The Latest Tony Hsieh Award Winners Join A Growing Movement Of Innovators On The Radical Edge

No one can fill in the shoes of Zappos’ founder, but thousands of innovators together could come close. We can honor his legacy by building a movement dedicated to his mission of increasing human capital.

We created the Tony Hsieh Awards to recognize leaders, entrepreneurs, teams and companies that innovate in the area of ​​human capital, spread their collective insights and transform the way the world works. No one can fill Tony’s footsteps, but thousands of innovators combined could come close. We want to honor his legacy by building a community that shares his curiosity and shows the same willingness to advance human capital. In our first year of the award, we’ve met hundreds of entrepreneurs, chief people officers, and CEOs of unicorn companies who are keen to crack the code. In the second year of the Tony Hsieh Award, we had thousands.

Individual survey

Tony often expressed the belief that the company is the vehicle for individual development competence, the elevation of an individual. A great example that we found at recent awards was a company called Vertical Harvest. Vertical Harvest grows crops in the heart of communities by taking underutilized urban buildings and installing hydroponic vertical controlled environmental agriculture (CEA). This means urban farming can take place in urban, underserved neighborhoods on a fraction of the land required for traditional farming, while using 85% less water to deliver produce.

Vertical Harvest also prioritizes social impact and profitability, using a mix of public-private partnerships and working with an inclusive employment model that currently focuses on citizens who are often excluded. Fifty percent of their employees are people with physical and/or mental disabilities. The organization creates jobs in communities struggling with food insecurity and extends economic inclusion to people with disabilities — and has done a tremendous job at it. And they outperform their competitors in financial terms.

If Vertical Harvest inspires you:

  • What could you do in your performance reviews or in your development programs to create a human height mindset?

Holacracy: The potential and future of self-governing teams

One of the real takeaways from the awards’ first year was how a strong focus on individual happiness and engagement yields significant returns. This was at the heart of Tony’s teachings and book Bringing Happiness: A Path to Win, Passion and Purpose. But once you have an engaged population, why not move to highly engaged teams that require less management?

Teams moving towards a social contract between them that provides some level of accountability, development, coaching, elevation and achievement – a shared commitment to the mission, but a commitment to one another in the process of achieving that mission. Many people have experimented with a modified degree of holacracy, or self-management, as Tony did as a pioneering innovator in space. And as we announced the latest award winners, some of the world’s greatest thinkers and self-governing teams came together to consider the possibilities and future of self-governing teams.

We have founded organizations like SINA (The Social Innovation Academy) in Africa. It’s really a fundamentally different organizational model that works without a CEO. The focus is on creating a generation of “scholars” or “changemakers” – 18- to 27-year-olds who are evolving from recipients of help to active drivers of their own future, one person and one community at a time within the self-organizing social innovation groups.

Every SINA scholarship holder has a background of exclusion: a street child, a refugee, an orphan, a child soldier or extreme poverty. Tailor-made empowerment levels and self-management processes support the scholarship holders in defining their own path in their community – and in turning these young people into social entrepreneurs.

This kind of social enterprise development empowers an entire African generation to act with purpose! To date, SINA has helped launch 59 social ventures, creating 348 meaningful jobs. If SINA inspires you, what could you do to break away from the control-oriented leadership of teams and negotiate a social contract in which the team members commit to:

  1. To a joint mission that acts as the North Star
  2. To speak openly in the service of the mission
  3. be accountable to one another.

human capital and technology

The recent awards were the first time we saw the integration of human capital and cutting-edge future technology. Human Bees, the talent matching organization of Geetesh Goyal and Ranil Piyaratna, is ranked #1 on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s Fastest Growing Companies. Human Bees is based on a simple idea: thorough screening – on both ends of the job exchange, the client and the candidate.

The company has a retention rate 30% higher than the industry norm because they really cracked the code by using technology support to find the right candidates at all levels of an organization. They see “culture as an algorithm” – using AI to predict the hiring, socialization and placement of the right people in jobs for their clients.

You have a passion for making sure people find meaning in their work, especially workers. Within their own organization, Geetesh and Ranil advance “through merit without limits” – jettisoning the normal model of time in the role and climbing the ladder at the same pace as others. “We will promote anyone if they are ready,” says Geetesh.

If you are inspired by Human Bees:

  • Challenge your CIO to work with your leaders to explore how AI and predictive technologies can transform business operations.

First class approach to hybrid working

It’s no surprise that among the recent winners were two exceptional companies, Dropbox and Mindbloom, both of which have pioneered the path of what it means to be in front of others and not just where you work and where you are, to change but to change How do you work. They set a roadmap to reinvent work processes in a world-class way in an increasingly hybrid world.

Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox, moved from 10 physical rooms to 30 global neighborhoods where he had small collaboration studios instead of an office. And as part of a shift to remote and asynchronous work; Dropbox has embraced a culture where meetings are only for the 3Ds: discussions, debates, decisions. As an organization, they agreed on four “core working hours” as a company-wide framework for collaboration between global teams. It now has the lowest turnover and highest employee satisfaction in Dropbox history. Ninety percent of candidates cite Virtual First as the reason for their application.

Dylan Beynon, the CEO of Mindbloom, has actually done away with meetings. Dylan said we won’t have meetings, they’re the enemy. An asynchronous working model has been created, working remotely first and trusting employees to get the job done. In the absence of physical interactions that may prove to be an environment for healthy feedback, Mindbloom has adopted a culture of constant feedback: “I like” and “I wish” feedback is sent remotely and regularly to managers and at least every two weeks given to a colleague. And when many companies complain that mental well-being is being compromised in the always-on hybrid workplace, at-home psychedelic therapy is being offered for employee mental health and well-being. Mindbloom’s team has grown tenfold from less than 30 members to over 300; co-creating and cultivating a culture that encourages the personal, psychological and spiritual/ontological transformation of its employees.

What these world-class remote and hybrid companies are demonstrating is that in a world where you can’t get out of a meeting and walk down the hall, you can create a cadence where you can provide real-time, 360-degree feedback to your colleagues , where everyone talks about what they desire or what they want.

If you are inspired by Dropbox and Mindbloom:

  1. Apply high-yield practices like Energy Check-Ins and the Personal Professional Check-In to increase team well-being.
  2. Introduce best-in-class asynchronous practices like the Decision Board to restart team collaboration.

A movement worthy of Tony’s legacy

The world we live in today is more divisive than ever, but these leaders create a collective uplift and coach people to behave as we want society to behave. They achieve outsized results, they engage in practices we should all learn from. We need to start disrupting the human capital models and business models that are ahead of the curve and join those individuals. I invite you all to be among the CEOs, the chief people officers, and the thought leaders to embark on this journey. The reality is that no one can fill in Tony Hsieh’s footsteps, but perhaps hundreds or thousands of us who come and build a movement in his legacy can get started.

To apply for this year’s Tony Hsieh Award, visit:

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