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    Monday
    May232011

    Kid Business Cards and the Permission to Dream

    The most popular post on this blog over the last couple of months was a take on a job application cover letter written by a 6 year-old boy.  I liked the post, (or I would not have published it), but I was really shocked how popular it was. So in the grand tradition of pandering, grasping, and shamelessly playing the 'kid' card again, once I came across this piece, about a Brazilian Ad Agency's project to design and print business cards for the 'dream jobs' of a bunch of schoolkids, I figured, why not share?

    Here is the backstory - Red Balloon, an English School for kids in Brazil, asked the students at the school what they wanted to be when they grow up. Certainly a question we have been asking kids since well, there was potentially a different answer than 'chase saber-toothed tigers and try to kill them with stones in order to survive'.

    Based on the children's answers, the ad agency Ogilvy Brazil designed personalised Kids Business Cardsa few examples you van see in the images  below. The answers, combined with a bit of information and insight about the kids, created a really amazing set of artifacts and a kind of tangible, phyiscal representation of the kids dreams. These cards say - 'your dream is not just in your mind, it can be real, here is a bit of what it might look like'.

    Below is a close up view of one of the cards - for a girl whose dream is to be 'the most pretty ballerina in the world.'

    After the project was completed reps from the ad agency gave this assessment of the outcomes  -

    Result: more kids believe in their dreams and more parents believe in the importance of English for their kids' future."

    I posted about this project mainly because I really loved the creativity and artistic qualities of some of the kids business cards - quite honestly they just look cool.

    But I do think there is a larger point to this, we do ask our kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, students, etc. all the time 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' And we know that 99% of kids won't actually pursue the 'dream job' they identified at 9 years old. While that is certainly normal and expected, I also think that we as parents/teachers/adults sometimes jump too quickly to downplay, discourage, or even fail to even consider these childhood dreams. We are old. We know better. We know that we did not become astronauts, runway models, or relief pitchers for the Mets, (that last one was mine), so it is only responsible and realistic to assume that the random 4th grader won't become any of those things either.

    But in our haste to be 'adults' I think we can forget what it was like to see the world as kids do, a world where still, mostly, anything was possible. Becoming a pop star, soccer hero, or a great inventor with a mansion - these are not at all unreasonable or unreachable dreams. Having these dreams is still 'allowed'. I thought about that when I read about these 'kid business cards'. A quick scan through them shows rock stars, sports legends, captains of industry.  

    All things that for our kids are fantastic and possible.

    Even if we did not become those things ourselves.

     

    Friday
    May202011

    The Corner Office and Curiosity

    This past week on my travels to and from the Lumesse Customer Conference in Austin, Texas, and the MRA HR Event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (with an unexpected night in a motel near the Detroit airport tossed in for good measure), I had the chance to catch up on some reading I had been meaning to get to.

    I managed to make it through the entire contents of 'The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOS on How To Lead and Succeed', by Adam Bryant; and about the first half of 'Idea Man', Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen's memoir.

    Both books are interesting and entertaining reads. In 'The Corner Office' Adam Bryant, the author of the New York Times's series of "Corner Office" columns, frames and shares lessons in achieving success, leadership,and management, taken from his interviews with over 70 CEOs in firms of all sizes, industries and geographies. 'Idea Man' by Paul Allen, is a much more personal story about Allen, his childhood, the early days of Microsoft, and Allen's later ventures after leaving the company he co-founded with Bill Gates.

    I started 'Idea Man' after finishing 'The Corner Office', and almost immediately the most imporant similarity between the two books, and the stories being shared in each, was the idea of the importance of curiousity. Bryant devotes the entire first chapter to his book to the concept of 'Passionate Curiosity', which is filled with different CEOs talking about how curiosity, an almost insatiable need to seek, learn, and understand more about the world, macro-trends, culture, and even hobbies like sports or cooking, is seen as a common trait and predictor of executive success.

    Paul Allen, in describing his earliest experiments with first generation computing technology and programming languages paints a clear portrait of a really energetic and bright mind, not necessarily the most intelligent kid in the class, but one that had a relentless curiosity to figure out how machines and computers worked, and how this understanding could be applied to solve new problems and create new software. That pursuit of understanding, driven by his personal form of 'passionate curiousity', is the foundation for the later success that Allen, Gates and the rest of Microsoft enjoyed later in his career.

    Neither author makes the case that 'passionate curiosity' alone is enough to ensure success; but both make it really clear that a deep desire to seek, explore, and understand more than the immediate, the day-to-day, and the 'what's in my job description' set of tasks and topics is an essential part of both personal and organizational achievement.

    In 'The Corner Office', Bryant quotes Disney CEO Robert Iger:

    "I love curiosity, particularly in our business - being curious about the world, but also being curious about your business, new business models, new technology. If you are not curious about technology and its potential on your life, then you'll have no clue what its impact might be on someone else's life."

    David Novak, CEO of Yum Brands offers this observation:

    "(the best leaders) want to get better. Are they continually trying to better themselves? Are they looking outside for ideas that will help them grow the business? They soak up everything they can possibly soak up so that they can become the best leaders they can be."

    Curiosity. Exploration. Interest.  Looking outside your typical environment and viewing and questioning the world using a different set of eyes.

    All really important. All kind of hard.

    But a trait seen by Bryant in his discussions with 70 CEOs, and lived by Allen, one of the most successful innovators ever, that is really essential to make a mark on your organization, your profession, and possibly the world.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    May192011

    HR Happy Hour - Happy 100th Episode!

