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Update from the MIX Management 2.0 Hackathon


Over the past year, I’ve had the fun job of being the Community Guide on the Management Innovation Exchange  (we call it the MIX). It’s a great gig because I have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with smart folks from around the world who are interested in improving the way our organizations work.

Over the past few months, we’ve been running an effort we call a “management hackathon.” We ran our first hackathon experiment last year, with a small group of about 60 management innovators attempting to uncover how to enable communities of passion in or around organizations (if you’d like to read the report highlighting our findings, go here).

Our newest effort is called the Management 2.0 Hackathon, and for this one we’ve gone much bigger. This hackathon is a collaborative effort to come up with innovative management hacks based on the principles that have made the Web one of the most adaptable, innovative, and inspiring things humans have ever created. Our goal is to take the best lessons from the Web’s success and apply them to reinvent management practices in organizations.

There are now over 750 contributors taking part from six continents. For fun, here’s a map showing where our participants live and work:

Over on the MIX website, I’ve written a few blog posts highlighting some of our recent accomplishments.

Here’s a link to a post about the navigator tool we created, highlighting examples of organizations that are already using the principles of the Web to innovate today.

Here’s a link to a post I just wrote late last week with some of the most innovative hack ideas that have been suggested by contributors.

Sound interesting? If you’d like to participate in the Management 2.0 Hackathon and share and help develop management hacks with us, it’s not too late. In fact, we’ve had almost 50 new participants join in the past week alone.

If you want to start hacking with us, go here to create your account and read the instructions for our current sprint. It’d be great to have you on the team!

What ‘default to open’ looks like at New Kind


Over the last few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the concept of defaulting to open, which was one of the major things that drove the culture at Red Hat and was an honest extension of the philosophy behind the open source movement. The term ‘default to open’ was also recently expanded upon by Google SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock in this article from Google’s fantastic Think Quarterly online magazine.

The other day I was sitting in the New Kind office, and was inspired to take the picture you see here. I thought it did a nice job capturing what ‘default to open’ looks like at New Kind.

The first thing to notice when you look at this picture is that everyone is sitting in the same room together.

No one at New Kind has an office. We all share a big open space. Now having said that, what you see here—everyone sitting at their desks—is pretty rare. While we are together by default, if someone gets a phone call or has a meeting, they typically get up from their desk and head into one of our dark conference rooms for privacy and to ensure they don’t annoy everyone else.

With the exception of our big collaboration space, all of the conference rooms at New Kind are gloomy rooms with no outside windows, so unless folks are on deadline and trying to escape distractions, they are not places to linger longer than necessary. That’s a good thing because it tends to keep us together. And if we are sitting at our desks and trying to avoid distractions, headphones are our friends (In fact, I’m writing this at my desk while listening to the new Sleigh Bells album).

Not only does everyone—including our Chairman and CEO—sit in the same room together by choice, but as you can see from the picture, everyone also has the same inexpensive IKEA desks and file cabinets. Yes, we have titles at New Kind so that we can interface successfully with the outside world, but they sure don’t get you much inside the office.

The last thing I’d like to point out that really shows what we mean by ‘default to open’ is that there are two people sitting in this picture, Adrienne and Billy, who are not technically New Kind employees, but do work with us regularly. Adrienne is a fantastic designer and the genius behind the amazing food blog AdrienneEats. Billy is a writer and social media expert with a Klout score second only to Nation of the people in this picture (impressive!). Neither of them is in the office every day. In fact, some days you’ll see other people sitting in those seats or elsewhere in the office with us.

When we first formed New Kind, we had a vision of the company as a community. The core concept behind New Kind was very simple:

We wanted to

1) do meaningful work
2) with people we like.

That’s it. So we regularly invite people we like to sit in the office with us, whether they are New Kind employees or not. New Kind is a community, open to those people who share our worldview. Often the folks who work with us in the office are collaborating with us on projects. Sometimes they are working on projects for other clients. We don’t really care, we just like having them around.

Do you have a similar setup and philosophy in your office? Tell me about it!

College rankings and the dark matter of reputational precision


Earlier this week, the New York Times published a disturbing piece entitled Gaming the College Rankings, exposing how Claremont McKenna, an elite college in California, had misrepresented data in order to climb up in the US News & World Report college rankings. By gaming the system, it rose to become the ninth-highest rated liberal arts college in the United States.

The most disturbing part of the article? Apparently Claremont McKenna College is not alone. Over the past few years, many leading institutions have admitted, been caught, or are suspected of gaming the rankings, including Baylor, Villanova, the University of Illinois, Iona, and even the United States Naval Academy.

Pretty depressing stuff.

So what motivates great academic institutions to risk their reputations to rise in a ranking from a magazine that only remains barely relevant? This quote from the article hits the nail on the head:

“The reliance on [the rankings] is out of hand,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, the associate vice president who oversees admissions at DePaul University in Chicago. “It’s a nebulous thing, comparing the value of a college education at one institution to another, so parents and students and counselors focus on things that give them the illusion of precision.”

The illusion of precision.

These top universities and colleges are risking their hard-earned reputations for an illusion.

Picking the right place to go to college is an excruciatingly difficult decision. I remember looking at these rankings when I was choosing a college too. Why? Those of us who did it were looking for any information we could find to help us ensure we were making a smart choice. These rankings gave us a quantifiable data point that we could use to validate our decision.

The problem is that the data we should be analyzing when making this decision is much harder to see and quantify. The dark matter of institutional brands resists easy measurement and the results of analysis are vastly different for each individual.

For example, I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is #29 in the most recent US News & World Report rankings. But I grew up in Winston-Salem, where #25 Wake Forest University is located. Should I have applied there instead? Would I be more successful today if I had received a degree from Wake Forest?

Or what if I had made the decision to go to the University of Georgia (#62), where I was also accepted? Would I be living in a van down by the river because I gave up the opportunity to learn at a school ranked 37 spots higher?

The illusion of precision provided by the rankings may give someone peace of mind as they make their big decision. But at what cost?

The right college is different for every person. Some of us are better suited for big schools. Or small schools. Or nerdy schools. Or party schools. Or cheap schools. Or football schools. And how much does the college itself even matter? If your goal is to be a rich Wall Street banker, Harvard (#1) may have a program that will get you there. But if you want to be a marine biologist, Harvard may not be able to hold a candle to UNC-Wilmington (#11, regional universities in the South), and you’ll probably pay off your student loans faster.

Are the rankings actually harmful? I never thought they were—most people are smart enough to recognize that a degree from a high-ranking college is no guarantee of life success (and a degree from a low-ranking one is no indicator of future failure). The rankings were just one mostly-meaningless data point that gave your parents bragging rights when talking about your education with their friends.

But reading this article made me change my mind. If a great institution risks its reputation for the sake of rising a few spots in a mostly-meaningless ranking, what does this say about its culture? And is US News & World Report (along with others who do similar rankings) at all culpable for forcing colleges to worship a false god in the hope of building fast, cheap, and superficial brand value?

I’m certainly going to look at these rankings in a different light from now on… how about you?

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