Baton Rouge or Bust!

I had a fantastic time in Louisiana earlier this year. It’s a friendly supportive place and the encouragement I got from people at the Louisiana SHRM conference helped me step out of my comfort zone and have a lot of fun. I knew, even as I boarded the bus from Baton Rouge to spend a couple of days in New Orleans, that I wanted to return.

At the end of July, I spotted a note on Facebook from Neil Morrison which read, ‘2014 I want to do a US HR tour…’. I put two and two together and thought, I should ask Neil if he wants to pitch for the Louisiana 2014 gig with me. Ask I did, and he kindly agreed, and Louisiana accepted our offer. Should you happen to be in the Baton Rouge area April 7th and 8th 2014, we look forward to seeing you.

Here’s a very short extract of how things went last time. If you like bloopers – it’s worth paying attention around 22 seconds in 😉

Have a great weekend

Price Versus Value

Fantastic Value

I’m a member of The Tate, a wonderful British art institute. To visit one of the many special exhibitions The Tate stages typically costs around £15. I happily pay £90 for my annual membership and in return I can visit any of the four Tate galleries in the UK with a friend, as often as I like. There’s also a member’s room at Tate Modern which is a great place to sit and enjoy a view of London, have meetings and get a bit of work done. Fantastic value!

Our recent family holiday included a trip to The Tate St Ives, and The Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden. Prior to our visit we felt more keen to see the gallery than the garden, but having visited both, the garden proved to be the real knockout for all of us (our collective artwork ‘Swimming In The Sea’ which we made at Tate St Ives notwithstanding).

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Earlier in the year I passed by Tate Britain and on the spur of the moment, popped in to see a fantastic exhibition of Kurt Schwitters’ work. I’d not heard of Schwitters but the exhibition was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time and it made a strong impression on me.

I revisited Tate Britain this week to see ‘Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life’, an exhibition of landscapes by JS Lowry. I was disappointed. I knew some of Lowry’s work before my visit but with a handful of notable exceptions, I found the works in this exhibition repetitive and pretty depressing.

Price versus Value

If I had paid £15 to see the Lowry exhibition, I would feel like I’d wasted my money. I didn’t enjoy the exhibition enough to ‘justify’ the expense. However, the value I gain from a greater initial commitment to The Tate means I happily take the good and bad as a part of the journey. Perhaps even more importantly, I would almost certainly not have paid £15 to visit the excellent Schwitters exhibition, as he was completely unknown to me.

Neil Morrison references cost and value in his 10 point change agenda for HR. Specifically he says:

We need to stop focusing on cost and start focusing on value. These two things are not the same. Even if cost reduction is on the agenda, look at the value you can get from the budget, the resources. Cheaper and faster do not equate to better. 

You’ll not be surprised to learn I think Neil is spot on about this, and yet it is harder than it first looks to shift from cost and price towards value. The ‘problem’, particularly  for businesses that have chosen to list themselves publicly on the Stock Exchange, is that their results are pored over ceaselessly by analysts and others who have a need to interpret value in purely pound/dollar/euro terms.

Another challenge is that often, the value of an interaction is not felt in the moment of exchange. Indeed it may not be felt in any meaningful way at all, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try stuff out.

So what is the answer? I don’t think there is one single solution, but Tim Harford writes about the power of experimentation in his book Adapt, and I think we can all learn from this approach if we want to make work more about collaboration and cocreating value, and less about cost.

photo credit

Home is where the HeaRt is


This blog post is part of a collection created by various Human Resources professionals. This “Carnival” of HR posts centres around the theme of HR and Home. To read the rest of the collection click here. You’ll be glad you did!

Home is where the HeaRt is

I live with my wife Carole (married for 20 years) and daughter Keira (aged nine at the time of writing) on the far flung outskirts of London, about 10 miles due South from St Paul’s Cathedral. I’m confident about that distance because in a previous life as an employee for a global telco I would regularly cycle into London to work. A great fun, exhilarating and slightly dangerous way to start the day. Fun, exhilarating and slightly dangerous. I think I would use those words to describe many great cities I’ve visited and worked in along the way.

I love London because it’s a fantastic mashup. Conflicts (as I write this a dozen or more seagulls fly past the window hounding a much larger heron bird off their patch) and contrasts fascinate me , and London is full of them. History sits alongside brand new, smart alongside scruffy, rich and poor, grey and colourful.

My work has many shades, many contrasts. From one week to the next I may be speaking in conference, facilitating, consulting, blogging, writing music, painting a picture. My work is experimental with a little professional troublemaking on the side. I’m close enough to the centre of London to feel the buzz, and far enough away to feel on the edge. As a consultant and facilitator, I think it’s vital to be close to the edge, where the real exchanges get done. My physical location, near to and yet not in the centre of London, serves as a useful reminder of the importance of edge to me.

Being so close to a big city I’m fortunate to interact with many smart people face to face. Alison Chisnell and Neil Morrison stand out for me as being two bright people always happy to offer constructive, critical friendship. And though I’ve come to know them both well in real life, it was in the online space that we first met. Like so many other great HR people I have come to know, there is a pioneering wave of bright energy and friendship to contribute to and learn from. Recently it was my privilege to Skype with Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt. I met Jason and Joe in Ohio earlier this year and I’m excited to be catching up with them again. Online, in real life, twittering, facebooking, talking. I’m a tiny part of a fantastic conversational community.

I love that I live just two minutes from a semi-rural track that takes me quickly out to the country side and trails on my mountain bike. Big city to the left, big country to the right. And I love that we are a short walk from Keira’s school and a short train ride to more history and excitement than you can shake a stick at. I love London, and I think it quite likes me.

To close this post here is a lyrical quote from the song Camera Eye, by Canadian rock legends, Rush.

Wide angle watcher

On life’s ancient tales
Steeped in the history of London

Green and grey washes
In a wispy white veil
Mist in the streets of Westminster
Wistful and weathered
The pride still prevails
Alive in the streets of the city

The song (which also references New York City) has played its way through my heart and head for almost thirty years. These words paint a vivid picture for me and I was delighted when Rush played this song on their last tour. I think it’s an epic piece and I encourage you to grab a cuppa, and enjoy this awesome, engaging performance.