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    Tuesday, rain, and playing the long game

    Ever since Malcolm Gladwell pitched his now famous 10,000 hours theory, it cemented into our awareness what most everyone has known for a really long time - overnight success is usually not overnight at all, and the long, slow grind of experiments, failures, refinements, learning, and disappointments is what (mostly) leads to what only seems like overnight success.Johns - Figure 4

    Even the 'Gangnam Style' guy has been plying his craft in one form or another for over 10 years.

    We all know this to be true, it isn't novel, we were usually taught this in school starting in about 3rd grade, or whenever it was we ran face first into that first subject or concept that we didn't just 'get' right away. Maybe it was fractions, maybe sentence structure, adverbs, or long division - once that first bit of frustration with not understanding hits, we generally realize pretty quick the only (ethical) way forward is long, boring, hard, and largely unsatisfying effort. Unsatisfying until we do finally 'get it' and say things like 'It's all been worth it', or in the case of calculus, 'I'm glad I'll never have to go through that again.'

    So while the 'you have to work really hard for a long time to become great at anything' isn't news, it still is a sentiment or guide that still bears repeating from time to time, (at least for me). And rarely have I seen it expressed as well as in a recent piece on the ESPN True Hoop blog called 'The long game is the only game', by Henry Abbott, (I know you are shocked, a basketball site).  

    Here's the money quote from Henry:

    It may appear that NBA games are won with big moments when everybody is looking -- dunking over people, blocking shots, hitting a momentous jumper. And once in a while that does happen. But the reality is that many more careers and games turn on getting things right in the millions of small moments when nobody is looking. The big moments will always dominate the Hollywood version of events. But in real life, if you want to do the most you can to get the best possible results, it's a long game of putting together one solid day of training after another.

    You want to know who's going to have the best NBA career? You could do worse than to simply figure out who puts in the most work to prepare.

    Maybe in the NBA there are some exceptions to this, there are some supremely talented and physically gifted guys where the need for the day-in, day-out slog is not necessary to have successful and even legendary careers. But those guys are extremely rare, often work and practice much, much more than they let on, and often are looked back upon as not making the most of their physical gifts.

    For the rest of us, who can't dunk a ball, or for whom irrational number theory never came naturally, we have to continue to grind away. 

    I got up early today, it's Tuesday, it's cold and raining. The kind of day that is pretty easy to fold to, to simply go through the motions,  and come back tomorrow.

    But that never gets it done.


    You can still see, right?

    In a few short weeks my New York State issued driver's license will expire, and to continue to remain in the good graces of our fine state's laws and regulations I will need to renew said license, a fairly simple exercise in filling out some forms, paying some kind of fee, (it's a FEE not a tax), and interestingly to me, submit to an pass the State's vision test, (picture of the state's 'Eye Test Report' accompanies this post).Read the fourth line starting on the left, please?

    It makes sense I think, that for the renewal of my driving privileges that the State desires not only to receive my additional $64.50 and a new and current picture of my handsome mug, they also want me to prove, (or have a registered Health Care Provider attest), that I can actually handle the first and most basic element required to safely operate a motor vehicle - I can actually see

    And I applaud the State of New York for making sure to verify my ability to see before sanctioning me for another four years out on the roadways as an authorized operator of (most) any car, truck, van, I can get my hands on. 

    But putting aside the practical and budgetary realities aside for a moment, (believe me in New York we do not need to pay any more taxes), the license renewal process and the associated Eye Test reveals the obvious flaw in the process - in order to be a safe and responsible driver, it doesn't really matter if I can see, what matters is whether or not I know how and can demonstrate that I can drive.  And while I know in New York, or in any other place for that matter, road re-testing of long time drivers is not feasible (and probably doesn't make sense), this necessarily flawed process reminds us that most of the time when making decisions surrounding the capability and suitability of someone to successfully perform any task, we almost always make our judgement with imperfect and incomplete information.

    And in the 'checking of the boxes' process of traits and experiences we often fail to remember the essential function or task that we really need to have accomplished.

    New York State will re-authorize me for $64.50 and proof I can see. Whether or not I know how to drive, well that is another story.

    And by the way, I am an excellent driver - it's all of you people that are a menace out on the roads.

    Have a great week!


    Innovation as a choice

    I'm just back from Taleo World 2012, (ok, I admit to being a little biased, but it was a tremendous event), and wanted to share a short bit of wisdom from one of the concurrent sessions I attended, given by WellPoint, one of the largest health benefits companies in the United States. With over 37,000 employees operating in a highly-regulated industry and with the added complexity of operating via numerous subsidiary companies, WellPoint is a classic example of the kind of large corporate environment many of us work in or have been a part of at some point in our careers.Taleo World 2012

    And what are some of the things that come to mind when thinking about working in really large, complex organizations?  

    We generally think of these corporate giants as lacking agility, with dense and difficult to traverse organization structures, a lack of drive and urgency, and at times the tendency to get consumed by process, entrenched ways of thinking, and lots of 'Not invented here' syndrome that taken together can slow or even halt innovative ideas of transformational projects even before they begin.

    While it is certainly true that as organizations get larger and more complex in structure additional rules, policies, and sometimes bureaucracies have to emerge to simply manage the processes associated with organizing that many people, across that many locations, and operating under numerous and evolving external forces and requirements, the smartest of these large organizations are not letting size, complexity and inertia impede their ability to adapt, improve, and innovate.

