Tag Archives: London

London to Louisiana – Beyond HR

In a few short weeks, Neil Morrison and I are heading off to the 2014 Louisiana SHRM Conference. I’m excited to be the conference mc this year, and Neil and I are giving a talk on the morning of day two. What will we be talking about? Here’s an excerpt from our pitch.

Beyond HR

We believe that in addition to the functional expertise HR already does so well, there is something more we can do to create greater value for our organisations, colleagues and customers. This is more than just being a strategic partner, or being commercially focused, this is a role that only HR can play.

HR is uniquely positioned and connected with all other parts of the organisation and it is through a systemic approach that these connections can be tuned in such a way as to help the organisation create additional strategic value.

Adding value comes in many shapes and sizes, and whilst it’s tempting (and sometimes necessary) to focus on the ‘next big thing’, we also believe that small is the new significant. Our approach focuses on participation and experimentation, on developing unique internal and external relationships, it focuses on both macro and micro environments and delivery through people, not around them.

I’m excited about this gig. Neil and I share some thoughts and views, and of course we have differing opinions too. We’ve never been afraid to disagree in public, we come from very different walks of working life, and I hope we can create some useful tension and pose some interesting questions for our conference guests.

And seeing as how some of our conference guests may not have visited London, or experienced us previously, we’ve also put together a short, ultra serious video which we hope will help position our talk. Enjoy.

Developing Art For Work’s Sake

The Past

I facilitated another Art for Work’s Sake session in Milton Keynes a few days ago, and it went down a storm. Something that really interested me about the session was how we enabled a mixture of conversation and emergent thinking and action to develop around a framework, albeit a loosely structured one. We cocreated a safe space in which to talk, work and experiment which certainly helped, and if you want, you can get a feel for how the day unfolded here.

The Present

Here is some of the learning from recent Art for Work’s Sake sessions, pulled together for you in a SlideShare. I hope this stuff is helpful to you, feel free to download and play if you would like.

The Future

I can also confirm that I am off to Chicago again in the Autumn. I will be delivering an Art for Work’s Sake session for the people at the Illinois 2014 Society for Human Resource Management conference, with my co facilitator, Joe Gerstandt. I’m hugely excited about the work itself and about collaborating with Joe. Joe and I have been in touch for a good while now – patiently impatient – looking and waiting for a chance to do something epic. We haven’t rushed it – we’ve kept in touch – we’ve shared the good and bad in the process. And we are now ready to serve. More details on this soon.

And if that wasn’t enough, I received confirmation from Ohio over the weekend that I will be heading their way in September to do likewise. I love the way that the HR community is responding so positively to this creative and artistic way to improve the way we work.

I’ve received a lot of requests to run further sessions. Even though I am London based I’m very happy to travel to help spread the word, I think this work, this use of artistic practice to make work better, is important. So if you’d like me to come to your town or workplace – drop me a line and let’s talk.

And finally, to celebrate the great start to 2014, we are giving away our 2014 tour t shirt, a copy of the very excellent book, 101 Things To Learn In Art School, by Kit White, and a set of Stop Doing Dumb Things cards. We have three sets to give away. To win, all you have to do is leave a comment on the blog and say you’d like to go into the draw. We’ll draw the winners at random in a few weeks and then get in touch to ship your goodies to you.

Prize Draw

Label Free Zone

New York

In the run up to last week’s Unconference, Tim Casswell and I were talking about the toys we were going to play with, or if you prefer, some methods we were going to utilise (yawn).

Guests at the event had been invited to prepare Pecha Kuchas as a way of seeding some ideas into the day, and we were going to use the World Café method to facilitate conversations.

Tim was railing against the processes, saying something like ‘This Pecha Kucha stuff is too restrictive, artists don’t like being told what to do’, and ‘Who cares that it’s called a World Café? Naming all this stuff just means you Doug, have to waste time explaining to people that they are going to hear a few short talks and have some great conversations!’

I take Tim’s point about a Pecha Kucha being restrictive, given that once you press play, your slides (all 20 of them) are each on screen for 20 seconds before autoforwarding to the next one. It’s extreme sports for presenters and though not for everyone, I think this method is very helpful in encouraging people to get a point across quite quickly. So we kind of agreed to disagree on this one.

The point about naming stuff though – that was a lightbulb moment for me. ‘OK Tim’ I said, ‘Tomorrow will be a label free zone’, and between us, we worked hard to make it so. I confess the term Pecha Kucha did creep in once or twice but not a mention of World Café, just conversations. And it worked – powerfully.

I think we have a tendency to over-complicate stuff. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s a sense of insecurity that convinces us that our work has to be tricky to understand, and so helps ensure our survival in the workplace hierarchy? Simplification strikes me as really powerful, simplification breaks down barriers. If we take last week’s event as an example I believe one of the reasons people responded to the opportunity so positively was that it we made any process very simple to understand.

That simplification left everyone’s brains free to respond to the much more interesting and useful challenges like defining ‘Why are we here today?’ ‘What do we want to talk about?’ ‘How are we going to make today’s conversations into tomorrow’s reality?’ None of these are easy questions to answer but thanks to an uncomplicated and largely label free approach, I think we helped make it easier for people to engage with something more meaningful to them.


I’m catching up on some reading and this post on The Future of L&D by David Goddin caught my eye. In the post, David says that ‘The opportunity is for the L&D function to engage more consultatively with the business’. I agree, and though I’m biased I think this is why a sales background can be so useful in business. Great sales people inherently ‘get’ the consultative approach, and so from the start appreciate the critical importance of relationships.

We often hear people use phrases like ‘I can relate to Sophie because she talks my language’, and I think that understanding is best forged from a balance of taking the time to understand the other person’s business/perspective/environment, and keeping things simple. This second point is less well practiced, and the comments in David’s blog posts are well worth a read as they dig into this area in more detail.

The simplicity of work matters.

photo credit