First Round Deadline
Final Round Deadline
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.
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.
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.
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 January 27, 2014.
All entries will be judged by our panel of leading management thinkers and progressive practitioners, including:
Sr. V.P. eBusiness Services & Corporate CIO, United Stationers Inc.
Founder and Chairman, TopCoder
Co-Founder, CultureRx, LLC
Co-Author of Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It
Co-Founder, CultureRx, LLC;
Co-Author of Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It
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.