HR needs a Good Hacking–Are You In?


I remember when you brought up a while back that you were intrigued by the concept of hacking.  At first, I didn’t really get it.  I, like a lot of people, have come to think of hackers as those bastards who work tirelessly to crash our computer networks or get my twitter account to send out a bunch of nonsense without my knowledge.  I had come to understand hacking as breaking into a system from the outside.  But, as I discovered, true hacking is something very different.

The hacker culture is actually about a passion fueled obsession to understand the inner workings of a “programmable system” for the purpose of stretching or expanding it’s capabilities.  True hackers aren’t trying to break anything, they are actually trying to take what already exists, find its maximum potential and then stretch it a little farther.  Hacking is about creating breakthroughs, paradigm shifts and sometimes, revolutions.  It’s about about progress.  It’s about the relentless pursuit of better.  I love that.  Thinking about it makes me all tingly.  I digress.

Along my journey of learning about hacking, I found some really interesting stuff on Wikipedia that described the unifying beliefs and tenets of the original hacker subculture.  Try these on for size:

  • Creating software and sharing it with each other
  • Placing a high value on freedom of inquiry; hostility to secrecy
  • Information-sharing as both an ideal and a practical strategy
  • Upholding the right to fork
  • Emphasis on rationality
  • Distaste for authority
  • Playful cleverness, taking the serious humorously and their humor seriously

I don’t know about you, but when I saw this list initially, I wondered how in the world I hadn’t stumbled across the idea of hacking before now.  This is exactly the kind of thinking, behaving and doing that we need within our organizations.  The way we do work isn’t entirely broken, but it sure could use an overhaul.  We need HR professionals, leaders, managers, consultants and vendors who are constantly trying to hack the way we do work and our notion of what an “employee” looks like and does.  We need an army of hackers within our discipline who are passionately and relentlessly trying to gain an intimate understanding of what really makes people tick–then using that knowledge to stretch and expand our current systems for how work gets done and how we organize ourselves.

The time is now for an uprising of hackers in the HR space.  I’m stoked to be sharing our framework, the HackLab, with the beautiful and sassy participants of HRevolution-Las Vegas.  We will empower them with a model they can use to start hacking within their organizations.  It’s going to be awesome.

Hack this.



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