5 lessons from Hardie Grant’s Hack Day

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We keep our competitive edge with creativity and teamwork. We kickstarted these in March with a competitive pitch-off.

Sophie Al-Bassam

For one day in March, everyone at Hardie Grant Australia turned off our email (ouch!), cancelled meetings and dedicated a whole day to one thing only: our company-wide Hack Day.

In 2021 it brought together all staff across the Sydney and Melbourne offices, from Hardie Grant Media, Hardie Grant Books, Hardie Grant Travel, Hardie Grant Children's Publishing, Ultimo PressHGX, Tide.pr and SHERPA

There were people from editorial, design, client service, strategy, finance and management – a real mix of personalities and skills.

The event was about developing new ideas-driven businesses for the future. As a group we work with hundreds of talented people in a range of industries, and our role is to bring those ideas to people in ways that meet the changing demands of consumers. It was also about fostering a culture of learning and collaboration. 

We were split into teams and given the option of two briefs – two brands within the business to rethink and develop.

After a day of debate, post-its, brainstorms, making things, prototypes, mucking around with presenting software and in some cases dancing and TikTok creations, we all had to present our pitches. And after all that, there was a winning and runner-up team in Melbourne and a winning team in Sydney.

We know we got creative and met new people, but what else did we learn on the day? We asked the judges and winners what they thought.

People working in teams in the Hardie Grant Sydney office.

1. We’re a talented bunch

Fiona Hardie, Hardie Grant Media chair said: “I was reminded how many super-talented people there are working at Hardie Grant. And not only clever, but everyone approached the challenge enthusiastically. What an amazing group of human beings we have here.”
“We know we want to be more multi-channel and diverse, and we know we need to keep innovating. These sorts of collaborations are really stimulating and show us that we have a lot to mine within the existing team.”

James Kellow, managing director, Ultimo Press, agreed: “There’s a huge amount of talent across the business, and inviting diverse perspectives to contribute to a known project generated real insight and value. 
“We really are a multimedia business and there are a lot of skills and expertise one can access across the business.”

2. We like to work together

Clare Brundle deputy managing director, Hardie Grant Media, appreciated how well everyone worked together in teams.

“The amount of banter and laughter between people who don’t usually work together and, in a few cases, had never met before the day. It was such a good reminder of how much respect for people there is and the great personalities we have within the business.

“I think it’s highlighted the value of brainstorming new ideas and business problems with a diverse group of people and not to pigeonhole individuals.”
Kate Brown, commercial director, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, said this collaboration was highlighted for her, facilitating the Hack Day after a year out of the office due to the pandemic.

“Watching how passionate and engaged our teams are, how generous they are with their knowledge and how easily they collaborate was a complete joy.
“So many brilliant ideas were generated, ones I genuinely think will be put into practice, confirmed for me that more cross-company collaboration is definitely something we should be working towards more. 

For Karyn Kyriacou, senior account manager, Hardie Grant Media, the collaboration highlighted the diversity of perspectives. 

“It was interesting to observe the difference in generations, our thoughts, our past experiences and how we view the world. The cross-generational team had a depth of knowledge and worked so well in a team environment. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them all.”

People working in teams in the Hardie Grant Melbourne office.

3. We have good ideas

Sandy Grant, chief executive, Hardie Grant said: “My own realisation was that we have good ideas outside of our normal day-to-day activities and need to find ways and people to drive these forward.

“It was exciting to see the cross pollination – people with different jobs, training and skills sharing their insight and expertise and exposing each other to different ways of thinking and working.”

Jane Willson, publishing director, Hardie Grant Books, said the Hack Day made her more open minded and she will put into practice what she learned. 

“I would be an advocate of this sort of approach to problem solving and idea generation in different settings through the year.”

4. We know how to shape, sell and implement an idea

Kate Thompson, strategy director, Hardie Grant Media said: “I feel like everyone was energised by the day and learnt a lot about themselves. Particularly the ability to simplify an idea that’s centred on a customer need, communicate a concept with clarity, and then sell it to a diverse group and take them on the journey over a just a few minutes.”

And all this, bringing everything together in the unthinkable timeline of a day.

“The level of team agreement and decisiveness required to generate a result with hours, not days and weeks, was next level and probably took a lot of people out of their comfort zone. You wouldn’t have known that though, as every team put up a considered solution,” said Kate.

5. We're creative, even people in less creative roles

Hannah Louey, account manager, Hardie Grant Media said: “Working in a team environment, and having the time separate from your usual day-to-day role, is so wonderful for creativity. 
“I’ve always felt like I’m not a very creative person, or that I’m not a very good lateral thinker, but Hack Day taught me that with the right tools – and in a strong team environment – it’s possible to push past any perceived limitations you may have.”

Rebecca McRitchie, senior editor, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, also appreciated the creative element of the day.

“The creativity was inspiring and Hardie Grant’s commitment to setting aside a whole day to listen and engage with staff’s creativity and ideas is fantastic.”

Nick Hardie-Grant, managing director of Hardie Grant Media, said that management have learned a lot about the staff and their potential for growth.

"We've learned that so many people have the ability to add more to the team than just the current role they’re performing. The more we can provide people the opportunities to think outside their normal remit, the better."

The Hack Day is just one element of Hardie Grant's commitment to learning and development. The Hack Day's lessons will be taken forward into our approach for the year ahead. 

Sophie Al-Bassam, senior managing editor, Hardie Grant Media.

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