Hacking Work: The Social Network Hack

Bill Jensen and Josh Klein's new book, "Hacking Work" is about righteous rule-breaking. Here, the authors explain how most people are already hacking their work but just don't know it.

Hard Hacks are what people most often think of when they hear the word “hacking.” These are workarounds in technology, tools, processes and structures. But what many don’t realize is that there are lots of benevolent hacks ― hacking doesn’t have to be malicious. It can be taking a system apart and reassembling it in a new, more beneficial way.

A good example is when Josh was working at a large company and tasked with motivating a team that was under the supervision of another director. Because he had no direct authority over them, he was constantly struggling to get the attention and engagement of this very busy staff. There had to be a better way than doing this through the normal, officially-sanctioned, approaches.

As a techie, he relied on those skills: he wrote a small program that monitored network traffic in the office ― just enough to notice where this team was spending a lot of time and when. He discovered that they often went to lunch together, and tended to gather around one particular teammate’s desk to decide where to go every day.

So Josh just made sure to turn up at about the right time at that person’s desk with some inquiry about the projects he needed done. That way he was able to engage everyone together in a discussion about the project.

The team then went off to lunch talking about his project, and came back focused on the solutions they’d come up with. What’s more, it didn’t require any hard-assed memos or edicts or meetings specifically designed to get them engaged, but instead relied on his team’s natural enthusiasm. Pretty soon Josh was getting invited to lunch to talk about their ideas, and results started popping up quickly.

Note that Josh never got personal or intrusive data on his team this way ― that would have betrayed their trust from the start. Instead he used technology to figure how best to connect with his teammates far more quickly than the usual corporate practices of changing his schedule to meet theirs or by creating special engagement sessions. His team wasn’t avoiding him or disengaged ― they were just extremely busy. By knowing when he was best able to get their attention in a way that worked for them, he created a super-fast win-win situation.

That’s an elegant hack.

Bill Jensen and Josh Klein are releasing Hacking Work through Portfolio Penguin on Sept. 23 ― a book on how and why to break the rules to create more success for you, your customers and your company.

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