Extractive summaries of and key takeaways from the articles curated from TOP TEN BUSINESS MAGAZINES to promote informed business decision-making | Week 291 | April 7-13, 2023
Why Managers Should Think More Like Hackers
By Paulo Savaget | Harvard Business Review | April 06, 2023
Hackers are systems thinkers; they have an attitude that allows them to identify opportunities to make outsized impacts creatively, quickly, and resourcefully, even in systems that were designed to keep them out. According to the author hacking isn’t always malicious and isn’t limited to the world of computing. Managers could benefit from thinking more like hackers in the following ways.
- Work around obstacles. The secret of hackers is that instead of avoiding or confronting the bottlenecks that lie in their way, they work around them. These workarounds may not solve problems all at once, but they allow hackers to obtain good-enough outcomes — and quick wins can sometimes pave the way for big unpredicted change.
- Find opportunities across siloes. A hacker does not start from too many assumptions: they explore unchartered territories, and this often allows them to find unconventional pairings that work exceptionally well.
- Cultivate a culture of pragmatism. Adopting a hacker’s mindset can help create a culture of pragmatism, valuing experimental and incomplete approaches. Managers often focus on what they lack, ignoring resources at their disposal that they can repurpose. Hackers understand that resources represent more than hardware; they are also objectified ways of thinking. By valuing imperfection and rethinking an object’s functions, they experiment on the way to new or evolving opportunities.
- Mobilize your team around a process instead of goals or outcomes. Most hackers are self-organized and diverse groups of individuals who are much more interested in embarking on exciting processes than in a predetermined end goal or ownership of an outcome. This is one of the reasons they often anonymize themselves. Hackers enjoy the process of exploring the unknown as they muddle through unchartered territories. Just like hackers, managers can identify ways of motivating staff and soothing distress, helping them to make sense of confusing predicaments while also granting people flexibility. This helps avoid unnecessary rivalry for ownership and allows others to enjoy innovation journeys.
- Keep it simple — and complex. Hackers excel in complex situations because they focus on what they call “essential complexity,” or the key properties of the challenge they’ve taken on. They try to strip away the “accidental complexity,” or the unintentional challenges that we often take for granted but that can distract from the task at hand. When managers believe that every complex problem requires a complicated solution, they wind up trying to tackle obstacles head-on and fail to parse essential complexity from the accidental.
3 key takeaways from the article
- Hackers are systems thinkers; they have an attitude that allows them to identify opportunities to make outsized impacts creatively, quickly, and resourcefully, even in systems that were designed to keep them out. And hacking isn’t always malicious and isn’t limited to the world of computing. Managers could benefit from thinking more like hackers.
- Hacking helps us take a step back from the worn-out management tenets of efficiency, long-term planning, hierarchical decision-making, and full information, to adopt instead more adaptable strategies.
- Adopting a hacker attitude can help managers work around obstacles, find opportunities across siloes, cultivate a culture of pragmatism, mobilize staff around processes instead of end goals, and navigate situations in which there isn’t an obvious answer or clear choice.
Topics: Decision-making, Managing, Complexity,