Archive for November, 2014


Asked by my good friends Harvey Nash HR to come and briefly address a networking event of theirs in Brown’s Birmingham was one of those where I had no hesitation in accepting.  Spreading the word on social networking is pretty much a calling I cannot deny and actually I utterly love doing.

An intimate setting greeted me on arrival and yes, people were networking.  IRL.  In Real Life.  With no script and no deck, I took to delivering and started with my favourite Don Tapscott quote.  (No-one had heard of Don but that’s not important right now).  This is not an information age; it’s an age of networked intelligence.

And that was a deliberate start.  We network for a range of reasons including social comfort, acceptance, belonging, security, ego whatever.  However there’s such a lot to be said about the increased insight and acquired wisdom that comes from networking that alone justifies what Harold Jarche has called your PKN (Personal Knowledge Network) or PLN (Learning).

I guess I am a little frustrated by others questioning why networking (esp digital, social networking) is worth it when in my mind people are orbiting planets and never landing, exploring and learning more.  It’s like we’re comfortable in our “must know” worlds of employment law; HR practice or management theory when in reality we could be stimulated by pioneering research; active experimentation and case study sharing that is abundant on social (and real life) networks.

I tried to hit many of the reasons why networking is tough.  The social awkwardness; the lack of belief that anyone wants to know about me and what I have to say and the mistrust that by “being networked on” something’s being sold.

Truth is, awkwardness can be overcome with authenticity.  Belief boosted by shared passions; tribulations and opportunities and mistrust replaced with positive regard for other human beings intentions.

The usual “where do you find the time”?  “What about narcissim?” “Inappropriate postings – what do you do” .  Not being critical of my audience because they were genuinely curious but it’s like we’re still in a situation where many I can only describe are practising social pacifism.  Actively opting out; voting to not participate; fingers in the ears at all the noise created.

Just to be clear; this is not me saying “everyone must tweet and blog and vine and pin”.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to shout out loud their thoughts or post images that strike their soul or signify their moment in a fantastic place.

Yet social pacifism to me means chosen isolation from amazing people; content and opportunities.  My experiences on social are so positive.  Enriching.  Enlightening. Enabling.  Alliterations Aid Accentuation.

So I guess my urge is that people need other people and networking of whatever variety is the chance to expand horizons; to forge new connections that may lead to solving problems and that we’re just better off connected and together.

Harvey Nash HR did that tonight.  They set something off to connect; share and get people thinking.  Doing follows that and I hope some social pacifists are rethinking their exclusion zone and thinking inclusion zones.

It happens one post at a time.  It takes time to get right but yields huge benefits.

We are Social.  We network for a reason.  We connect with a purpose.  Let’s get Net. Working


It’s mostly about work and our profession that I use this site as an outlet to share thoughts, stimulate others and generally get stuff going to improve HR and work.  That’s why I do it.  Click bait titles?  Self-indulgent masked glorification?  Doom philosophies with pompous intellectual condescend?  Not for me.  Positivity, hope, growth, learning, respect.  Those are words I have in mind when I draft on here.


So this is a little indulgent though but with a good meaning.  Ah Meaning.  That’s the theme here.  The Meaning Conference 2014 beckons tomorrow and I cannot wait.  Last year was my first chance to attend and I loved every nanosecond of it.  Nixon McInnes should be held up as heroes for giving us such AMAZING people and case studies to show that there is hope to – as the badge I got last year so brilliantly put it “unfuck work”.

It really hit me at a time when I needed a higher purpose.  I was a year into my self-employed adventure.  I had a good amount of work coming in.  I was labelling myself a hacker, a disruptor and a social force for good.  Not some pompous over-label; something I felt defined me.  It was also important for me to realise that I am only one person and I needed more people to help me achieve what I had now come to believe.  I COULD change work for the better.  But not without help.

So I enlisted some friends.  Knowing a little about social business and how trendy that is, I thought it best to set things off in this way because it felt right.  Forget the trendy tag.  I didn’t want to set up a conventional company.  I’d left the Government and Not-for-Profit world because of coventions.  I had a chat with a pioneering guy in social and new ways Jon Bains.  He told me about his practice model with a company.  And it hit me like a bolt in the forehead.