    And while their are reams of books, articles, seminars, and big thinkers all focused on the subject of innovation, still for large organizations, fostering innovation can be really, really hard - maybe even impossible. But during WellPoint's presentation about their purposeful and aggressive approach to reinventing their Talent Management processes, they offered one of the clearest and simplest ways to get past those legacy or inherent barriers to innovation.

    Simply put, they decided to be innovative. 

    The specific mantra their Talent Management team adopted was 'We can sit and wait, or we can choose to innovate.'

    Sure it's basic. Sure it even sounds a little naive. And yes, no one can really effect significant change by simply making a choice, but the choice itself is the start. 

    The choice to innovate becomes a conscious one that can support all the difficult decisions that have to be made in order to effect change at large organizations like WellPoint. The choice allows you, even empowers you to think about the big picture and the real reasons and benefits for the hard work you are doing. 

    The choice enables you to start to let go of the organizational baggage that often has to be dragged along with you on every new project.

    In another Taleo World presentation, Bertrand Dussert mentioned a fantastic quote from Roger Enrico -

    "Beware the tyranny of making small changes to small things."

    WellPoint's 'choice' and the Enrico quote both remind us of the importance of thinking big, not allowing the past to be a barrier to progress, and that often a simple change in mindset can be the beginning of a fantastic journey, even in the largest and most seemingly resistant to change environments.

    Thanks to everyone at Taleo World for what was a superb and inspiring event.

    Have a Great Weekend!


    Without traditions...

    ... you have nothing.

    At least according to this really cool painting/sign/slogan, not sure what really to call it that I saw last night at the Field Museum in Chicago. 

    According to the placard near the painting, 'Without traditions you have nothing' is an old saying from Senegal.

    Without traditions, you have nothing.

    I suppose you have nothing to pass down at least. It's an interesting idea.



    No opinion?

    Want to rail at me for taking the easy way out and making a blog post out of what should have really been an Instagram upload?

    Have at it my friends and have a fantastic Thursday.


    What do these 'Big Trends' mean for HR?

    I admit it, I am a total mark for Business Insider

    A superb mix of business, tech, culture, politics, economics, sports, celebrity gossip - all delivered with bludgeon-like ridiculous volume probably running upwards of 100 posts each day.

    Recently BI ran one of their guaranteed to generate a ton of page views slideshows that actually drove me to click through all (70!) distinct pages. Titled 'The US 20: Twenty Big Trends That Will Dominate America's Future', it was just the right blend of data, speculation, hype, and occasional insight that makes BI a go-to site. 

    The entire slideshow is worth a read click-through, but in case you are one of the 'I hate internet slideshow' types, I will spare you all the clicks and page loads and give you just 5 of the 20 Big Trends from the BI piece, the ones that might have the most direct impact to you as a HR, Talent, of HR Technology pro.

    Trend #2 - America is Aging - Key Statistic: The median working age in America is 42.1, up from 35.4 in 1986.

    This one is sort of a easy selection, I've blogged about it before here, but is bears repeating as the population ages the impacts on hiring, retention, work practices, learning, training, and just about everything else that happens at work will be impacted.

    Trend #5 - The Epic Rise of Student Loan Debt - Key Statistic: Student loan debt recently topped $1 Trillion, making it the largest category of consumer debt other than mortgages in the United States.

    Impact on the workplace? More younger workers stressed over their personal finances, more willingness to jump ship for a few more $$ somewhere else, and more likelihood of younger workers taking second jobs and taking work on the side.  

    Trend #13 - The U.S. Manufacturer Roars Back - Key Statistic, (really more of an observation), increased productivity combined with cheaper sources of domestic energy could continue to spur sustained growth in U.S. manufacturing.

    The State of manufacturing in America is constantly in flux, but we are starting to see more and more pieces about the return or renaissance of American manufacturing. A recent piece in Foreign Policy offers additional compelling reasons for the renewed strength in domestic manufacturing like robotics, artificial intelligence, and 3-D printing. No matter the root causes, if more organizations see benefits in re-shoring manufacturing, talent professionals will be under considerable pressure to find, attract, recruit, develop, and retain the kind of employees and leaders needed to make it happen.

    Trend #17 - American Cities as Economic Juggernauts - Key Statistic - Urban areas account for 84% of US GDP

    National growth will continue to be driven by cities, both large and medium-size. It makes sense that talent will chase after said growth and opportunity. If you are a talent pro in an organization not in or near one of these urban centers it could get even harder to lure the people you need from the areas or higher growth to your sleepy little town.

    Trend #18 - Immigrants Driving Product Innovation - Key Statistic - News Corp, (and others), investing heavily in new properties aimed at the growing Hispanic market

    If your organization is among the many that will seek growth and market share from an increasingly diverse set of customers then does your staffing, development, and leadership models adequately reflect the markets you are competing in? Do you have the right people that can understand and effectively service these markets?

    Ok, enough of these 'Big Trends', I think you get the idea. Organizations, and certainly the people inside organizations directly responsible for shaping their workforces, (that's you), have to be aware of the environment in which they operate. Economics, demographics, heck even politics - these things do matter, even if they seem kind of far off, or only the concerns of global mega-companies.

    What do you think, what are some of the big-picture trends impacting the work you do as an HR and Talent pro?