensive and shared understanding of what is going on across an organization (what they call the “Pulse”), and the lack of capability or motivation for reflection (what they call the “Pause”) in the context of relentless short-termism inside organizations and accelerating, disruptive change outside them. The solution: a simple, engaging, online tool that effectively provides a “pulse check” of the organization at any point in time (and a view into its health over time), and builds the habit of reflection across the board. It’s a cheap, quick and dirty experiment that any organization or group could try based on the approach outlined here.

stelio-verzera's picture
Liquid organizations: building the next evolutionary stage of anti-fragility.

Verzera takes on nothing less than the challenge of “liquefying” the rigid, industrial-era controls and structures that create bottlenecks, silos, disengagement, misalignment, and a host of other organizational pathologies. The “liquid organization” grows out of a set of fundamental principles—from transparency to experimentation to meritocracy—and rests on a platform of radically practical open-governance approaches. It’s the ultimate freedom: determining your own destiny—and playing a meaningful role in determining the destiny of your organization.

Finalists

When it comes to creating organizations that are adaptable, innovative and engaging enough to meet the future, there's no single recipe, but there is a crucial ingredient: individual autonomy. People need freedom—the freedom to pursue their passions, experiment with new ides, ignore the hierarchy, make small bets, challenge conventional thinking, choose their work, and maybe even elect their own leaders.

Without freedom, there is little initiative, creativity or passion. Freedom isn't a privilege you earn by putting in time--it's not a perk doled out in tiny increments. Freedom is a right.

Of course, unleashing freedom inside organizations is a tough challenge because it requires dismantling deeply-embedded management principles and practices. Fortunately, there are so many courageous management innovators and hackers at work taking on the status quo in order to make progress on this crucial challenge. We're gratified that so many of them showed up to participate in the Digital Freedom Challenge—and today we couldn't be more delighted to announce the finalists.

Here they are in alphabetical order. Congratulations!

We'd like to offer up our gratitude and appreciation to everyone who contributed to this M-Prize--your initiative, inventiveness and passion have added so much to the challenge of shifting the balance from freedom to control in all of our organizations. Thank you!

Over the last decade, digital, social, and mobile technologies have greatly expanded the scope of personal freedom. Thanks to digital technologies and social media, we have more choice than ever in our personal lives; but at work, not so much. To be sure, many companies have adopted “Enterprise 2.0” technology and tools to drive internal collaboration and engagement with external communities, but there’s little evidence that these new tools have significantly enlarged the scope of employee autonomy.

That’s no surprise. The broad majority of organizations operate according to bureaucratic practices and principles designed to maximize standardization, specialization, predictability, and efficiency. In other words, most of our organizations are designed for control—controlling people, controlling information and controlling budgets.  Control is important, but all too often the pursuit of alignment and conformance undermines the sort of innovation and engagement that drives success in the 21st century.

Get up and running with the Digital Freedom Cheatsheet

To build an organization that is adaptable, innovative and engaging, individuals need freedom. They must be able to pursue their passions, experiment with new ideas, ignore the hierarchy, make small bets, challenge conventional thinking, choose their work, and maybe even elect their own leaders.

Without freedom, there will be little initiative, creativity or passion. That’s why freedom can’t be a luxury; it can’t be a privilege doled out in tiny increments. Freedom is a right.

Of course, unleashing freedom inside organizations is a tough challenge because it requires dismantling deeply-embedded management principles and practices. But it’s even tougher to expand autonomy without exploding the important efficiencies and discipline that are a product of control.

Thanks to digital technologies, we can imagine organizations that transcend the tradeoff between freedom and control—that are large but not bureaucratic, focused but not myopic, efficient but not inflexible, and disciplined but not disempowering. We believe that embracing and experimenting with emerging digital technologies and the powerful principles that power them—from openness to diversity to flexibility—will lead to new and infinitely more empowering management practices.

So, over to you: How can digital technologies and the principles that undergird them help us to dramatically increase individual freedom—while still affording control where it’s needed? And what is your organization or initiative doing to fundamentally rethink core management practices in order to expand individual autonomy?

Tell us what you’re doing to cultivate . . .

