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    It's hard in the modern world: A DisruptHR Cleveland Preview

    Next week I will have the great pleasure of attending and presenting at the DisruptHR Cleveland event to be held Thursday, February 5 at 5:30PM at the Music Box Supper Club  - (event details and registration here).

    The presentations at the DisruptHR events follow the popular 'Ignite' format - each presenter has 20 slides that auto-advance at 15 seconds per slide resulting in a total of 5 minutes to tell their story. It is a fun and exciting, (if a little bit frightening) format for both speakers and the audience.

    My little talk, (and it is almost complete, please relax DisruptHR Cleveland organizers, I will get it to you soon), has a working title of 'It's hard in the modern world'; or, 'A 5-minute review of humanity's relationship with technology'

    As I said, the presentation is not 100% complete, so I won't post it here yet, but I did want to share the central theory behind the talk, and also solicit some ideas and feedback if readers are so inclined that I may consider as I finalize the slides.

    Here it is:

    While 'modern' advances in technology seem incredibly disruptive, the entirety of human history has been nothing but a series of (mostly), technology driven disruptions. Fire, the wheel, metallurgy, farming - these and many more tech advances were just if not more disruptive to humanity than Candy Crush Saga.

    At the end there will be some profound conclusions/recommendations/wisecracks to help sum up and interpret that assertion, but that is the basic idea behind the talk.

    My questions to you, dear readers, are these:

    Are we really in the most technology-driven disruptive period in (at least recent) human history?

    Are things really different now?

    Do I have a chance of convincing the good people of Cleveland that the modern age of technology is not more disruptive than the transition to the Bronze Age from the 'Run or be eaten alive age?'

    Hope to see lots of folks out in Cleveland next week!


    Notes from the road #12 - On helping each other

    On the road this morning on the way down to the Brandon Hall Group's Excellence 2015 Conference where I am pleased and honored to be a participant tomorrow in a panel discussion on HR, data, and analytics. Hopefully, I will also talk about basketball, craps, and Lucha Libre, (which are all relevant to the HR and analytics discussions, trust me on that).

    Today's Notes from the Road dispatch involves one of the most simple, yet increasingly infuriating elements of modern business travel - the airplane boarding process. As most regular or even occasional travelers know, boarding planes these days is some kind of hellish mix of mosh pit, confusion, violations of personal space norms, and utter despair. Boarding planes today is a test of patience for sure. People crowd the gate area the second that they get a sniff that boarding is about to begin, the folks in first class (me too sometimes), jockey for space in the 'preferred' line, and once on the plane, lots of fighting for limited overhead storage space for bags ensues. The advent of checked bag fees has made the 'I don't care how large it is, I am not checking this bag' mentality even more prevalent.

    So that was the context in which I boarded the 6:00AM flight today. Boarding just in front of me was an older lady, probably about 70 or so, who was clearly struggling with her bags as she made her way down the jetway and onto the plane. She had taken advantage of the call for pre-boarding to take a little extra time to board. About half way down the jetway it became clear to me that she was going to have some issues actually hoisting her bags up to the overhead. By the time I caught up with her, we were just inside the plane and I offered to assist her (since I am of course a consummate gentleman), in carrying her bags on to the plane and then up to the overhead bin. And so I did, and once making sure she was situated and seated, I headed back up the aisle (to my seat in Row 1, thanks Delta), and sat down.

    Later, once the flight had commenced, and the flight attendant in First Class came round to take drink orders she stopped to thank me for helping the aforementioned older lady with her bags. I thought it kind of odd that the flight attendant even noticed, and just stammered 'Thank you'. It was not really that big of a deal. The older lady clearly needed some help. I am (thankfully), still able to lift relatively heavy objects off of the ground, so I helped her. This is not that big a deal.

    But the fact that the flight attendant made a point to mention it to me once we took off, at least 30 minutes later, kind of struck me as a little unusual. Like it must have been unusual to her, like maybe she doesn't see people helping each other all that often.

    Which, if true, is kind of sad. 

    It is hard out there. Especially for older folks, or people who don't travel all that often, or for people that are just a little nervous about the entire experience of airports and planes and TSA and everything else.

    It is pretty hard out there sometimes. And it is pretty easy to help out. And to be kind.

    Happy Wednesday.


    An incomplete list of things I don't understand

    There is snow everywhere, I am still trying to find most of my stuff after a recent move, I have 879 HR Tech Conference speaking proposals to review (only a slight exaggeration), and I am heading out tomorrow for my first work trip of 2015. In short, I have no time/energy/good ideas for the blog today.

    But carry on we must. Actually, we don't 'must', it just feels better to post something than not to post, so here goes something nothing. The first installment of what might become a semi-regular series titled 'An Incomplete List of Things I Don't Understand'. These things can be anything really, stuff that is really complex, things that are really popular and I don't get why, or just things I can't be bothered to figure out.

    Feel free to add the things you don't understand, (including the point of this post), in the comments.

    Here goes...

    10. The tendency when one popular social platform is down, for people to immediately migrate to a different social network to report/moan/whine/joke about the first network being down. 

