Work hacks – upset those work routines

Nothing is more seductive than (work) routines and the notion of ” that`s the way we’ve always done it”. When we work reliably then we get reliable results – but rarely something that surprises, that is new or leads unexpectedly to completely new findings. Sometimes just small changes help teams to come to new conclusions.

Can only software specialists hack? No, in the meantime, the term “hack” has become generally accepted as an unusual and creative way of solving a problem. In this sense, much can be “hacked” – even the work.

During a week with discussions about the future of work a big publishing company in Germany tried to find out what work hacks their staff is thinking about. They find more than 40 and published now five:

No 1: Pre-mortem

What’s this?

While a post-mortem analyzes how a project came to fail, a pre-mortem is carried out before the project even gets underway. 

How does this work?

Everyone taking part in the “pre-mortem” notes down in a few minutes the points that might lead the project to fail. All of the points are then arranged according to topic and everyone votes on which one has the most potential to bring a project down. This not only makes everyone aware of the challenges ahead, but countermeasures can already be developed in the early stages of a project.   

No 2: A minute to arrive

What’s this?

A method to be more attentive and focused in meetings.

How does this work?

Before a meeting starts all participants take a minute to arrive. No talking, no cell phones, no computers. Anyone who wants to can close their eyes. After sixty seconds, the participants are not only physically there, but also mentally, and are focused on what is to be discussed at the meeting.

No 3: The Power Hour

What’s this?

A new way to free up more time in the team for larger projects.

How does this work?

Ideally a team should integrate the “Power Hour” on a daily basis – even if the “Power Hour” only ends up lasting half an hour. All team members come together and potential “disturbances” from outside, like emails or phone calls are completely excluded, to the extent this is doable. All uncompleted tasks are discussed and worked through in a focused manner. This leaves more time for the larger topics and projects.

No 4: Make appreciation easy with kudos

What’s this?

“Kudos” are personal messages that motivate colleagues by expressing gratitude or appreciation.

How does this work?

A kudos card (another work hack – you’ll find templates for these on the Internet) is aimed at a colleague and specifies as concrete as possible a situation you want to thank them or show your appreciation for. The person sending the card can remain anonymous if he or she wants. The kudos cards are placed in a box that is then emptied at team meetings where all the cards are read out loud. Everyone who receives a kudos card is given applause. When people are appreciated in this way, they are mostly highly motivated to get another card soon.

No 5: The bullshit-method

What’s this?

A method from the Human Centered design, with which one wants to achieve the best possible user experience for a product or service.

How does this work?

When it seems you have reached a dead-end trying to solve a problem, it sometimes helps to change the perspective completly. What could be the worst possible solution to the problem? This works, because the ideas collected open your eyes in an amusing way to what is essential and offer important impulses for how to proceed.


A German website with a blog is #workhacks which is an interdisciplinary approach. The basis are theories and methods of the new working world such as SCRUM, Design Thinking, Agile Management, Self-Organization and Holocracy.

Do you have more innovative methods at your workplace? Are you willing to share?

 

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