Archive for May, 2012

I had such fun blogging about my zest for life. The comments and retweets gave me an endorphins rush and a sense that this #PunkHR thing really has got some merit.

And then through the marvellous @FloraMarriott a link to Peter Cook (@academyofrock) and his marvellous books and philosophies around Punk Rock People Management. Oh my I thought, I’ve unwittingly infringed (even stolen) someone else’s IP / idea. Peter though, on my connect with him was not only generous, but utterly delighted I’d gotten a similar take on things to him. We found a camaraderie only associated with rebels and wannabe (but authentic) rebels. I was even more encouraged that PunkHR and it’s movement feel and spirit of productive rebellion was something where a Godfather had now been found. PLEASE check out Peter’s work at – getting there first is something Peter is really modest about but hell, he IS a punk rocker of the highest order.

Anyway, apart from this exciting find, today I attended an event that was pure Punk. A gig at the Comedy Store that I was SO glad I attended. The event was hosted by a total Punk – Marc Lewis. What a guy. Honest, insightful and (he’ll like this) playful.

I took my notes in as creative a way as I could. I used the Paper App on so I sketched it out using words and some images I drew around them. It was my rather lame attempt at paying tribute to the principle of creativity. I was up for this.

My opening page looks like this. What is creativity? Expression of original ideas that bring value. Marc’s definition was good enough for me and he accepted that this can include a mash-up of others ideas so it’s not necessarily something that’s been done before. PunkHR as something creative according to this definition? Seemed OK. Marc talked of a terrific tutor and mentor of his John Gillard who’s work I’m going to look up and others reading this may like to also.

Marc also stated that it is natural to be creative as a child – we are at our most creative when we’re being playful. I agreed with that without hesitation and maybe my zest for life is because I am often being playful. Marc also showcased the EA Sports campaign for PEAce day

a creative programme which got online gameplayers into something bigger than games. Something Marc was very proud of as some of his students created this entire campaign.

My next set of sketches showed I was getting a little more creative myself…

Marc talked about everything being a process EVEN creativity and the equation opposite is Creativity=Knowledge+Problem+Divergent Thinker+Collaboration

Marc referenced the Futureshock book by Tofler and how he said that all processes evolve into an exponential growth curve. Loved it.

We then went through each of the component parts of the equation – part 1 – Knowledge.

Knowledge sits in fields and there are seeds in the fields that we harvest. There are two parts of knowledge – experienced and received. We have knowledge and form that into what is called the set effect – our habits like getting dressed in the same manner each morning. When we want to be creative we have to bust out of the set effect and not default to our experienced and received knowledge.

Marc then introduced 2 aspects of creativity – squirreling – making notes of our ideas. If you have an idea, wherever and whenever, note it. Otherwise it’s lost. We also have binging creativity – where we say “so what?” to things we have that we take for granted and challenge it to become creative and test the conventions we live in. Very #PunkHR.

The second part of the equation for creativity is the problem. There are ALWAYS examples of things that need a creative solution. Marc called this MESS FINDING. Deliverance is a company that will deliver a range of take-away foodstuffs as 4 lawyers working late who all wanted something different to eat and had to wait for the 4 different companies to deliver something their food.

Sainsbury’s campaign for Jamie Oliver was played and the creative way in which their marketing campaign to increase their revenue was produced “try something new”. Marc outlined the approach to increasing revenue as either: –
– steal customers from Asda or Tesco;
– increase the cost of their products;
– find new customers.

Justin King felt neither of these would work and so the “each customer buys one more thing per shop” approach came in to drive up sales and give us the “try something new” campaign.

Then we got a bit more punk and looked at Divergent LATERAL thinking and Divergent LITERAL thinking. I think we all get Lateral thanks largely to Edward De Bono. Divergent LITERAL thinking was very powerful too. The story of Alfred Harmsworth’s creation of a Penny Dreadful (a short magazine) was something I took to him creating a very 1800s version of social media – with problems from readers and solutions from readers which proved so successful, we have him to thank (!) for tabloid newspapers ergo the Daily Mail. He took a divergent literal approach which is a known problem and a list of things that can help to produce a further list of opposites in generating ideas and creating solutions. Our Pizza exercise (listing normal facets then describing opposites) is where creativity can come from. Opposites and tangents.

Then we got into Superhero mode. We were told of the features of a superhero – and herein again lies a PunkHR model – powers or skills; in service of something; a compelling cause and a uniform/trademark. We imagined the names – mine were The Limitbuster; the Wishgranter; EnergyGuy (!); The Artofthepossible Girl; Kindness; The Humour Monger and Multi-tasking Man. We then envisaged their service, their compelling cause and their trademark/uniform. A great energiser exercise if ever there was one – L&D types take note.