I wanted to set up a practice.  A community.  Not a cliche though.  A living breathing collection of people who all WANTED to be there and who had something to offer.  So I did that. I talked to some people.  Amanda Sterling from Auckland, Ana Marica and Catalina Contoloru from Bucharest, Julie Drybrough from Edinburgh and more.  People were interested and curious, sceptical and yet willing.

I called it an iPractice because the “i” stood for independent; innovative; inclusive; in-tune; in-demand whatever.  It needed to feel there was an I in the we.

I realised that this was more powerful than I first thought because not only could I commit to working with a client where I didn’t have the expertise but others had, but they could do the same.  So we embarked on a “no commission / work out the plan and revenue as we go along / no formal enlisting into a company”.  We had either our own businesses; a job where we might have the odd dabble in freelancing; caring responsibilities that meant a conventional job wasn’t the thing needed; or students with some time to lend to working alongside study.  Students; carers; selfies and dabblers.

It probably shouldn’t work because to many professional and serious business people it’s like the playground gang in the corner.

Yet it does work.

People find work; bring it in.  They do their own thing and share.

Work comes in and we opt in because we know we can and want to do it.

It’s where nothing is allocated.  Everything is agreed through dialogue.

Where learning is the fabric of our coming together and sharing is our currency.

Where we believe in our mission and each other.

It’s an unconventional model yet looks like a load of associates huddling around a consultancy.

It’s human beings coming together to do something bigger than they can individually.

it’s a bit exclusive.  Not for everyone.  Shouldn’t be for everyone.  Linked by a bond of trust.

There have been some people ask for in but they’re not right for it.  Yet are right to partner with.  It works on hunches and experiences and vibes and just “fit”.  If people aren’t “in” they’re not lesser for it.  They’re collaborators for sure.  Experiences have taught me that you have to choose carefully those who you link with the tightest.  Doesn’t mean others aren’t in the chain – but the closer links are the most important and need very emotional/spiritual squaring.

So we created a Google+ communtiy as our space and it works brilliantly for keeping in touch.  We use Asana as a project management app and Google docs and Drive etc. for our shared working spaces.  It works a treat.

Since doing this we now number 65.  And cover New Zealand, South Africa, Romania, Poland, Italy, the US and all over the UK.  Some folks are inactive others more so.  We have about a quarter male members; about a third of the iPractice have a job.  Some people started without one and now have one.  Some people have only just joined having just started a new phase in their career.

It’s not perfect, it will have flaws but mostly it’s great because of that.

Now I’m not inviting everyone in – that would almost defeat the object.  Instead I’m urging you to think beyond just you and create YOUR community.  People you love, and trust and believe in.  Then join us, and Culturevist, and CROS in Romania, and Nixon McInnes and others.

When we set up our communities and we find common ground with others we can perhaps truly start to effect those changes we know we need whilst we’re still working in it.

I’m doing my bit because of this calling but I’m fuelled by others I have chosen to share this with.  I am inspired by those I’m not including but will them on to their thing.  I am determined that we can make changes that stick for the better.


For the sake of others maybe but for the sake of love.  The love of our work.

Disruptive HR : Future or Folly?

Posted: November 11, 2014 in Uncategorized



I’ll start with a little warning: use of the word disruptive can cause rolling eyes; tutting out loud and indifferent murmurings.  Or outright indignation.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea see.  It’s not everyone’s ideal way to reshape, ramp up or radicalise a profession which is constantly searching for its sweet spot.

What is it then?  Why even talk about it? Do we need it?

Let’s begin with the term disruptive.  It sits in the majority of modern linguistics with innovation.

Wikipedia says

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

The term was coined and authored by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen in his research into how some industries have survived whilst others struggled or capitulated.  The basic tenet of disruptive innovation is that the market will disrupt you ANYWAY.  We all know the stories of Kodak -v- Fuji and others; Nokia/Blackberry -v- Apple / Samsung and others.  So the theory goes that you disrupt yourself before others/the market will disrupt you.  Essentially, you NEVER get complacent, arrogant or ambivalent to change and adaptation.

