Maybe the Ignorant Have the Best HR Answers

Paul Hebert Change Management, Good HR, HR, Influence, Innovation, Paul Hebert, The FOT Soap Box, The HR Profession

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/ConcernMy 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?