We ended on collaboration which is pretty self-explanatory here but it was stated by Marc that it’s rare to find creativity in one person alone. A second person adds, gives critique, and brings creativity to another level. Not many Punks are loners, they are part of a movement and often have a tribe mentality in their “being”. And we all need a guru or 2…and we all need a gatekeeper – someone who’s stance we can take to unlock creativity and adopt an approach we wouldn’t normally take. How would Malcolm McLaren or Jerry Dammers view a problem?

I left with a lot to think about in terms of being creative and the equation start to Marc’s talk really got me thinking about #PunkHR as an expressed equation. I came up with this:-

PunkHR= Attitude + acumen + rebellion + cause + individuality + belonging x unconvention.

I thought Marc Lewis was an entertaining enlightener. I will now look at creativity through the exponentially growing process that it is. And most of all, it’s playful.

Play it loud and pogo on..!








I might be pushing it a bit trying to link EVERYTHING I come across to #PunkHR but on 16 May 2012 at the Connecting HR unconference, it was a bit like a load of punks (or Mods, or Soulsters or Rockers) coming together for an alldayer. So there is a link.

AND what Gareth Jones aka @garelaos has done (with support from others) is to create an environment where some enlightened minds come together in pursuit of making/finding a difference. And the environment – both physical and situational – is perfect for where a number of those features I’ve tagged as #PunkHR come together. Energy, creativity, challenge, controversy, bounce and wanting to be different. And belonging to a movement. ConnectingHR is of course a movement. It predates #PunkHR by some years. It is TOTALLY punk, but it’s got a nice rebelliousness about it. And a zest for what we in HR, do.

Whether it oozes Punk is not the main thrust behind this blog. What I intend to do is namecheck, generate more interest in #connectingHR.

Punk itself started as an underground movement. I’m sure when it went overground some purists would moan and not want to be a part of that anymore. But going overground is almost inevitable for movements. It’s progression and therefore it shouldn’t be decried. Punk probably did get watered down for mass consumption by those who were playing at being a punk, but the hardcore founders and new disciples retained their integrity as boundary-breaking warriors pushing back on bland, disconnected mediocrity. The ConnectingHR movement and it’s new found disciples are the latter. Real Punks. Not mail-order types.

This fantastic group of people who clearly care so deeply about the world of people, work and the combination of the 2 blew me away today. I’ve seen some fabulous people like Clayton Christensen, Daniel Goleman (and even met Patrick Lencioni, Marcus Buckingham and Kjell Nordstrom). Forget these guys. What I saw, experienced and took from today will stick with me every bit as long, and influence every thing I do, like Fons Trompenaars use of dilemmas, Costas Markides take on the knowing / doing gap and Malcolm Gladwell’s stories of the battle of Chancersville or Spaghetti Sauce.

I get Open Space technology. I get World Cafe. I get graphic recording. All great components beautifully mixed into the day. We had brain food of 7 minutes from a rolling cast including @dougshaw1; @philclothier; @mirandaash; @jamiepr1; @floramarriott; @workessence; Mike Silverman and Gareth himself.

I tweeted like I never have during that opening exchange. It was like downing 5 pints of beer in the first pub of a 10-stop crawl. I literally bust my tweetability. I was immersed in these 7 minutes vignettes – some a little longer – but whilst this is a traditional start to something so Punk, hold up as we had a Ukelele singsong (call that Punk-Skiffle if you like); one presenter who didn’t present himself but did it via a YouTube video – this was not totally your normal presenting.

We then broke into groups and started our conversations and table-cloth recording and we hit on a GREAT topic. Via a journey around the digital connectivity or lack of between white and blue collar workers, we hit on contracted terms and via a discussion about the lack of a traditional working day/place for many people (and please find the Forbes @work state of mind report – great insight) we eventually found our way to work/life balance.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not disrespecting W/L balance, it is something that is a huge step forward in making sure manipulative employers do not inappropriately “sweat their assets” – i.e. people. My angle is this. I love what I do for a living almost beyond comprehension. It’s not necessarily where I am doing what I love, it’s that I AM doing what I love which is critical to me. So I rarely switch off. Even when I’m relaxing, I’m reading Hamel, Haque, Heath. I am relaxing when I’m researching MiX; TED; Mashable; and reading blogs by our great online HR commentators. To some people that’s work. To me that’s my undying appetite for insight and stimulus into things I’m fascinated about – people and the world of work. I also work on the move; on trains, in hotel rooms, at airports. I work from home, do a little Sunday evening shift.

I do all of this not because I’m under pressure from anyone else and certainly not because I put myself under any pressure. It’s something I love doing, want to do as much of it as I can and it genuinely excites me and makes me happy.

