Maybe the Ignorant Have the Best HR Answers

I am ignorant.

I’m not stupid.  I’m not slow.  I’m just ignorant.

I’m ignorant of what HR practitioners go through every day.  I don’t know what they hear from their bosses.  I don’t know what they hear from their direct reports.  I don’t know what they hear from other employees.

I do know what I hear from my HR buddies.  But as any court will say—that’s hearsay.  Meaning—it doesn’t count.  So, in effect, nothing I hear about HR counts and, therefore, nothing I say counts.  I have no standing so to speak.

I’m ignorant.  And if ignorance is bliss I’m the happiest, go-luckiest, zippidy-do-dah-day, least-troubled person in the world.  I am Chance the Gardener, Forrest Gump and Lloyd (See Dumb and Dumber), all rolled into one big clueless lump.

And maybe, just maybe, that is what we need more of in HR.

Since I’m totally and stupendously ignorant of what HR goes through every day, I am not wedded to or influenced by anyone’s real opinion on how HR should be done.  I can only comment on how I would answer the “questions” or tasks I hear that HR is supposed to answer/solve/get involved with.  I have no way of knowing what I am “supposed” to do, so I can’t provide the answer that most HR folks will.  I will provide answers that seem to be effective from my “ignorant point of view.”


CEO Question/Concern My Answer
          We need more innovation in the company.  Give the CEO the company phone book so he can  call/find the R&D department and call managers who  should be innovating
We need to increase the talent level of our employees.  Define what he/she means by “talent” and in what  areas? Give CEO company phone book so he can call  managers to see why they can’t identify and hire good  people.
          Decrease costs for health and wellness.  Ask CEO why that is my job. Tell the CEO to charge more for controllable behaviors  that increase costs.Find a new provider.
 Make sure the company adheres to all government  legal requirements concerning hiring/firing.   Call legal and tell them the CEO needs to see them.

I know that some of those answers won’t work.  But the point I’m making is that for most of the stuff I hear HR talking about I scratch my head and ask why is that a Human Resources responsibility.

See, I don’t know any better.  I’m ignorant.

When I hear HR, I hear: “Teach managers and supervisors how human beings can be influenced, managed and engaged.”

Let the managers decide how best to apply that knowledge.  Let the supervisor assign work.  Let the Director find their own employees.

HR Is An Enabler—Not a Doer

In my ignorant view of HR, I believe HR should be about helping others do their job better.  They are a catalyst.  They don’t “DO” the job, but they do ENABLE the job.  They are the ultimate “teachers.”

When a CEO says the have a problem with innovation—that isn’t because HR isn’t innovative—it’s because Marketing isn’t.  It’s because Product Development isn’t.  It’s because R&D isn’t.  Why does HR see its role as coming up with innovative solutions to product and service issues?  It’s not. Their job is to help R&D figure out why they aren’t doing THEIR job—not do it for them.

When the CEO says they need more talent, it isn’t because HR isn’t doing a good job… it’s because a manager isn’t defining the skills needed in their department in the future and isn’t actively looking for people.  Why isn’t the manager in Marketing out looking for new talent?  HR’s job is to show that manager how to define job responsibilities and teach them how to find people.  Not find people.

Is this the right approach for HR?  I don’t know. I’m ignorant.

The Mind of a Beginner

I will close this post with something from Zen Buddism—the beginner’s mind.

What that means is:

In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.


The beginner’s mind embodies the highest emotional qualities such as enthusiasm, creativity, zeal, and optimism. With beginner’s mind, there is boundlessness, limitlessness, and infinite wealth.

So the real question here is—how ignorant are you?

An more importantly—how ignorant are you prepared to be?

FOT Background Check

Paul Hebert
Paul Hebert is the Senior Director of Solutions Architecture at Creative Group Inc and a writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. Over the course of his career, Paul has worked closely with clients to design influence, marketing, motivation, incentive, loyalty, recognition and reward programs to increase effectiveness and reduce costs. Paul is a recognized authority on incentives and performance motivation. Want to know what’s going to motivate your people to perform at their best and impact the bottom line? Want to know whether your service award program really means anything at all? Curious what psychological principles drive sales behavior? Paul’s your guy… unless you fervently bow down to Maslow. Check out his personal blog at "What Is Paul Thinking?" when you're tired of his FOT rants.


  1. HD says:

    And even more importantly – how can you maintain your ignorance?

  2. Ed D says:

    How excellent Paul. You have tapped a revolutionary (and not so popular) concept. It excites me because I have always told people my job in human resources is to eliminate my job. “What in the world do you mean? ”
    they always ask. My job, and the measure of my success, is impart to others the skill and knowledge how to effectively do those things they think are exclusively human resources activities. Want to recruit and retain people? Then let me help you become proficient at sourcing, selection, and motivating skills. Having performance issues? I need to guide you to improve performance, set standards and goals, and how to effectively terminate someone if need be. Have a harassment issue? How do we improve your investigation skills. When my management group can do what I do effectively and efficiently, than my job is complete.

    • Paul Hebert says:

      I’m a huge believer in moving everything you can to the edges. The real impact on people is further down the hierarchy not up at the top. My belief is that if I can teach managers to manage better I have less “human” issues overall. That should be my goal no? But again – I’m ignorant.

  3. nandana kanakaratne says:

    Can’t agree more. I have been a HR professional for last 25 years.
    This is a problem all humans possess by and large. HR and business leadership need to be that smart ( ignorant so to say) to recover the business from this malaise.
    If HR is not smart it would either follow or give instructions which looks ( to outsider) as subservient to business leadership.

    • Paul Hebert says:

      There is also this idea that busy=productive and that being involved in all these little tactical thing guarantees long-term employment. That is old thinking in my mind. Time to think new!

  4. kd says:

    Hey Paul –

    Interesting Post – another thing that HR hears is their job is reducing turnover. That’s clearly not something they control and too many weak HR pros take the feedback and marching orders of “you need to reduce turnover” without challenging it. In that example, they probably do it because they’re not strong enough to say, “OK – now let’s talk about who is really in control of that and what I can do to help them get better at what they’re doing wrong.”.


    • Paul Hebert says:

      This is where the “5 Whys” exercise comes into play: Ask why 5 times …

      Why do we have turnover… bad managers
      Why do we have bad managers… bad training
      Why do we have bad training… no money
      Why do we have no money… Budgets were cut.
      Why were budgets cut… – Oh yeah – you Mr./Ms. CEO decided we didn’t need training.

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