  • The freedom to connect. All too often, a person’s sphere of collaboration and communication is defined by organizational silos and sharply defined roles. Direct, transparent, person-to-person connection is the liberating power of social media.
  • The freedom to contribute. In too many organizations, an individual’s expertise is assumed—what a person has to give is closely linked with their formal title or level. There is so much hunger for greater voice and participation. The leaders who figure out how to unleash and harness it will win.
  • The freedom to create. Most organizations are structurally and culturally biased against risk-taking and deviation of any kind. Organizations that lay out the welcome mat for the new, the different, the irregular—will be the ones that reap irregular rewards.
  • The freedom to choose. Job roles and tasks are often assigned from the top-down, and all-too-often limited to a narrowly-defined area of responsibility. The most vibrant organizations are working to give individuals more choice over where they work, when they work, how they work, with whom they work, and what they work on.
  • The freedom to challenge.  Large organizations tend to make life uncomfortable for misfits and rabble-rousers. Organizations must become more hospitable to dissent and deviance in order to stay tuned and adapt to all the changes in the environment. 

 

Let’s face it, there is a whole lot more enthusiasm for making organizations more open, dynamic, and free than there is progress. Why? Control has been the iron fist behind too many organizations for too long. And unleashing freedom inside them requires dismantling deeply-embedded management principles and practices. Of course, it’s not an either/or proposition.

When it comes to creating organizations that are adaptable, innovative and engaging enough to meet the future, there's no single recipe, but there is a crucial ingredient: individual autonomy. People need freedom--the freedom to pursue their passions, experiment with new ides, ignore the hierarchy, make small bets, challenge conventional thinking, choose their work, and maybe even elect their own leaders.

Watch MIX co-founder Gary Hamel make the case for renegotiating the trade off between freedom and control at work. Can you imagine a future where you can not only bring your own device to work but also design your own job and choose your own boss?

Watch our Maverick Hangout with Richard Sheridan, co-founder & CEO of Menlo Innovations—and learn more about Menlo's original, audacious, and powerful design for work.

Continue the conversation around the Hangout on Twitter: #JoyInc.

One of the questions that drives us at the MIX is: why can’t our organizations be as human as the human beings who work inside them?

You’ve dished it out before, and you’ve taken it.

  • “Well, good morning. Nice of you to finally join us!”
  • “He’s always taking long lunches.”
  • “Wish I could leave at 4:30 every day...must be nice!”
  • “Is he ever at his desk?”
  • “Sure must be great to work from home every Friday.”
  • “Seems like she uses all her sick days to go shopping.”
  • “Oh, she’s home with a sick kid...again. I need to get myself a kid.”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? We call this “Sludge.”

The five digital freedoms - the freedom to connect, contribute, create, challenge, and choose - portend change for all organizations regardless of industry or geography. There is no stopping people from expecting the same opportunities in their work life as they experience in the personal lives. These freedoms are in direct opposition of many currently-accepted management practices and will usher in a more humanized approach for getting work done—whether we like it or not.

So much of the conversation in business is about power: what you control (“I run a $200 million piece of the business”), who you control (“My 350 direct reports”), and how you control (org charts, pay grades, policy manuals). Of course, power and control are spectacularly subpar strategies for unleashing human imagination, initiative, and passion—all those qualities every organization needs in abundance in order to thrive in the Creative Economy.

Many of us who took natural science courses during our undergraduate work were exposed to the story of the boiled frog experiment. The experiment showed that a frog sitting in a beaker of water would not attempt to escape if the water was heated gradually enough. The lesson we are supposed to learn from that story is that is we do not pay attention to the gradual changes in our milieu, we may suffer dire consequences.

For too long the ruling ideology of too many organizations has been control: controlling people, controlling information, controlling deviations from the norm. The good news is that we already have a potent model of freedom as an organizing principle. It’s called the Internet.

