How to CHREATE the Future of Work

CHREATE Future of Work

May 23, 2016

Nope, no misspelling of the title… The Global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent, and the Enterprise  or short “CHREATE” conceived by the brilliant USC Marshall Professor John Boudreau is in its third year of rethinking and re-tooling how HR must evolve to meet future challenges.

What started out with a small cohort of Chief Human Resources Officers in 2013 culminated in a Summit at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco last week where more than 80 HR leaders from many industries and geographies co-created various aspects of the future of work.

Five volunteer teams presented their solutions that were designed over the last few weeks, many of them incorporating hands-on activities and practical tools that HR leaders can implement inside their organizations tomorrow.

I was fortunate enough to be a team lead for one of the sub-groups that presented at the Summit. Our team comprised of Tom Perrault, Maggie Curcio, Tracy Tyler, and Gary Kushner was tasked with finding solutions that address the five forces of change.

We initially gasped at the complexity of the challenge but then we buckled down and started brainstorming solutions. These emerged as our top three:

  1. Wearables for Good: What if we could leverage AI to better support people with different abilities in the workplace? An example are glasses that can help people with autism read facial expressions.
  2. From HR to Employee Experience: What if all HR departments transformed into employee experience functions similar to what Airbnb has done?
  3. Tindered Talent: What if key talent matching functions were enabled by a Tinder-like app? Areas were matching could be done may include job/fit match, mentor/mentee match, freelancer/project match, volunteer/opportunity match.

Dazzled yet?

As we worked through the brainstorming process we noticed something unsettling. Our internal adult and HR judges piped up and instead of continuing to brainstorm a long-list of solutions we kept identifying limiting criteria:

  • “We need to know the industry we are solving for!”
  • “What is the business challenge the CHRO is trying to address?”
  • “I would want a solution by HR process area!”
  • “Every workforce has its own set of challenges!”

We realized there are no one size fits all solutions and so we decided to pivot our approach and outline a process every organization can follow to generate solutions for their own context. We modeled this process based on our own lessons learned.

Drum roll… here is the simple, three-step process you can follow to find solutions to the future of work as it relates to your organizational context:

STEP #1: Set the stage for out of the box thinking.

What we found is that it was very hard to just be creative “on command”. In HR especially we are conditioned to rush from one problem solving challenge to the next leaving little time to take a step back and create what I call “brain space” for creative thinking. Does your organization have an innovation lab or has instituted design thinking methodology? These are good starting points to leverage as you set the stage for you and your team to start brainstorming. If you don’t have an established method you may want to get the book “The secret of the highly creative thinker”. It is packed with exercises that get the creative juices flowing.


STEP #2: Clarify and focus the problem statement.

The problem with the initial task we were supposed to solve was that it was just too big to tackle. In order to come up with actionable solutions you want to clarify and focus the problem statement you are trying to solve for. Let’s work this through by looking at a scenario highlighting one of the five forces of change:

Businesses will need to increase their agility in a rapidly changing world. Effectively leveraging the free agent workforce for “just in time” projects will become a vital business driver. [Read more about this trend here.]

The implications really span the entire employee lifecycle:

Five Forces Impact - Future of Work


STEP #3: Leverage virtual brainstorming tools.

Our team was comprised of HR leaders and consultants from three different time zones. It was incredibly hard to find time for brainstorming conference calls. As your own workforce becomes increasingly virtual and global you won’t have the luxury anymore to convene everybody in the same physical location and pull out your magic posters and post its tool kit. So what can be used instead?

We decided to try Stormboard a platform that combines aspects of a virtual white board with brainstorming features (virtual post its, the ability to comment and vote on someone else’s idea). We really liked this tool, especially because it is easy to use, people can participate at their own pace, and it can be accessed from a mobile device. You should check inside your organization – maybe your company already uses a tool like this that you could leverage. If not, Stormboard offers a basic free membership. More comprehensive plans are available at a reasonable monthly price point.

Take a look at our Stormboard:

CHREATE Solutions Team Screenshot - Future of Work

At the Summit last week we decided to run a working session with the 80 HR leaders in the room brainstorming live with Stormboard. You can see me facilitating this session in the title picture of this post.

We gave the teams 5 minutes to brainstorm solutions to the problem statement: “What ideas do you have for re-engaging the free agent workforce?”

The result was amazing. According to the report I ran afterwards, there were 24 ideas generated. The top voted ideas were:

  • “Connect the free agents in an external “guild”, financially supported by the company that can sell their services outside.”
  • “Reboot the employee referral program. Could we redefine the program for free agents?”
  • “Figure out what motivates each individual free agent worker… then design for their individual interests.”
  • “Create free agent nation within an organization – they are employees but free agents that are project-based.”
  • “Recognize experts with a badging or other reputation indicator system.”
  • “Create a board for free agents to network among each other/create a sense of community and possibly solve some work problems.”

Bang! All of that in 5 minutes!

Based on the responses above you can see that we could have done an even better job in defining “free agents” – are they internal, external, or both?

Now, imagine what you could do by following this simple three-step process inside your own organization!

I am excited for the future of HR – are you?



Nicole Dessain is a talent management and HR “nerd”. She loves to blow up long-held believes that stop us from preparing our organizations for the future of work. Nicole feels lucky to have had an amazing corporate HR and consulting career that she recently has turned into her own business, talent.imperative inc. What can be better than helping clients build talent.driven organizations? Her second non-profit business, DisruptHR Chicago, was launched in 2016 and has inspired more than 500 HR professionals in the Chicago area. And this is just the beginning…




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