    9. Taylor Swift. She might be great I guess. I don't really know.

    8. Why many people think music should be 'free', and artists should just give it away or allow it to be taken for no compensation. Actually, that was Ms. Swift's issue recently too. Maybe I do understand her.

    7. Why I get pitched 29 times each week to reprint someone's terrible infographic. 

    6. 'Follow Friday'

    5. Adults who think they need a 'Birthday month' or a 'Birthday week'. We were all, you know, actually born and have birthdays. You have not accomplished anything special here. Shut it about your stupid birthday already.

    4. Carmelo Anthony bashing that is done primarily by 'experts' that read statistics and don't actually watch Knicks games. Have you seen this team? Who else do you want taking shots? 

    3. Conference call PINs or Access codes that are actually longer than the dial-in number itself. Holy Hannah, we make cracking into someone's boring conference call harder than stealing their ATM pin number.

    2. Life coaches

    1. Stupid lists on the internet.

    Have a great day!


    Sprinkles are for winners

    Over the weekend during an extended period of extensive reading and research that keeps this blog full of interesting and provocative content, (I was mostly watching basketball on TV), I ran into this little beauty (video embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click though), one of the latest in the long-running series of 'Flo' spots from Progressive Insurance. Watch the quick 30-second spot then some FREE comments from your humble correspondent.
    I, like you too probably, was just about done with Flo, she has been seemingly telling us about how fantastic discount auto insurance can be for literally YEARS.


    But with this little bit of wisdom, 'Spinkles are for winners', she is all the way back on Steve's 'approved' list.


    Why is this spot perfect, and relevant too?
    Because it reminds us that in life, sports, business, sales - whatever, that losing is sometimes the inevitable outcome. Sometimes the other guy/company/product/candidate is bringing is simply better than what you have to offer. And sometimes you just have to accept that.


    But, and here is the key, you don't get a complete pass, or a do-over, even if the other guy really is better. You get an acknowledgement, sure, (if you are lucky), but you don't get many more chances probably, and you definitely don't get a prize.


    You have to figure out a way to win, eventually, even when no one blames you for losing. 


    Sprinkles are for winners, Jimmy.


    Have a geat week!

    Manager Tracking

    In case you missed it, we had a really fun, interesting, and dare I say engaging conversation last night on the very special 200th Episode of the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast. You can catch the replay of the show here, or download to iTunes or your favorite podcast app - just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    The show, titled 'The Final Conversation on Employee Engagement?', had many highlights, (and was lots of fun too), but for me probably the one nugget that resonated the most was when Mike VanDervort shared how at a former employer, a large retail organization, HR and leadership realized that understanding how managers physically walked around the stores, in what speed and direction, and with whom they talked with and for how long, was a key to better understanding employee engagement. I don't want to put words into Mike's mouth, check out the replay of the show to hear his full comments, but to me this kind of insight while obvious on one level (management by walking around has been a thing for ages), is probably more valuable now than before due to the tremendous advance in wearable technologies, GPS-like tracking (even indoors), and our better ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data.

    Check out the pic below, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through if the image does not render), it is an example of advanced visualization data on player movement from an NBA game. 

    The visualization above, of the movements of the 10 players on the court, the ball, and relative to the 24-second shot clock, provides both coaches and the players themselves insights into their performance on this play, and can help them make adjustments for future games, understand how player movements are coordinated with each other, understand where and how the movement of the ball impacts player positioning, and finally, use a data-driven approach to evaluating individual performance. This kind of deep dive into player movement is made possible by advanced video capture technology installed in NBA arenas, and powerful new software tools that can make sense of and display the massive data sets, in almost real-time.

    Let's jump back to the retail store manager example then. Just as the NBA is embracing advanced tech that captures player movements in order to make better decisions and improve team and player performance, Mike's example of the store manager incorporates those same concepts. If store leadership had a better understanding of how the best store managers actually, physically moved around the store, and where and how they chose their interactions, who they collaborated with, (the retail store version of sharing the ball in the NBA), they might be able to copy, or at least take the repeatable and transferable elements of successful manager interaction and movements to other, less successful stores and managers. With modern wearable technologies to track movements, record interactions, and supplemented by internal GPS or iBeacon tech, there is almost no reason why a large retail operation could not develop 'manager movement' maps similar to the one you see above from the NBA game. 

    Sure, the 'manager' map would move a little slower, and may not be as compelling a view, but the insights it could give to improve manager performance, (and then increase employee engagement, which is the context we were discussing on the Happy Hour Show), is I think quite attainable. 

    Already retail operations are experimenting with tracking technologies that locate, identify, and then target shoppers with custom ads and offers based on where they are in the store, their past shopping history, and what the retailer thinks will help convert a sale. I can definitely see a time when similar technology is brought to the HR technology stack, and instead of pinging a customer to a sale in Aisle 7, that due to some signals about low stock on the shelves in a certain department, it will then alert a front-line manager to spend some additional time with the employees on the receiving dock.

    It's cool, it is powerful, and I think it is coming...

    Have a great weekend!