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alberto-blanco's picture

Doomsday Challenges

By Alberto Blanco on June 16, 2013

HR: Let’s provoke corporate earthquakes together and create mobility, excitement, and courage in the process.

At this point of the project it’s clear to me and many others that companies change (if ever) in front of abrupt and severe crisis (and when they do it it’s generally too late). Hence, why not create indeed those crisis by ourselves?

This mini-hack is all about crafting and anticipating your future by bringing today your worst and unthinkable nightmares of tomorrow. How? By designing and running -and here, HR could have an interesting role as provocateur, guide and conspirator- corporate-wide hackathons (or war games) focused on extreme, unusual, apocalyptical, and why-not, funny challenges or situations.

In this line of thought (if you bear with me), the next stretch imagination exercise for finding innovative solutions for a company could (and should) go beyond the shortsighted denial-reinforcing goal of how to strengthen our EBIDTA. It points out things like:

  • After a successful meeting with your top supplier, you have discovered that ALL of your customers have been abducted by an alien race from a distant planet. So, now you need a whole new audience to address to.
  • Aliens are back, and this time they have hijacked all your communications. Therefore, you have no choice, but to base your communications on Instagram and napkins.

The unexpected outcomes (new ideas, new points of view, new thinking, rethinking your entire industry, legacies, and dogmas) that could emerge from such absurd challenges can be vast, illuminating, and paradigm-breaking.

I’m not suggesting though that companies should start considering aliens as their customers in the absence of humans, but to engage in serious playing. Just like kids when they play, they are really into the game and take rules very seriously. That’s why they have a good time, learn, and exercise their imagination.

All in all, if modern organizations were to survive, they have to face their phobias or their own versions of a judgment day, or die trying. 

Main principles reinforced with this hack:

Experimentations & Learning

Flexibility

Creativity

Some enemies defeated with this hack:

Fear

Decision bias

Habit

Inflexible business practices

Rigid structures

Short-term thinking

Insufficient experimentation  

HR process being hacked:Learning and Development

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guido-rubio-amestoy's picture

Alberto, I'm with you in this one. Great idea. I can imagine having "flash mobs" inside companies or creating "black swans" on purpose. This way you can test leadership, crisis management, decision taking, flexibility, procesess, etc. As Paul says... it can be a little extreme.

Regards,

Guido

alberto-blanco's picture

Guido… Awesome! The idea of having “flash mobs” inside companies is fascinating! It could be a great way to materialize a practical application of our hack.

And yes, this could be a little extreme, or rare or unnatural… but as Daniel Pink wrote: “truth often begins as heresy”. Our challenge then would be to design a simple and not-so-scary (step by step) way to try this out. I look forward to what we can develop within the next weeks :)

stephen-remedios's picture

I was thinking of 'scenario planning' and 'worst case scenarios' rolled into one. I have been part of 'risk management' workshops but I think this is more spot on. In today's VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) world, the best you can do is to try and imagine responses to Black Swan events and hopefully adapt when a different disaster happens!

alberto-blanco's picture

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for your thought-provoking feedback! It made me think that maybe one of our contributions after developing this hack could be to set the basics and the urge of moving from 'scenario planning' to 'scenario playing'; or from 'strategic planning' to 'strategic playing'. What’s on your mind?

paul-deemer's picture

I think you've got something here Alberto. A bit extreme perhaps in your outline - but hey! you need to stand out! Where I agree with you is on the fact that organisations tend to wait for crises to happen before they change / react. So simulating the "worst case scenario" would be a good way of testing the organisation's adaptability capacity. Definitely an idea worth exploring. You get my vote!

alberto-blanco's picture

Thank you Paul! Would you like to co-develop this mini-hack in case it moves to the next round?

chris-grams's picture

Love the idea, Alberto. A way to prepare for disaster without actually having to go through it!

alberto-blanco's picture

Thanks Chris! Indeed. This could be a way to accumulate painful and not-so painful battle scars ;)