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    The important thing is not the idea

    A few days ago I re-watched the excellent documentary 'The Pixar Story', a 2007 film that chronicles the origins, the early struggles, and the eventual amazing successes of Pixar Studios.  While in 2012 it may seem obvious that computer generated animation can produce incredible images and lead to fantastic results, (like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, etc.),  that belief was not widely held when Pixar was starting out.  The film does a superb job of profiling the early visionaries and eventual leaders in the computer animation field, namely John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, and even everyone's favorite tech titan Steve Jobs, whose investments and belief in Pixar allowed it to survive some tough early years.

    Watching the film again I was struck by the many simple, seemingly obvious yet hard to replicate, work practices and cultural influences that make creating great art and innovating more likely at Pixar than at the typical organization. The open, free-flowing office layout, the relentless focus on creating something even better than the last film, the self-awareness to know that they could not simply rely on their past reputation, that they had to continue to elevate their games in order to continue to succeed in the crowded entertainment space. All of this, combined with a really high talent level across the board, (the film gives the distinct impression that the best talent in computer animation is at Pixar, and thus continues to attract even more talent), help to at least attempt to offer reasons or explanations behind Pixar's story.

    But probably the most telling point raised in the documentary was an observation made by Ed Catmull, who was Pixar's Chief Technology Officer and later became the President of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, on what he felt like was the key factor or 'secret' behind Pixar's success.  Here's the quote from Mr. Catmull:

    "The important thing is not the idea, the important thing is the people its how they work together, who they are that matters most."
    It's not the idea. Or, it's not enough anyway. Sure, someone has to come up with that initial bit of inspiration, like, 'What if the toys came to life when no one is in the room?', but then all you have is just that idea. Nothing, or at least not much else. And while having that great idea is essential, and everything in the process flows from there. Even in an ideas business like Pixar, the idea is never the end its just the beginning, and creating an environment where ideas can find capable, empowered, competitive, and motivated people is the only way you win.

    Which is probably why there are so few companies like Pixar out in the wild - it's pretty easy to generate ideas, it's even easier to poke holes in other people's ideas, but the toughest nut to crack is to create the conditions where good ideas have a chance to emerge and have the potential to actually be improved upon when exposed to the larger community.

    Catch 'The Pixar Story' sometime, I think you will be glad you did.

    #NEXTCHAT: Is HR Tech Really Making Our Jobs Easier?

    Note: Today at 3:00PM ET, I will participate in SHRM's We Know Next #Nextchat, a Twitter conversation that SHRM has created to continue to explore important issues in the workplace. Below is the 'preview' post I wrote for today's #Nextchat.

    There is no doubt that HR Technology plays an increasingly important role inside our organizations today. Whether simple, in-house developed tools for tracking employees in a very small organization, more complex and comprehensive ‘enterprise grade’ systems in use by most large organizations, or any of the myriad of newer HR technology solutions that are deployed via the web, in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model - the influence and importance of workplace technology continues to grow.

    But making sense of this fast-moving and changing market can be tough for the HR pro that has about a thousand other worries on their plate, and it can be easy, tempting, and expedient to only think about technology solutions as a kind of band-aid, or worse, as a necessary evil, deployed only to ensure essential processes like Payroll and Time Tracking get carried out correctly. And while today’s savvy HR professional knows there are a growing number of areas where new -- and existing -- solutions offer them, and the organization, fantastic opportunities to increase efficiency, gain better insights on their talent, and help leaders, managers, and employees make better decisions, it still can seem like a long climb -- and possibly an insurmountable one -- to get where they really want to be.

    For several years, I taught in an HR Master’s degree program conducting a kind of seminar, or overview, of HR Technology, a pretty wide and deep subject, that’s getting more complex with each passing year. While we don’t have a 13-week semester together to talk and learn from each other about the state of HR Technology, we will try to hit some of the more important questions, ideas, and concepts in the HR Technology space today.

    I’d like to see that the chat not be about specific solutions, really. Simply shouting out one product name or solution provider that you like or use, while it might make sense for you, often makes no sense at all, or doesn’t fit well in another organization. Rather, I think it will be more useful and beneficial to talk about the reasons behind why certain decisions were taken and certain projects were pursued, and to share more universal tips around getting a great return on your investment and supporting and promoting user adoption. That way we can focus on what matters more to HR professionals, and how to better think about, understand, and hopefully utilize HR Technology solutions in our organizations.

    I am looking forward to the chat on August 15, and I hope you will be able to join in!


