Tag Archives: CIPD

Big Tent : Narrow Door

When thinking about change, how do you enable greater diversity in your processes?

This week I attended the Future of Work is Human Big Tent. There were lots of interesting, necessary and at times fascinating subjects on the agenda.

  • National alienation and class
  • Power
  • Implications of the 100 year life
  • Helping enterprise flourish
  • The human responsibility of business
  • A universal basic income
  • Actively removing fear of discrimination: the economic case
  • Pay and incentives – the need for fundamental reform
  • Education: time for a system by-pass?

I scribbled a lot of notes which I’ll write up and share soon.

The tent (it wasn’t a real tent, we were at Central Hall Westminster) was indeed big, and I felt it had a very narrow door through which we passed.

I heard some good stuff, and would have preferred a more involving, inclusive, action orientated approach, with less reliance on the sage on the stage, which was loaded with white privilege*. I’m not saying the views from speakers weren’t valid, they often were, and I think a richer picture would have been painted with a more diverse approach. If the shock I experience since Brexit has taught me anything, it’s that I frequently exist in a bubble, and I need to diversify where and how and from whom I seek understanding.

During the event, there was an acknowledgment of how we hire in our own image, and general agreement of that being a limiting and often flawed concept, yet the audience seemed to have been recruited in that way. There is a risk this will lead to a lack of diversity in thinking, the success of this work requires a shake up in how people are engaged with it.


At times, the discussion felt quite abstract, quite overwhelming. I developed a headache towards the end of the morning which I managed to ease through a bit of doodling, then someone at our table called out the abstract nature of the discussion, and suggested we tell stories of small things we’re already doing to make change. Stories of togetherness, trying something new, dog walking, art, and parties all followed. That lovely, useful, and simple idea brought the conversation back to a more applied level, and I felt it beginning to galvanise us at the table. Coincidentally, and in support of this, Johnnie Moore shared thoughts from a book by Shawn Achor called The Happiness Advantage on Facebook later:

“Goals that are too big paralyze you. They literally shut off your brain, says Achor. Here’s what happens to your brain when faced with a daunting goal or project:

The amygdala, the part of the brain that responds to fear and threats, hijacks the “thinker” part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, says Achor. The amygdala steals resources from the prefrontal cortex, the creative part of the brain that makes decisions and sees possibilities.”

I’m grateful for the invitation and pleased I went. An interesting morning indeed.

*Someone had the courage to call this out part way through the event. I don’t know his name, but thank you, whoever you are.

I Wish…

I’m attending an event this week called The Big Tent. It’s part of an initiative (mild panic) currently being run by the CIPD and Jericho Chambers, under the banner of ‘The Future of Work is Human‘. By way of further explanation of what to expect on Wednesday, I’ve pinched this from the event website:

Through a mix of panel discussions, videos and small table-based conversations we will explore whether the future of work really should, can and will be human and if so, how to support, develop and harness that power into a successful, productive and fulfilled workforce.

The gathering will combine inspiring plenary talks, open conversations and workshops, through which the community will rotate to contribute and challenge existing ideas. The conversations will be hosted by those currently running the work streams and other aspects of the Future of Work is Human project. It will conclude with a “what can we learn/what can we apply?” commitment session to help build a shared manifesto.

Prior to attending the event, we’ve been invited to email in a wish. I sent in:

‘I wish…we would all be a little kinder to one another’

and because I can sometimes be a little greedy, I have a few more wishes too.

  • I wish I didn’t feel under pressure to wear a suit to the event.
  • I wish we were a little less self interested, and a little more community focused.
  • I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller.
  • I wish we were better at learning from our mistakes.
  • I wish we didn’t assume that hierarchical seniority is the same things as leadership.
  • I wish to integrate the difference without losing it.
  • I wish we were more interested in cocreation and coactive power, and less interested in coercion.
  • I wish the trains ran on time.