Over the last decade, digital, social, and mobile technologies have greatly expanded the scope of personal freedom—the freedom to connect with anyone anywhere in the world; the freedom to contribute and to make a real impact on the basis of merit rather than position; the freedom to create and express oneself; the freedom to choose what to buy, what to join, what to work on; and the freedom to challenge, to speak up, to push back, to rise up.

bence-horvath's picture
Facing the challenges of our comapny (mounting pressure, weak & uninterested governance, lack of centralization) our team realized that no singular solution could tackle the problem in its full co
By Bence Horvath on July 18, 2011
stelio-verzera's picture
Liquefying an organization means disrupting the industrial-age driven assumptions on which rigid structures are designed and move on to make it adaptive, dynamic and anti-fragile.
By Stelio Verzera on December 18, 2013
alanna-krause's picture
Collaborating with the Occupy movement enabled our business to develop the tool we needed to acheive the truly flat, transparent, empowered structure we'd always wanted.Management doesn't have to comp
By Alanna Krause on December 20, 2013
katti-fields's picture
While the trend with most companies today is to block employee use of social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, Edmunds.com, Inc.
By Katti Fields on July 15, 2011
keith-gulliver's picture
The notion is one of organizations having an adaptive approach to work, by giving individuals regular opportunities to choose a proportion of what they do rather than having it all determined for them
By Keith Gulliver on July 17, 2013
jennifer-long's picture
There is a lot of frustration and sometimes limitation around career advancement, professional development, succession planning etc.
By Jennifer Long on October 17, 2013
aaron-anderson's picture
It's not often you get to start a new job that hasn't been done before.  In January 2013, I set about building my new role as our College's very first Director of Strategic Organizational Initiat
By Aaron Anderson on October 17, 2013
simon-gosney's picture
You must read this hack in the order in which it is presented. You may only comment on it if you are registered to do so.
By Simon Gosney on July 17, 2013
sean-schofield's picture
Sometimes meetings are absolutely crucial; frequently, they are not. Why? Organizational norms and behaviours can get in the way sometimes if they aren't refreshed.
By Sean Schofield on May 26, 2011
david-mason's picture
This hack gives all employees the power to take management’s ideas and rework them to either replace the idea or merge the two together.
By David Mason on June 25, 2011
pankaj-bodade's picture
Ever since I joined the IT industry I always had a question on the performance appraisal process for career progression to next level or to get financial raise or any other benefit.
By Pankaj Bodade on October 17, 2013
stephen-remedios's picture
A few months ago, the folks at the Center for Creative Leadership organized a free MOOC on Leadership.
By Stephen Remedios on December 18, 2013

Pages

Submit a Hack (a disruptive idea, radical fix, or experimental design) or a Story (a real-world case study of a single practice, an initiative, or a broad-based transformation) on the subject of how organizations and leaders have tackled (or could tackle) two urgent challenges: 1) redistributing power in a way that gives many more individuals an opportunity to lead, and 2) equipping and energizing people to lead even when they lack formal authority.

PLEASE NOTE: We have revised the Challenge to unfold in TWO rather than THREE rounds. All entrants will skip the "mini hack" and "short story" step and contribute a full HACK or STORY.

Check out the Hack and Story Cheat Sheets below for a more in-depth guide.

Participation is open to any registered member of the MIX. Join here

MIXers may (and are encouraged to) team up to co-author submissions. To work collaboratively, one MIX member needs to start a Story or Hack and then add other MIX members as participants by entering their names in the co-author field. All listed authors will have edit access to the Story or Hack.

Submissions may draw on secondary source materials but should be based primarily on first-hand experience or an original idea. In every case, be sure to credit all those who contributed to your story or hack and provide citations to external reference material.

The Digital Freedom Challenge will unfold in two stages: a preliminary submission phase ending December 20, 2013, and a final round for the finalist entrants ending March 5, 2014.

All entries will be judged by our panel of leading management thinkers and progressive practitioners, including:

  • Dave Bent
    Sr. V.P. eBusiness Services & Corporate CIO, United Stationers Inc.
  • Jack Hughes
    Founder and Chairman, TopCoder
  • Cali Ressler
    Co-Founder, CultureRx, LLC
    Co-Author of Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It
  • Jody Thompson
    Co-Founder, CultureRx, LLC;
    Co-Author of Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It
  • Krischa Winright
    Chief Information Officer and Vice President, Information Technology, Priority Health
  • More to Come...

Winners will receive significant recognition as management innovators on the MIX and with our media partner Fortune.com. Winners will also earn the chance to appear at future live events hosted by the MIX and its partners.