Thanks to the Internet's irrevocable laws of virality, you've probably seen, (or at least heard of), a clip from the comedian Louis C.K. titled 'Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy', (I'll embed the video at the end of this post for those that care to take a look. It is quite funny).
Louis' take is essentially that the incredible advances in all kinds of technology and levels of utility and convenience that these developments have enabled quickly progress from 'Wow! Isn't this amazing!' to 'Is that it? I'm totally bored.' in shorter and shorter cycles. In the video Louis compares our perceptions of modern air travel, which still should be considered a magical invention, (five hours from LA to NYC), to our still fairly recent history where a similar journey would take '30 years and some of you would die'.
But the nature of technology and of progress has always been such - once a standard is set, and the near term benefits of new invention are realized, (or at least generally understood, kind of an important distinction when it comes to enterprise technologies), most of us wonder what's next? Where, how, and from whose wisdom will the 'next big thing' spring from? It doesn't really matter if we, (sort of a collective we in this case, so don't get all 'I understand this space' on me. Thanks.), have not really completely or ecven adequately processed last year's set of 'next big things.' In the context of the recently concluded HR Technology Conference, we can talk for some time about this year's 'Cool New Technologies', but can you name one or two from last year? Can you name any from just two years ago?
We are driven in the technology field as participants, commentators, consumers, and leaders to continually search for the ideas and certainly the supporting and enabling solutions that can help transform our organizations and turn these great ideas into accepted enterprise practice, to better facilitate connection and innovation from our teams, and provide organizational leadership the information and insights derived from a more complete understanding of the performance and potential of the firm's people, (whew - I almost referred to 'people' as 'human capital', it was a close one), to achieve our organizational goals. I'd also be naive and optimistic to hope that one of those goals is to 'help our people be happy', but I'll leave that for another time.
So in the chase for 'what's next', it's easy to forget, or at least choose to not remember many of the things that led us to this place. And beyond that, we can often fail to appreciate and come close to extracting the potential of even 'older' technologies and solutions, caught up in the game of the latest gadgets, UX's, or smart marketing slogans.
All this really long (apologies) preamble was inspired by some things I have read or heard about the HR Tech Conference, and by proxy, the HR Technology market as a whole. Because if you feel, as I do, that the conference represents a kind of State of the Union event in the space, then what happens there, and what is said about it in the ensuing weeks probably represents an accurate and full assessment of the industry at a point in time. So when you catch the odd comment or blog post or two about people not being really blown away by any new solutions they saw, or that perhaps too many of the vendors are chasing each other's functionality around in circles, resulting in a mess of non-differentiated solutions, or even that some of the sessions seemed to present the same ideas from prior years, just packaged a bit differently - then I'm left to wonder and question if we've lost a little perspective of what is really happening inside most organizations, and the truth of the struggles many of them face with HR technologies every day. Never mind the fact that there were over 50 product announcements, some really exciting and interesting, presented at the show.
Why the HR Technology Conference is, as John Hollon at TLNT.com points out, one of the HR industry's two essential events to attend each year, is because it is much more than just fancy and showy displays of a new application or of the announcement of some new features added to an older application. The event is about taking measure of trends and ideas that are developing on a much broader level, cross-industry, global, and large in scope, but with the added advantage for attendees to start to think about how to apply and take advantage of these trends in almost real-time.
How can they manage this? Because the concurrent sessions present real stories of actual success from which to draw. Because their current vendor partners are almost certainly attending and exhibiting at the show, usually with many of their most senior executives on site. Because all of the top industry thinkers and consultants are there, most of whom are accessible for a conversation and exchange of ideas. This confluence of educational content, solution provider presence and attention, thought leadership, and top-caliber social and networking opportunities simply happens nowhere else in the industry.
Last point on all this is that many if not most of the benefits of attending the show for HR leaders and practitioners are not at all about the so-called 'latest and greatest'. Sure, the flashy new application that hits all the current buzzwords can be fun, interesting, and can even be really important, but remember - next year there will be another crop of 'latest and greatest', and we'll have to think hard to recall this year's winners. No, the real value of this gathering is far more enduring and important than making a bit of noise at a booth - it's about the rare opportunity to walk away from a three day event armed with new ideas, closer relationships with important partners, new and reinforced connections with peers and experts, and finally the chance to make positive and lasting impacts on your organization.
And we all know to do that takes time, great tools, insight, good ideas, and lots of help. The HR Technology Conference scores on all those measures.
Congratulations to Bill Kutik and the entire team at LRP for a fantastic event.
FYI - Here's the Louic C.K clip I mentioned at the top - email and RSS subscribers will need to click through - Have a great weekend!