So why, and how would HR become a disruptive force?  For itself as a profession and for the businesses it supports/enables.

Let’s start with disruptive HR as a way of adapting and changing the profession.  Most people I know would say HR is in need of something drastic in

  • reinventing itself and in rebuilding its reputation;
  • restoring credibility amongst its peer groups and ultimately
  • boosting its impact as a crucial, enabling element in the world of work.

The why we might need disruptive HR is pretty much a given.  Even if you have a really high performing and award winning HR function, you are probably in a disruptive mindset to not rest on those laurels and to reinvigorate your “offer” at every conceivable opportunity.

How then do we disrupt and create Disruptive HR.

Lucy Adams – ex BBC HR Director has even called her new enterprise Disruptive HR and she blogged on LinkedIn about it.  In it Lucy talks about inherent disruption so here goes.

Increasingly, the HR profession is alive to the fact that we spend too much of our time and energy complying the present and nowhere near enough on preparing our companies for a disrupted world. The pace of change that sees business models obliterated almost overnight, the ability to anticipate the need for change and to respond with ever-increasing speed, the need for different mind-sets, different skills and capabilities and to manage an increasingly disparate, multi-generational, fluid, knowledge based workforce have typically been interesting challenges set by Futurologists at our annual conference. I know from experience than as you get back to your desk having done a 12 hour day crammed with a similar number of operational meetings you know you should be having “big thoughts about the future” but exhaustion and a preoccupation with the now tends to result in the Scarlett O’ Hara response …. “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.  

The smarter organisations are already beginning to build in disruption to their people plans. We are seeing greater investment in predictive people analytics. The criteria for potential talent is changing. There are emerging alternatives to the slow to change, command and control organisation designs. The growing need for a greater sense of purpose is resulting in some placing this at the heart of their employee proposition and closing down the CSR department. We are seeing an almost fanatical desire to get into the mindsets of the Millennials. There is a growing proliferation of digital solutions, social media and Smartphone applications in the HR space.”

That such a prominent figure in the world HR – who has been through a tough time – would want to stand so boldly for something like disruptive is potentially symbolic to us all.

But how do we do it?  Let’s start with ourselves as practitioners and the professional field we’re in.

And there is no 12 point comprehensive plan; no 2×2 grid; no model or flow chart process.

In my mind its a series of questions.

Firstly this one: Am I truly satisfied with the impact I have and the work I do?  If you are fine.  You’re unlikely to want to get disruptive so I’ll not even spend any more time convincing you.

If you’re not satisfied with the impact you have and the work you do welcome to the club.

Second question: What am I or we sleepwalking into that in 15 years time we will look back and go “how did we let that happen?”  Processes; policies; programmes – whatever it may be.  Switch on your orthodoxy challenge and let yourself question the very essence of what’s always been done that way.  If you cannot see the unquestioning charge up the hill with nothing but despairing looks and lame compliance, you’re doing something that isn’t worthwhile enough for people to be bothered about.

Third question: What am I most passionate about and how can I channel my energy in creating something fresher, more dynamic, more responsive, more powerful, more compelling and more impactful?

A lot in that question.  Don’t just trot out Situational Leadership and MBTI if that’s what you’ve always done.  DO use it if it has impact but why not dive straight into Emotional & Social Intelligence and Distributed Leadership?  Do one thing though, one disruption at a time.

Fourth question: What’s the most obtuse, left-field and way out piece of research or case study I can research and use within HR?

I have this phrase; why benchmark when you can stretchmark?  Why go look at other HR functions and see a shinier, more revved up version of yourself?  Why not go look at how IT works on iterative development?  Why not spend time with Marketing in how they do their analytics?  Why not understanding how crowdsourcing really works with your policy/research team?  Infuse HR with other business practices and stop orbiting the same planets looking for better landing platforms.

Fifth and final question: What can I give others in my professional field?

HR is only as effective as its least most effective participant.  So it’s incumbent on us all to give to others and improve their way of “doing” HR.  Whatever you find works, share it.  Whatever you believe in that helped you, share it.

