Have a rant… Card nonsense makes reader see red

I had to laugh when I read your ‘CIPD conference sketch’ (Personnel Today, 31 October) about Renée Mauborgne’s keynote speech, which I also attended.

Mauborgne may have already sold a million copies of her “ground-breaking bestseller book” Blue Ocean Strategy, but – like a minor celebrity on Parkinson – she missed no opportunity to plug it to the HR community.

As the immaculately groomed Mauborgne – ‘one of the world’s great business minds’, we were told – strode the stage, she told us that we were swimming in a red ocean of competition, full of shark-like competitors and at-best incremental growth. Where we really needed to be, she said, was in the blue ocean of uncontested market space.

Don’t do competitor benchmarking, said Mauborgne – why should you be worried about what they’re doing? And don’t research your customers, she implored – they’re the least creative people you could ever hope to survey.

After an excruciatingly silent three-minute hiatus when her PowerPoint presentation broke down (all at sea, Mauborgne obviously doesn’t ad-lib), she gave her HR audience a “great business tip”. If someone shares with you an idea that will keep your business in the red ocean, brandish a red card if the idea gets you into the blue ocean, brandish a blue card. So that’s how HR will gain credibility with its stakeholders.

By now I was in desperate need of some nausea tablets. But to my horror, I could see delegates nodding sagely and taking notes. I felt like the little boy who wanted to say that the emperor was not wearing any clothes – not even swimming trunks.

Later that evening I met a senior HR director, and tentatively broached the subject of the keynote speech. “It was a load of b******s,” she said.

With my faith in the HR profession immediately restored, I brandished a platinum card, and ordered another round of drinks.

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