    Tonight on the HR Happy Hour Show we will mark and celebrate our 100th Episode.

    You can listen to the show live starting at 8:00PM ET on the show page here, by calling in to the listener/guest line on 646-378-1086, or using the widget player below:

    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio

     

    And don't forget to follow the backchannel on Twitter using the hashtag #HRHappyHour.

    In case you are new to the show, or have not had a chance to listen previously, the HR Happy Hour is a weekly Blog Talk Radio show/podcast that brings together a community of interested, engaged, and passionate Human Resources and Recruiting professionals to take on topics in talent management, recruiting, technology, leadership, social media and more.

    Past guests have ranged from industry legends and luminaries, academics, authors, and rank and file HR pros that just care enough about their profession and their own professional development to engage with the community on Thursday nights.

    You can check out the archives from Episodes 1-99 at the HR Happy Hour show page, as well as in the podcast section in the iTunes store, (don't worry, the HR Happy Hour is a free download). We even have a show blog, a Facebook page, Twitter account, and LinkedIn group. So we have you covered.

    I hope you can join us tonight to celebrate the show's 100th Episode. We will be joined by friends old and new, and I promise a surprise or two as well.

    Many, many thanks to everyone that has supported the show these last two years!

    Wednesday
    May182011

    Hello Wisconsin! - Presentation at the MRA Conference

    Greetings from cold, rainy and 'hard-to-find-some-working-wifi' Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

    I am here today to attend and present at the MRA's Annual Human Resources Conference titled : 'Take Your Game to the Next Level'. The MRA is a large professional employer's organization that serves members in the Midwest with development, learning, and other resources to help make them more effective.

    An HR Conference being held at a baseball stadium with a 'sports' theme running all the way through the event? I am in!

    My session is called 'Hitting the Curveball: Leadership in the Social Age', and is centered around some of the challenges that leaders and organizations face in the new world of openness and transparency, and offers some (I hope), useful suggestions for getting more comfortable and effective in this new environment.

    I just uploaded the slides I will use today to Slideshare - you can take a look at them here, and they are also embedded below (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through to see the presentation).

     

     

    Let me know what you think of the slides, it was not easy finding all the 'right' images to try and illustrate this topic.

    Thanks very much to the great folks at MRA for inviting me to come to the event today, I just wish a Brewers game was on!

    Tuesday
    May172011

    Apps for Everything - Notes from Lumesse Conference

    This morning at the Lumesse Journey 2011 User Conference in Austin, Texas both Lumesse CEO Matt Parker, and CTO Martyn Arbon shared their observations around talent management, business software, and more directly their sense of the future of talent management technology.

    In both presentations, Parker's that described the journey that has led to the current incarnation of Lumesse, (the company formerly known as Stepstone Solutions); and Arbon's, which provided more insight into current state and near-term Lumesse product roadmaps; both gentlemen described the increasing 'consumerization' of business technology, and the need for technologists, particularly in the HCM space, to effectively create and deploy flexible, easy to use solutions that will more and more resemble the look and feel of consumer-based applications. 

    We have heard about this trend for some time now, certainly creators and developers of business applications have taken inspiration from popular and eminently usable consumer sites like Amazon.com and Ebay for years. But this approach has up to know been directed mainly about user interface improvements, attempts to streamline translational processes, and with the goal of improving HR organizational efficiency by driving more processes out to the employees and managers in the form of Employee Self-Service, (ESS) and Manager Self-Service, (MSS).

    But the problem with ESS and MSS for many organizations is that many employees and managers really hated it. It forced employees and managers to use systems that they did not find all that friendly, following processes that were proscribed centrally and were not that flexible, and using systems that may have been in theory personalizable to some extent, but in practicality were often too difficult for the average employee and manager to use in anything other than their delivered, default configuration. ESS and MSS were kind of the like the old VCR machines in your parent's house, the time of day always blinking on 12:00.

    So where this next generation of HCM solutions for core HR, for Recruiting, or for Talent Management process support has an opportunity to really become more transformational and leveraged more fully and effectively throughout organizations will likely be driven by how well suppliers of these technologies can adopt and adapt the latest 'consumerization' trends to the enterprise - apps, mobile support across platforms, and easily personalized.

    As Martyn Arbon correctly noted in his talk this morning, no two people have the same exact set of applications loaded on their iPhones, even if said people perform the exact same role in the organization. Traditionally enterprises have deployed or made available to staff a general set of access controls and capabilities for systems and tools based on high-level, and fairly generic set of definitions. 

    If you were a staff recruiter, or a purchasing agent, or an office manager, then you received the same set of tools and systems as the other staff recruiters, purchasing agents, or office managers. It did not really matter if you worked in a different style, a different location (perhaps remotely), had more or less appetite and expertise in technology, etc.  This 'role-based' access dominated, (and still dominates), most technology deployments. But what consumerization or 'appification' is doing is fundamentally changing employee's demands and expectations of what enterprise technology should and needs to support - the ability to tailor capability and functionality at a true personal level, i.e., just like their iPhones work.

    The first wave of consumerization of business technology was mostly about user interface improvements and porting tools to the web, this next phase, at least for the companies that will be successful at it, is about delivering a much more personal, flexible, and truly individual experience.

    The team at Lumesse spent a lot of time this morning showing that they have these ideas in the forefront of their strategy and thinking - which is certainly an encouraging sign for their customers.