Archive | March, 2014

Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility

26 Mar

Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility

I’m sure you’ve all seen this by now.

Very long, but well worth a read. I was extremely pleased when I saw slide 79. They like the same Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote that I have used in ‘Yearning for a Purpose‘.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
Enjoy the slides

Yearning for a Purpose

21 Mar


My contribution to ‘Humane, Resourced: A Book of Blogs

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

 I have always loved this quote, but recently I found myself reading it over and over again and realising how it impacts me daily and how I should do more to live by it. I believe that in this aphorism, the much-quoted Saint Exupery makes us re-think how we relate to individuals. We are not ordinary machines; we are not predictable or definable. We just don’t agree and do what we are told, we have an inner, deeper self that when placed in front of an input, produces an output. This output however can vary; it is unpredictable and could challenge our own understanding.

Think of the way we communicate, of the many times we thought we had been crystal clear, yet the person we are talking to is reacting the opposite way we had expected them to. Think about all the meetings you thought would be resolved with one outcome, but ended with a different one. There is no relationship without individuals and no communication without them either. Authors like Bateson and Watzlawick proved to us that a dysfunctional behaviour is not to blame on the individual, but it is a sign of a relational discomfort. I believe that this is caused by the fact that we are constantly interacting with people. Not just HR/Recruitment and L&D professionals, but all of us out there. With all these interactions we lose track of the impact that our conversations have on people.

When managers or employees calmly walk or even storm in my office to update me on meetings and conversations, I nearly always have the impression that something has not gone as well as it could have, that someone talked over someone and that there has been a mutual lack of respect. I have the impression that the conversation could have been handled better.

Communication is not easy. It’s easy to coach managers to stop for a minute, reflect, realise that we are different and open our communication channels. Do I always do it? No. Do I always realise that my channels are not just closed, but shut down and locked? Not unless someone points it out or not unless I stop and reflect. So as boring as it sounds, I am sure that we have all been found guilty of this and it is something we are constantly going to have to work on.

So let’s look at our reactions and let’s look at what we are saying and try to change the whole perspective: we don’t have to control people, but instead understand them, believe in them and invest in them. Excite them, ignite them, give them a bigger purpose. Help them believe in things they thought were beyond them.  Disturb them, I guess.

The concept of ‘disturbance’, coined by Francisco Varela alongside Umberto Maturana, was applied initially from a biological and medical point of view. Varela thought that human beings, just like other living creatures, are ‘closed systems’ that can vary and be modified only by the internal structure of the ‘system’. Varela implies that this ‘closed system’ is not impenetrable, but that the internal structure defines what is a stimulus to it. So if you are to ‘disturb’ and disrupt the system (or the individual) you will only be able to do so with stimuli (incentives and incitements) relevant to the internal structure itself. Hence perhaps what appears to stimulate us and our “system” is just out of sync with others’ “system”. We can’t possibly get this right every time, which is why, in many cases, we get the outcome we didn’t expect. In others, we’re not even trying to influence/stimulate their system.  We are being too focused on our own. That’s the guilty bit.

Therefore the perceived connection between action-reaction, input-output disappears. Also disappearing is the belief that you can treat people like ordinary, predictable “machines”. This highlights the ineffectiveness of relationships based on the logic of control and the belief that you can actually manipulate, predict, steer, cajole, dictate. To a certain degree, you can, however the unpredictability of the reaction of people, means you can’t control all of them constantly, and barely can you control reactions in some of the people some of the time.

Think back to the quote. Saint Exupery is suggesting that the right strategy to achieve an objective is to share the meaning behind it and not just give out tasks and instructions. Don’t communicate that we are building a ship, also share the additional feeling of navigating through the great and endless sea. He is leveraging on the emotion nostalgia. Emotion from the latin ‘emotus-emovere’, to move. The verb ‘to motivate’ and the noun ‘motivation’ also derive from ‘emovere’. This is nothing but a metaphor for what drives the system ‘man’ to act.  Higher meaning.  Transcendent purpose.  It’s always been there and we overlook it time and again.

The biggest disturbance for a human being is emotion. We can generate emotion by sharing and building common goals. How will we feel once the ship is leaving the shore?

Each and every one of us can be an inspiring disturbance. I am disturbance. I am full of emotions and I am, just like you are, capable of relating to another individual, understand their feelings and adapt to them. We pollinate each other through emotions. And through emotions we share common goals and achieve them.

With emotions we long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Humane, Resourced: A Book of Blogs

21 Mar


I had a moment this week to think about what I achieved last year. There were so many, as 2013 was truly one exceptional year for me, however taking part in the crowdsourced ‘Humane, Resourced: A Book of Blogs’ project made me extremely proud.

This project highlights that there are different types of HR professionals, from different parts of the country and the world that are all blogging about something different and in their own unique voice. You can read more about it in this article written by the man that made this happen: David D’Souza.

I think now is the right time to share the blog I wrote that was published amongst over 50 others. This ‘Book of Blogs’ reached #1 in the Amazon Bestselling HR books and received some great reviews. You can read my favourite here.

It is truly an inspiring project as it gets you thinking just by looking at Simon Heath’s amazing cover. Do we know about the elephants in the room? Yes. Do I have the authority or the guts to point them out? No. Should I? Of Course! By not doing so I am failing my employees…

The book will trigger some thoughts and therefore some actions, so please support this great initiative and buy it here.


Changing the World, One Story at a Time: Joanne Harris at TEDxSalford 2013

20 Mar

My favourite TED talk at TEDxSalford 2013 and one of my favourite writers