Who do you consider to be the leading HR thinkers of today? I recently participated in such a discussion; Marshall Goldsmith and Dave Ulrich were put forward, as well as a number of august bodies, revered management schools and senior consultants.
But why do we need thinkers? Having spent many years promoting conferences featuring so-called ‘leaders’ in the world of training and development, I can offer some explanations.
First, you get the intellectual kudos of being ‘in the know’ and au fait with the latest ideas. With the esteemed institutions, you get a stamp in your passport that will see you through many gates. At seminars, you get to network and rub shoulders with other like-minded, enlightened people and if you are lucky, you might even get to meet your hero, which for some can be a near religious experience.
I have seen hard-nosed directors become tongue tied in the presence of their guru, and fervent feminists turn to jelly like love-sick teenagers. One speaker on a promotional book tour even said: ‘You can touch me if you want’. It was a joke of course; at least, I think it was.
To write a best-selling management book with supporting tour, you need a strong metaphor. ‘Throwing sheep into the boardroom’ is a good example and leaves the potential for the follow up with the opposite strategy, ‘throwing sheep out of the boardroom window’. Everybody’s getting in on the act now – I’ve even heard rumours that Lucy Daniels, author of the Animal Ark children’s books with alliterative titles, is penning a business series, including ‘Pig in Production’ and ‘Hippo in HR’.
Then, we must not forget the importance of models, templates and tools for your whole brain workout. The trick is to state the obvious in a way that isn’t obvious so the intellectuals can feel superior and the rest can experience, experientially, an overwhelming sense of self-enlightenment.
Every day a new train arrives at the station with a cadre of management evangelists shouting, ‘Get on board, next stop, Utopia.’ But what if it all turns out to be bunkum and the rhetoric of the medicine man’s miracle cure?
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a pitch for cynicism. Cynics are lazy thinkers who stopped at the station called ‘Doubt’ and never moved on, on the basis that all trains lead to nowhere. Yet passive thinkers are lazy too, abdicating responsibility, saying, ‘You decide’. They want to buy ready-made thoughts from a branded thinker, or if it’s more convenient, a one line text message with an inspirational thought for the day.
For such people, I have a new paradigm and the latest hot theory; it’s called ‘oranges are green’. It’s a fantastically simple yet profound work that comes complete with a set of practical, easy-to-use tools. It’s about challenging assumptions, and by the time you’ve finished reading it, you will realise that oranges are green. With real life examples, it shows how sub-prime lenders miscalculated the colour of orange when they granted Ninja loans.
It shows how record companies’ big fat oranges are being circumvented by new, green, online music platforms; and how the structure of recruitment practices is being sidelined by social networking. In fact, just about everything that you thought was orange is actually green.
Being the most radical, topical text, you’re sure to want to get your hands on it immediately. Where can you get it? You’ll just have to think for yourself.
George Sandford is an author, management developer and HR consultant.