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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.


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. 


mark-bublitz's picture
In our organization a good portion of customer orders are customized. These customizations require people to think and engineer a solution to what they think the customer desires.
By Mark Bublitz on December 17, 2013
wendy-fleisher_1's picture
The SRM information system is a way of capitalising upon a knowledge worker’s intellectual capital using data mining methodologies whilst also providing an intuitive, meaningful and personalised works
By Wendy Fleisher on November 10, 2013
ray-pendleton's picture
Introduction to Inspire Inspire is a web based platform, developed in collaboration with HR/OD directors, managers and specialists that uses social media principles to really sol
By Ray Pendleton on December 20, 2013
alfredo-bregni's picture
Organizations need a "0.0" solution (i.e. a minimum of IT support to their acrivities) within a "3.0" approach (i.e.
By Alfredo Bregni on October 17, 2013
jim-scully's picture
The important debate we're embarking upon is at the heart of the management challenge.
By Jim Scully on October 20, 2013


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 Winners will also earn the chance to appear at future live events hosted by the MIX and its partners.