Josh Klein — the fellow who trained crows to collect quarters and wrote an article for MAKE on how to toilet train your cat… and Bill Jensen wrote a new book called Hacking Work — an “instruction manual for getting your work done faster, more efficiently, and with more fun no matter what your company manual says.” It came out last week and Josh and Bill wrote the following essay:
Rules are made to be broken. But these days it seems like rules are made to prevent good work from being done. As a result, happy mutants everywhere are busting the crap out of them just to do their jobs. To wit:
• One guy we interviewed sat in the lobby of a potential client and emailed the CEO a list of his customer records – including credit card #’s – from the CEO’s own email account to demonstrate how insecure his technology was. He got the account.
• A woman who was ordered not to bring up unhappy customer reports snuck filmed testimonials on to YouTube. The public outcry was huge, and the problems got fixed.
• Someone working at Apple couldn’t get anyone to own up to changing faulty product documentation, so he cc’d Steve Jobs. Within minutes there was a stampede of people rushing to correct the error.
• A recent college graduate working for a yacht company starting providing free problem-solving on a public message board to their clients. When he was forced to stop or lose his job, those same clients held their contracts ransom until the company agreed to employ him as their head of customer service.
These are all examples of what we’re calling Work Hacks – messing with corporate systems and breaking the rules to get good work done. For hundreds of years we’ve needed bureaucracies to gather, process, and disseminate information and provide us with the tools we need to do our jobs. But nowadays information can be gathered, processed, and disseminated at scale by anyone with a net connection, and the tools we can get for free online often outstrip those our companies provide for us by a huge margin.
The result? Employees are more partners than serfs, and increasingly they know it. Companies need to start treating them as such and support them in building innovative solutions to the company’s problems before they out-produce, out-maneuver, and out-innovate them at their own markets.
The examples above show you don’t have to be a computer wiz to hack work; anyone can do it if you know which rules are really bendable and which ones to break. Hacking Work describes an attitude towards owning your own career — it’s taking the hacker ethos of the joy of learning and applying it to whatever systems your employment is mired in to make things better.
We recognize that this book is a big thumb in the eye of most corporate cultures — which is completely fine with us. It’s broken. Let’s start fixing it.
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