Doubtless there will be lots shared during and after the event, I’ll signpost stuff on the day and beyond. In the meantime, whether you are going to the event or not, I’d love to hear your wishes too, please.

Tales Of The Unexpected : Tension and Release

Have you ever given an Ignite talk? The format can feel quite daunting – telling a story while 20 slides whizz by, each one auto forwarding after just 15 seconds. A rollercoaster ride. They’re not for everyone, and they are good for getting disciplined about pubic speaking. Should you fancy giving an Ignite talk a try, check out this great post by Scott Berkun titled ‘How To Give A Great Ignite Talk‘, it’s full of useful ideas on how to get through one in good shape.

I was part of the Ignite team at the CIPD Learning and Development conference in Olympia last week. The subject I chose was ‘The Art of Better Learning’, how we can use art to make learning more of an unfolding inquiry, less of a search for certainty. I drafted my story, drew some slides to illustrate my thoughts and got on with rehearsing. Normally when I give a talk I leave lots of room for emergent ideas – ebb and flow. The Ignite format doesn’t work like that so it’s important to prepare in order to keep things nice and tight. Cue cards work well for me during the prep stage. Thinking through things then writing it down seems to make subsequent recall a little easier. Once I was happy with my story and the pictures, I packed everything up and sent it over to Giorgia, my contact at the CIPD. She kindly confirmed safe receipt and checked over my slides to make sure they worked. Thank you Giorgia.

The Art of Better Learning.jpg


The day of the talk arrived, and in the minutes before the session started I asked to see how the slides would appear on screen. I’m used to working on a Mac and the venue had provided a Windows PC for the session, I wanted to see if there were any key differences. It turned out there was an unexpected key difference. Somewhere between the CIPD and the event, my slides had corrupted, and instead of a series of hand drawn slides, I was presented with a blank screen. No problem, a quick hop onto Dropbox will solve this…

Once the tech guy at the venue had confirmed there was no internet access from the presenter’s pc, I went through an emotional tailspin as follows:

Tension: Directed at myself for not bringing a back up on a memory stick.

More tension: All that hard work drawing slides and rehearsing – wasted!

Panic: Panic: Panic:

Defeated: I’ll just drop out of the line up, no one will know…

Recovery: Hang on a minute, I brought the cue cards with me, and a handful of the drawings. I’ve also got a random bunch of art works made by clients at previous workshops. There are twenty minutes until I’m on, surely I can rework the story in that time…

Reworking The Story.jpg

My Improvised Ignite talk props.

…and so I did.

The talk passed in a blur – I tried to make eye contact with as many people as possible. Having no images to play to meant I relied heavily on the cue cards, and while they kept me on track, they were a distraction too. I kept catching smiles from people when I could, and tried to return them too. The encouragement levels were high and I kept on going – keeping the pace up to remain authentic to the format, and to leave no room for nerves!


After I’d finished, people responded warmly and enthusiastically. A few folk approached me and congratulated me on how I’d set the whole thing up, they thought the tech fail was part of the plan! My heart rate for the next hour or so was proof that this was the genuine article, nerves and all. Looking back a few days later, and given the nature of what I wanted to talk about, the way things unravelled and then reassembled could not have been better. Thank you to everyone who supported me at the event, and online. Without People, You’re Nothing.


There is much talk of disruption in and around the world of work. People throw the term around with much excitement, it’s seen as cool to disrupt. I disagree. The verb disrupt is defined as: to drastically alter or destroy the structure of. True disruption often comes out of the blue, unseen and unexpected. In a way, I experienced a few minutes of disruption last week. I improvised, and whilst I just about coped, I wouldn’t wish to inflict that level of intensity on any one. The next time you call for disruption, spare a thought for the disrupted.

In case you are interested, Ady Howes filmed me giving this talk. If you want to see what the face of a speaker on a white knuckle ride looks like, Ady’s kindly agreed I can share the recording with you here!