So then along comes some well meaning HR colleague who says…”Don’t you think you should go home earlier sometimes?” “Doesn’t all that travel and stopping away from home ruin your free time?” “I hope you’re not creating a precedent of a long-hours culture that your team will unwittingly replicate?”

So how does that make me feel? A well intended, work-life balance stimulated suggestion/recommendation?

OR a complete lack of comprehension of my desires, my ability to self-regulate; of enforcing a counter-intuitive protocol on me and a generally destructive thing to suggest to me. To me that’s the equivalent of saying to David Beckham “why do you practice taking free kicks so much? Go home and spend time with your family”. He loves what he does for a living and his determination to succeed through applied energy and honed skills makes him happy AND a successful footballer. Sure he’s a family man too, but to suggest he overpractices or that he should “chill out a bit” is missing the point about him. He’s a Punk.

Dan Pink sums it up for me – when he talks about Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose. Those are the things that matter to me. I work to a philosophy – give away all you know and it will come back ten fold. My slant on that philosophy though is in two parts:
holding knowledge as power is a falsehood. Sharing knowledge is real power;
I enjoy the act of learning so much that giving away everything I know gives me the space and drive to go and find more.

So a well-meaning conversation on W/L balance becomes a stress-inducing response that I’m some abnormal freak of nature and I SHOULDN’T put as much into my work as I do. I just simply refuse to accept that point of view. I am very self aware and know myself, I am comfortable in my own skin, I know what makes me tick and where to balance ALL aspects of my life. I have all the checks and balances in place and to suggest to me otherwise is a tad on the insulting side for me. Just as saying someone who works an alternative pattern (I don’t like the term part-timer either) can’t possibly do a certain job – that too is an insult and overly assumptive. I think there may be another blog on designing of jobs – WHY do we insist on every single job starting from the point of 37-40 hours? Anyway, moving on.

So we had a terrific discussion where I was very much “on the couch”. I stood my ground and people could see my passion for what I do and how much that is who I am. I agree I am fortunate this is the case. I also assert though that I have MADE IT THAT WAY. Because I adopted an attitude, an approach that was not “settling for the norm”. Because I created my OWN movement to get what I wanted out of a career. And because I recognised how energy was something I had in abundance, fuelled by being happy with my life and how I choose to live it.

That is ALSO what PunkHR is about. I’m sure of it.

Doug Shaw so eloquently said it – “if it’s not about a work/life balance issue, maybe it’s more about FLOW?” Now that is something I can work with. Flow. Brilliant as ever Doug.

So when asked to feedback about our marvellous discussion a phrase came to mind which summed me up. That I am simply a LIFEaholic. I’m addicted to life.

To suggest I am a workaholic is wrong, it insults me and infuriates me. To suggest I am a lifeaholic is spot on and I’d love you for making that connection.

PunkHR is me and I like to think I am PunkHR. Pogo on..!

In my last blog I coined the #PunkHR phrase. It’s generated some enthusiasm and interest and the hash tag was a mild trend this morning in my enthusiastic morning exchanges. There’s no point in repeating any content which is the blog equivalent of re-runs of Location, Location, Location.

I got thinking about how tricky PunkHR is for some people. Being a rebel, having attitude and challenging every convention around you takes some courage. And the CIPD profession map says courage is an important part of our make up. And we don’t have to be a anti-organisationalist to be a rebel. We need to have that challenger spirit. Someting eloquently document by Khurshed Dhenugara and Claire Genkai Breeze’s book which I had the honour of reviewing last year.

So my call in this blog is to unpack the courage component of #PunkHR. After all, it took courage to don radical clothes, sport a Mohawk and adopt an alternative approach to life.

Courage in HR practice has many aspects. Courage to suggest unconventional approaches in the way people access and utilise learning; courage to believe in the autonomy of people in the workforce; courage to disagree with the business over its strategic imperatives; and courage to act on hunches and instincts you know to be right.

It’s still PunkHR though, as these are all establishment-bucking attitudes, where the energy is propelled by the sense of rebellion and where the dilemmas of individualism and belonging to part of movement beautifully co-exist.

There’s no guide book to being a PunkHR practitioner. It’s a way of life. There’s no degree to be studied. It’s expressing ability through actions. It’s not for amateurs. PunkHR is serious fun for people who believe.

#PunkHR is about standing out. That does take courage but when it’s what you believe in, it’s easier than it appears. HR is often accused of hiding behind process, not being “out there” enough and being maligned/misunderstood. If we’re going to be misunderstood, it might as well be because we’re being rebellious not because we’re deemed irrelevant.

So being a PunkHR practitioner is edgy but it’s not beyond anybody who want to shake things up. If you want to take an approach that’s so noticeably different, the attitude of PunkHR stands out. It’s not for the faint hearted but then when was any part of HR practice? People are fascinating, unique and sometimes high maintenance – that’s not for the faint-hearted.