Downsides?  Well it’s not much use to disrupt if you then take your eye of the balls people need you to juggle for them and go on some innovation fancy-free jaunt leaving your payroll, pensions and recruitment in tatters.

People who “know best” will look at you like some wild maverick renegade out to destroy not disrupt.  People will doubt your professional credibility because you are rejecting or hacking everything they know to be true.  You will be marginalised if you’re doing this well.  And you will be rightly be a lost prophet in the wilderness if you’re doing this badly.

True disruption isn’t easy.  Safe disruption isn’t disruption – it’s continuous improvement or lean or restructuring.

OK we’re disrupting HR and it’s having results.  Great – next?

Well my view is you keep disrupting yourself but you can use this new found understanding and approach to help others in your business disrupt with you and for themselves.

How does R&D find it’s new people?  Usual university trawls or job boards?

Why not disrupt that and open up some research challenges for a community of activists from anywhere to use some open source technology and create hacks, ideas and new products?  From this field of activists could be your next hire in research or product design.

Developing leaders is something we’re always up to.  Why not work with the existing team to create a partnership with a charity where you will loan out 5 of your most willing future leaders, pay them but know they will be getting vital entrepreneurial, business leadership skills whilst you provide them with fantastic mentors and NOT pay the business school £40k per head and hope for the best?

There are no bounds and no rulebook to Disruptive thinking in HR.  Only your own.

The alternative?  Mediocre HR.  Underwhelming HR.  Flatlining HR.

Call it a middle-class rebellion; call it a fad; call it hyped use of a word many don’t really understand.

You know when you’re disruptive. Positive deviance.  Productive rebellion.  Purposeful activism.


Or sleepwalk into the next corporate reshuffle and find yourselves in the call centre oblivion of the new satanic mills of work.


CIPD Annual Conference is always something I hold in high regard.  It’s where some great speakers with stimulating content perform; where some great practitioners showcase their excellent endeavours and most importantly, where people from the profession come together to connect; reconnect; and energise.

We left on a high note with the very convincing and clever Adam Grant.  A really impactful keynote based on his Give & Take research and book.  You can follow Adam on twitter @adammgrant and his website

He and Rita Gunther McGrath provided a very nice top and tail to a very enamouring 2 days.  Alan Watkins and Rasmus Ankersen also stood out as high calibre speakers with great research and a stimulating frame of reference to inspire us as HR professionals to act upon.

But will we?

Taking personal learning and application aside – which I am sure I will do and I sure others will too – how is any of the last 2 days ACTUALLY going to make a difference?  Peter Cheese rightly called the need for us to drive into the future with science, trend-spotting, business rigour and a refreshed process framework as our key strategic focal points.

An innovating, energising AND reliable HR function is not only desired but necessary.

This came up at the excellent HR Unscrambled fringe event run by Megan Peppin (@OD_Optimist) and Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1) – professional credibility and continuing professional development being seen as a key part of this.  And not just a bureaucratic CPD process either.  A CPD approach that is admin lite; strong on relevancy and appealing to the professional mind (and spirit).

Adam Grant called out the takers.  We have some of those in HR.  We also have a lot of loafers.  Those behind the curve, low on stretched cognitive ability and deflated of professional spirit.

We can moan like heck about the “mediocre mass” holding us back.  We can look at our own rebellious, radical, “bad boy/girl” approaches and lambaste the rest of those purporting to be people professionals.  And say “what’s our institute doing to sort this out?”

OR we can help these folks.  Help them sharpen up or ship out.

Many folks have said it lately – when are we moving from being case study/research rich to application/deployment rich?

Yes, some of the profession is moving on and being creative and changing the game.  Upping the game more so.  And many of our professional colleagues aren’t.

What are we going to DO about that?  CIPD and a CPD approach would give is some way of sorting that out.  It isn’t the sole responsibility of the institute though.  They set direction, fuel us with research and provide us with learning to do our HR thing better.  They provide professional development for us and our teams and they provide thought leaders, lobbying and a raft of work which drives the work; workforce; workplace proposition forward to help boost the UK economic and work situation for this country.  Their international role and connectivity with other institutes is right for the global proposition of the work situation.

