Tough Love: Change. Now. Or Get Hacked

By Bill Jensen posted 10-01-2010 15:12


You’ve seen this kind of post before. Most recently, by Rob Gray when he said that most in this community build “systems of control” when we should be building “systems of engagement.” Oscar Berg echoed that: we’re not designing systems for easy adoption by the workforce.

We’re echoing their message here: This is a plea for this community to get its act together, and start being a lot more user-centered. (The user being the workforce who use your systems to get stuff done.)

With one exception: This blog post has teeth.

Change, or get hacked.
Change, or die (professionally).

My co-author, Josh Klein (a hacker extraordinaire), and I wrote Hacking Work to expose the biggest open secret in the workplace: that your best performers are already hacking your enterprise-wide systems. Get over it and get prepared for more.

Here is what’s happening:
• At most companies, Enterprise 2.0 (and legacy-system holdovers) are just Industrial Age 1.0 on digital steroids. The overwhelming majority of what this community designs and implements is still corporate-centered — fully designed to meet the company’s needs, but not necessarily the individual’s needs. Because of this…
• Benevolent hackers are jumping your firewalls. They know that you are more interested in controls and security than in meeting their requirements to get good work done
• Benevolent hackers have more power in their smart phones than many of the systems you’ve purchased for them to use. So they’re using those smart phones, laptops, and free online software to work around your systems
• The best benevolent hackers join your firm as new hires with their own toolkits. On Day One, they are prepared to work around anywhere from 25% to 75% of your enterprise systems

We know of hackers who set up their own wireless hubs within their cubical just to bypass your work; and lots of others who are bypassing SAP, HR systems, budgeting systems, project management tools, management structures, and more.

But crucial to remember: None of this hacking is malicious or self-centered. It’s all focused on increasing their personal efficiency and effectiveness — while you are seen as holding them back. Which means, ultimately, their hacks better serve customers and the company. Unfortunately, it also means that you’re being left out of their loop — which means your company is not harnessing their innovations, and you could be becoming less relevant.

So, here’s Josh’s and my advice: Get a lot more user-centered, or be prepared for the workforce to bypass your best work and use their hacked workarounds instead. And check and similar sites to watch these developments unfold.    

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