For Better HR – Quit Learning About HR

Paul Hebert Audacious Ideas, Bad HR, Conferences, Good HR, HR, Paul Hebert 7 Comments

I think the best thing you can do for a career, and for a life for that matter, is read as much as you can. And not just tweets and shampoo bottles in the bathroom.

I mean good blogs, well-documented articles, top writers on Medium.

And read outside your domain. Wide and far is my motto.

Exposure to new ideas outside your area of interest.

Here’s the problem in my simple mind.

I follow a ton of HR people. And they follow a ton of HR people. We all follow the same happy shiny people. Every HR conference has the same people speaking. Same stories, different time. Bill Boorman of Tru fame linked to a 10-year old post he wrote after TruLondon and it could have been written yesterday.

HR is a huge echo chamber and it’s just getting bigger. That isn’t good for the practice or the practitioner. It’s a formula for 20 years of stagnant employee engagement scores. It’s a formula for rebranding the same idea every 5 years from satisfaction to engagement, to empowerment, to experience to who the heck cares. It’s the same stuff, different dress.

I know there are outliers who have adopted practices such as agile and design thinking. Some conferences seek to break from the pack by inviting different speakers (read celebrity for PR but not for HR) rather than the same SHRM state conference speaker mafia. But those are drops of water in a tsunami of HR content.

HR needs to break out and be committed to finding and embedding in new areas. And not the “I experimented in college” type of commitment but a full-on change in focus.

So for 2020, I issue the following 3 challenges for HR Pros:

  1. If you run a conference, for the next 3 years, don’t invite anyone to speak who has EVER worked in HR and/or has been an HR consultant. Hire a fire breather or a sheep-shearer. I don’t care.
  2. If you are a consumer of blog content – don’t read another blog on HR – including FOT – sorry Kris – someone has to take one for the profession for one year – it might as well be us.
  3. Don’t follow Bersin, or Tincup or me. Don’t follow anyone in HR with more than 1,000 followers. Follow AR/VR people. Follow psychologists, psychiatrists, veterinarians, mommy bloggers, extreme couponers. It doesn’t matter.

If you need to follow some policy wonk because your job is understanding legal risk, then do that. No one needs to get fired over this. You surely won’t get fired for not reading my blog.

The point is that the more things your brain is exposed to, the more things your brain can connect with and create.

If you only know two things you can only think of two ideas. But if you know 10 things, believe it or not, there are 3,628,800 possible combinations of ideas in there. And that is only knowing 10 things!!!

Adding just ONE MORE idea will bring your total to 39,916,800 ideas – a 10 fold increase!

It’s called a factorial. Learn to love it.

Continuing to ONLY read HR content means you only have 1 thing to use as raw material for new ideas. That isn’t good.

Factorial your butt off. Read more. Consume more. Expand.

Cultivate your multipotentiality. Yes – I’m forcing 47.5% of you to go to the web and figure out what that means.

But it’s good for you. Do it.

Be a voice, not an echo.

Talk to you in a year!

Comments 7

  1. While I agree with this in theory and appreciate you sharing it— I definitely loved “Range” by David Epstein… I think your point might have gotten across more if you talked about WHY you should go outside the box. What are the connections that can be found in finding/ looking at analogous situations? What are the analogous comparisons to HR? I think for a lot of people it’s not natural and it’s a practiced/learned skills. So I might advise to those in People work — expand your horizons by exploring work in Design Thinking, shifting focus, changing context. Even being in a different environment, working at a different desk, or shaking up the mundane in many ways can help you explore analogies. The idea is that by not following the routine, you’re creating new thoughts and experiences – which could one day be applied to the “same old work.” I’m not sure unfollowing you or Bersin and following a goat herder will necessarily insight change unless you understand how and why.

    1. Appreciate you taking the time to comment. I would push back on the need to have a “why” to go outside the box. The “why” is just – because. I think the minute you start to question the why you end up focusing the experience. Sure – make it things you’re interested in but put no more thought in than that IMO.

      To really get the maximum benefit I think you need to create very little focus and let the information bounce around until it finds its mate in your brain.

      Again – the main point is still the same – expand your data source for better innovation and thinking.


  2. Paul
    Great post. I completely agree with you that HR (in fact, all of us) can grow with a diversity of thought. I am fortunate that I came into the HR space late in my career. I was already deep into all things marketing.

    I am the current President-Elect for SHRM-Atlanta and will be having a voice on all event content. I am trying to digest your recommendation to “don’t invite anyone to speak who has EVER worked in HR and/or has been an HR consultant.of the event”.

    I am going to have to ponder that one.

    Paul – while I always like your posts, I will have to part ways on your recommendation to stop readding FOT (shameless pandering to Kris). I enjoy the FOT opinions too much.

    1. As you would expect there is always wiggle room in my posts. I firmly believe to change a long-embedded process and break behavioral inertia you really need a big push.

      Forcing yourself to think that way creates new paths for exploration. You may well find you can’t come up with enough speakers, or may have to have a few “HR Experts” but you’ll know you made the effort.

      And that practice means you’ll be better the next time.

      All about the effort right? Good luck. Happy to brainstorm with you when thinking of speakers for your next event.

    2. YES!!! What Patrick Lynch said!!

      I kid – you should always read a site that encourages you not to read it….

  3. completely in sync Paul. Audacious approach and this can only keep and bring in excitement around HR. We have been becoming more in human in our relationship which is the cornerstone of a successful human resource professional.. we are more in to talking ideas — ranging from business partnering to Digitization … why this function exists .. we are missing out completely .. is something i have been observing closely with my 30 years of professional inning ..

    1. Thank you for reading and responding. It’s always interesting to see where new ideas come from – and it is usually from outside the category. Have a great 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *