Thursday, 7 November 2013

#CIPD13 Innovation, culture, hackathons and a few babies


I'm in two sessions on innovation and entrepreneurship this morning - one with Innocent and Alcatel Lucent (in person), the other on the CIPD's hackathon (via the tweets).

Innovation is important - Peter Cheese suggests that the top 5% organisations have a 1 in 3 chance of being toppled within 3 years.

And there are a number of ways of encouraging it - firstly there's the development of an entire innovation oriented culture, which is what Tom Fraine from Innocent Drinks talked about - recruiting entrepreneurial people, agitating people to take risks, mixing people up etc. I particularly like their baby wall - helping them think differently by looking at their people differently.

And there's a focus on a more discreet group of people, proving a process and coaching for entrepreneurship. This is what Olivier Leclerc from Alcatel Lucent talked about - firstly through their Sharepoint site and secondly through an entrepreneurial bootcamp, a little bit similar to the hackathon process Peter and co were discussing.

I think this can work in an organisation - particularly one in which there is the culture to match. Facebook is a great example, though I don't think they talked about this in their session.

However, I don't believe hackathons work that well outside organisations - that's whether they're face-to-face or virtual - unless they're reformatted for this environment. Eg see this write up of one at the Enterprise 2.0 conference.

Most innovation occurs based on trust and social connection. All organisations have this - to some extent at least. Virtual groups working around the world don't - unless it's created first.

The CIPD's hackathon didn't do this. There was no social connection at the start - with the exception of the HR social media community, but without broader action that perpetuates a separation between those on Twitter and those who aren't, which isn't helpful either. And although this connection came later that's too late to generate really innovative ideas.

Worse than this, as I've already posted, the hierarchical nature of the MIX and the CIPD's hackathon process imparts a hierarchical structure onto this innovation process, which further reduces the opportunity for true social connection.

So I'm not surprised that the hackathon came out with nothing that new. That's no criticism of any of the hackers - it's the process not the people that's at fault. That's why the previous MIX hackathon into performance management failed to come up with anything either (I mean if you can't even innovate this creaking process, there's something going wrong!)


Yes, there were some nice ideas in there - I particularly liked this one about scrapping stupid rules (something Goffee and Jones talked about as well and also fits beautifully in the sort of culture Tom described.)

But if you go back to Peter's challenge that given the changes in work, the. Workforce and the Workplace, much if not most of what we do in HR is no longer fit for purpose (something I agree with totally!) then there are much, much bigger prizes to be had!

I hope I don't annoy anyone to much by this post - I would still like to win the MIX's #SAPmPrize and get uninvited back to #CIPD14!  But Peter asked me last night how we can continue the hacking process, and the first part of my answer is not to do more like this.

I'd go with something more along the Innocent vs Alcatel Lucent lines - find some entrepreneurial HR, business and otherpeople, agitate them to take some risks, mix them up...

And if you want to send my your baby photos, I'm happy to share them here!


Credit for fruit rule pic: Perry Timms (photo of Gemma Reucroft)


  • Consulting - Research - Speaking - Training - Writing
  • Strategy - Talent - Engagement - Change and OD
  • Contact me to create more value for your business
  • jon [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com


Technorati Tags: , , , ,