Are You Creating an Organization Where Anything Is Possible?

Once a year, engineers at Facebook are encouraged — but not required — to ditch their jobs and try something else out within the company for 30 days. It’s a program that started in 2011 called ‘Hackamonth.‘ ”

As I read this quote the other day from a recent Business Insider article, I just had to smile. That’s because I am just so amazed at how the “newer” companies try out new ways to engage workers. As the article states, many of the new features and products at Facebook came about as a result of this “hackamonth” initiative.

Google also has a version of this, but I understand that it has been modified somewhat.

Creating the incubator throughout the organization

As companies look for new features and initiatives, something as simple as letting employees do their own thing could prove more valuable than the normal emphasis on innovation. What I like most about these initiatives are that they show that newer and younger leaders are so much more open to new ideas. This creates an environment within the organization where anything is possible.

And, this has a much greater impact than some leader using the word “innovate” in every communiqué with the staff.

There must be an environment to innovate. The word “incubator” comes to mind when I think of innovation. Creating an entrepreneurial environment is more than a physical structure; it involves creating an environment within that opens the minds to think of things differently and look for solutions.

Gardening and developing talent solutions

If we think in terms of gardening, we take soil and plants and create a base that will allow each one to flourish. However, this takes constant care, watering, weeding, pruning, etc., to build and transform that landscape into a fertile environment.

I know people that get excited about a new plant, and through neglect, the plant enventually dies. What happened? Well, if we do not care for something, it will eventually wither away.

Creating this kind of culture within an organization allows it to fully bloom so that when it is time to “harvest,” the bounty is full.  You cannot will this to happen — the environment must be created.

That is why it is going to take a new level of thinking to not only innovate but to unleash the power of the workforce. I remember a recent TV interview where the reporter asked me about the power of adding pool or ping pong tables in the workplace. I responded by asking him the following: “Do you think that a pool table will make up for a horrible work experience or a bad manager?”  No reply was needed.

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However, there a lots of organizations that buy into these type of gimmicks. Last week, I was visiting an organization and noticed nap pods near the lobby. That’s different, I thought, but it will take more than nap pods to create an environment of innovation. Consider it a start on the journey and a small step towards workplace excellence.

Demographics will solve this if you let it

This demographical shift in our workplaces is going to have a seismic effect over the upcoming years. As our workforces skew younger, which means a younger mindset in leadership roles, you will see everything being questioned, not only the way that we work but how we get our jobs done.

I, for one, will applaud as I follow these new steps and consider how we approach the staid workplace, programs, policies and procedures that have been handled so differently for so long.

So the next time you are wracking your brain to come up with the idea that will save the day, the innovative solution to your problems, or just a better way to do something, put your efforts into fostering and promoting an “incubator” within your organization.

This means an incubator atmosphere where innovation thrives in every corner and in all departments. This is a lot more valuable when you unleash the power of the entire organization as opposed to the “anointed” one.

When you unleash the power of everyone, who knows where your next great idea will come from?

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.