Have the controversy of Johnny Rotten if you dare, the grit of Joe Strummer, the youthful exuberance of Paul Weller, the poetry of Elvis Costello, the lyrical swagger of Ian Dury and the style of Siouxsie Sioux. I’ll let Joe Strummer have the last word here

“Punk rock is meant to be our freedom. We’re meant to be able to do what we want to do.”

That is #PunkHR. Time for a pogo anyone?

To begin this blog it’s important for me to state something about Blogging – I have this tendency to want to make my blogs authoratitive, challenging, stimulating and – I’ve realised – a bit long.  I’m going to have to get better at that last bit.  Long is not necessarily good in blogs – in fact, I love Seth Godin’s blogs and they’re not much bigger than a tweet.  Clever man. 

Anyway, I wanted to keep this one short but just couldn’t so I am sorry it’s a longish one again.  This blog started when I was a speaker at an event – Business Transformation through HR an event put together by Harvey Nash HR (HNHR) on 10 May 2012.  The second such yearly event HNHR had organised any my second appearance.

I was second up after the driving force behind these events @LisaHNHR – Lisa Wormald.  THE most networked recruiter I’ve come across.  I talked about an internet minute – and there’s a great infographic on that, just (ironically) take a minute and Google it.  I then talked about my recent experience watching “I Love 1977″.  This TV programme on BBC3 featured Star Wars, the Silver Jubilee and Punk.  And the reason I reference the programme was I urged those in the audience to be more about rebellion and practice Punk HR

So what is Punk HR? Some obvious stuff I guess about

  • breaking rules, to generate interest and stimulus;
  • not settling for conventional means at times when a new “sound” and tempo is needed;
  • constant experimentation;
  • a call to the new/next generation;
  • radical new thinking to challenge previously held constructs;
  • creativity, disruption and a degree of chaos.

So I think HR is about to enter its Punk era.  Why?  Well business transformation is needed – as HNHR clearly picked up.  And so I hark back to music circa 1976 and it was a bit like the business world today.  Creativity bubbles had burst all over the place and “establishment” labels were acting like the big banks. 

Then came punk and no more 12 minute prog-rock songs from concept albums no-one could work out; no more cheesy pop-tastic Nolans-esque stuff your mum liked, less Cliff and less novelty trash like Mike Batt’s Wombles. Sorry Mike. How can you not remember you’re a Womble when you’re 7 foot tall, furry with a penchant for rubbish?

It’s time for a change.  Time that HR took some gutsy fights into the boardroom and challenged the convention.  Time to talk with a voice that people recognise and relate to. Create something different, that generates energy, stimulus, a movement.  PunkHR.  It sounds daft to some and there’ll be a lot of doubters but for me this is the time for HR with real attitude.

After all, there’s

  • mass youth-unemployment,
  • a battered public service,
  • pensions raids,
  • a Government that is struggling with its own strategy and
  • a distinct lack of growth projected for years to come.

If Punk HR creates some tensions, some ideas, challenges views on labour and workfulness we might just transform our businesses and generate some jobs. 

We might even find a pogo approach to HR.  We’d all be able to adopt a one-legged bounce as opposed to a three-legged stomp.  Time for a change. 

Punk HR is about:

  • Attitude not just acumen;
  • Short bursts to somewhere not long-players to who knows where?;
  • Unconventional not tired and samey.

The 3 speakers I saw on 10 May all had a little Punk HR about them.  Be it pushing new boundaries in the business model, accepting shortfalls and pushing to radicalise customer service and ultimately to stretch their business; Be it not settling for “doing alright” to not letting the business talk you out of changes needed for future thriving.

These 3 practitioners, from very different organisations, all showed they could do the necessary to get invited not appointed to the boardrooms  (the Punk equivalent of a record deal) – and they could also see what people needed – something different, something challenging, something loud, high-energy and provoking.  And they pushed their agenda, owned it and delivered it – at times taking risks and holding their nerve in the face of conventional thinking.

I think every member of the HNHR audience could see just how the “sit back on your 3-legged haunches” wasn’t going to cut it in 2012 and beyond, it’s all about driving forward and to do that, you need that belief and ability to influence that all rebels have.

Being a rebel and practising Punk HR won’t work for everyone though – and there’ll be the MOR employers with their HR Business Partners in their Execs pockets.  Those people in the workforce who don’t dig a Punk organisational can certainly find a home in a MOR environment – effectively though these are to business what (bless him) Val Doonican was to pop music. 

It’s those with attitude who will put the energy back into their people, their businesses and organisations and create a legacy that will be talked about in 25 years to come.

Maybe even in tartan trousers and sporting a Mohawk.  AnaHRchy in the UK anyone?