Anyway I think there’s one thing that ALL HR professionals can do for the CIPD.  And that’s about being a passionate advocate of the things you are with the CIPD on.  Where you might not agree, you can have a conversation with them about that – the chances are always being offered to be listened to.  Whether its young people to work; the use of data and financial acumen; the need to use the right technology to support your business, the CIPD is a giver.  As a giver it needs to be asked questions.  Not ignored or chastised.  We will get the professional body we deserve.  And we deserve a good one and we have the essence of a great one.

We can also do one other thing.  Help those professionals we see and work with who are not there yet.  Ones whose practice is a bit old school.  Who’s thinking may be a bit behind in ways and means and who may be lacking confidence and has entrenched into a safe space of ticking over.

We need Supercharged HR.  We need supercharged HR professionals.  We can then attract Supercharged new blood and really drive success for people and then ultimately those businesses they choose to work with.

We need a million little things to accumulate.  Accumulated marginal gains.

Please let’s ALL stop talking and start doing.  Think big act small.

Peter Cheese called out Ram Charan’s HBR blog and the splitting of the HR atom and said “not on my watch”

Let’s see Supercharged HR on his watch.  Starting today with a million little things happening across the profession.

So it’s @CIPD Annual Conference and the hash tag is alive with the sound of people getting their thoughts enhanced by keynotes; catchups; and blog posts.  This. This and This

Another one for this?  Why not.

Peter Cheese was rousing.  He called it out: it’s a whole series of things going on in the world that forces change; that creates opportunities and that makes us heroes or villains.  We have that call to arms now.  We know the up-to-now this of HR is not good enough.  We know this – that is the future  of our profession and work – is not clear.  We have signs, clues and many experiments under way to grab the arc of the future and bring it nearer.  This, this and this.

Rita Gunther McGrath then underscored everything we know about this and everything we should know about this.

That strategic thinking is a concept of this and it is actions that make the difference.  Doing this, this and this.  One without the other is like dancing with only one shoe on.  You can still dance but not so elegantly .  Her warnings of calcified strategies, of pompous use of power and ignorance of threat/opportunity and of the key role in people being deployed in a human way is REALLY the future of this.  Maybe the only this we need to be cognisant of?  And her calls to the HR profession made quietly cheer.  You should watch the stream of the session online.  It helped that I love Nilofer Merchant and to hear Rita call out her “work not jobs” frame got me right in the solar plexus.

That’s a this I want to see.  More about individualism in what people are best of and less about a stack of stuff you call a job.

This is also about us.  What is on your “this, this and this” hit list as an HR professional?  Are you breaking new ground and experimenting with new ways to do work and the things you help?  Or are you stuck in the “well it’s always been like this” and there’s nothing we can do about it” or even worse; “there’s nothing wrong with this“.

So what is this that HR professionals need to be doing to supercharge itself?  What’s the “and this” to create massive impact for the better of all people at work and how are we doing on the “this that is sorting out those toxic leaders, busted models and tired methods of doing..?

First this is check on yourself.  Are you transacting your way to oblivion doing just what you need?  Or are you bothered, enabled and engaged in changing how you operate to be the absolute best professional you can be?  A professional who happens to be in HR, Learning and People Development.

Second this is what do you DO for your profession?  Sit back, ignore, whinge, throw stones, lambast?  Or do you share, excite, mentor, collaborate, challenge, stimulate others in your field of practice.

Third this is what are you doing for you clients, organisation, partners, community or whomever you work with?  Just getting by and delivering a slightly lame but acceptable proposition OR are you being creative, bespoke, caring, firm, generous and positively impactful?

There’s a lot of this being talked about.

It’s time to DO this.

HT Simon Jones.  Andy Swann, Simon Heath. Mat Davies. Tony Jackson. Neil Usher.  Gareth Jones. Lisa Gill. Khurshed Dehnugara.  Catalina Contoloru. Ana Marica. Mervyn Dinnen. Jon Husband. Anne Marie McEwan. Nathalie Nahai. Gemma Reucroft. Phil Willcox, Amanda Arrowsmith and a cast of hundreds more.

WE KNOW WE CAN DO THIS.  We just need all the other buggers to join in this…