    Please join @weknownext on August 15 at 3 p.m. ET for #Nextchat with Steve Boese (@SteveBoese). We’ll be chatting about HR Technology and will want to know your thoughts on the following questions:

    Q1. What is ‘HR Technology’ anyway? What does HR technology encompass, and how is that changing?

    Q2. What are some of the key considerations when making an investment in HR technology?

    Q3. What are some ways HR can realize the expected benefits of technology investments?

    Q4. How can the HR professional become better educated on the current HR technology market?

    Q5. What are some of the leading-edge developments in workplace technology that the HR professional should understand?

    Q6. What single HR or recruiting technology has made the largest positive impact in your organization?


    WEBINAR: That's Your Pitch? Raise Your Social Recruiting Game

    Since you are a savvy HR or Recruiting pro in 2012 that means one thing -  you are all over the web. 

    SEO optimized careers site? Check

    Engaging content on your 'Careers' tab on Facebook? On it. (don't worry eventually you'll crack 100 'likes')

    Witty yet informative Twitter feed that helps get the word out about your company and openings? That's so 2009, but you are on top of it.

    Job postings being syndicated, (I am not totally sure what that even means, but it sounds complex and important), all over the whole wide world wide web. You bet.

    Awesome coverage, presence, and reach. So why are you still having trouble attracting the talent you need, connecting with the right audience, and generating excitement and buzz about your brand?

    This just in - the internet is a big, loud, noisy, confusing, confounding, and if nothing else, distracting place.

    Look over here! No, look over here! Free stuff here! Funny cat videos here!

    And, I don't know this for sure but I heard some people at an HR conference talking about this recently, there may be parts of the web that feature, shall we say, adult content.

    If that is true, and again I only recently heard about this, well good luck getting anyone to notice let alone pay more than 5 seconds of attention to your lame-o career site, or your exceedingly boring JobsAtAcme twitter feed.

    So what can you do to rise above the pack, crawl free from the swamp, swim against the current? (insert your favorite 'distinguish yourself' analogy here)

    That's what your friends over at Fistful of Talent are here for with the next installment of the often imitated, never duplicated FOT Webinar, set for Wednesday, August 22nd at 1:00PM ET, and titledThat’s Your Pitch?  How to Raise Your Social Recruiting Game By Acting Less Like ACME and More Like Apple.

    On the webinar the FOT crew will cover:

    1. The Top 5 Traits of Successful Marketers and Advertisers that recruiters should use to raise their promotional game.  We’ll deliver this in true Mac vs. PC style.  What do great marketers do to generate interest?  What do average marketers do?  We’ll break it down and contrast it to the recruiting world.
    2. How to Prevent Your Job Postings from Being Lame.  FOT will walk you through alternate ways to present employment opportunities that break through the noise/clutter of the web.  You need more than a title and bullet points – and we’ll show you what to include with live examples ripped from the companies we love.
    3. How Cool Companies are Experimenting with Elements Beyond Text (including video, audio and more) to deliver some pop to traditional recruiting campaigns.
    4. We’ll play a game we like to call, “That’s Your Freaking Pitch?” – where we peel back the cover and take a hard look at traditional messaging that flows through your recruiting function today after the job posting goes out – including ATS messaging, live call recruiter scripts and more.  We’ll highlight the average vs. the outstanding and let you decide what to do next.
    5. A Plan to Customize Your Social Distribution Message Across the Big 3 (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook). You know the same message doesn’t work across all social channels, but you’re not sure how to customize your approach to each.  Never fear – FOT will be bringing in Michael Center (from iCIMS) to outline key messaging structure to be used for each social channel to develop deeper connections and foster candidate engagement.

    Message received. Stop thinking like a recruiter and start thinking like your marketing friends down the hall. 

    So register today for the August 22nd webinar here.

    And remember, as always the FOT Webinar comes guaranteed, 60% of the time it works every time.


    We do serve your kind in here: The Robot-Only Workplace

    In the classic 'Cantina' scene from the first Star Wars film, the barkeep barks a testy 'We don't serve their kind in here' to our hero Luke Skywalker, instructing him that he has to leave his trusty droids R2D2 and C3PO outside, as they were not welcome in the bar. Luke complies, as the unwelcome presence of the droids would have certainly added to the trouble he was about to find in the Cantina, which culminated in the legendary and controversial Han Solo - Greedo altercation.

    But this post is not about Star Wars or Droids, it is to highlight yet another interesting development in what some see as an inexorable march towards total robot domination of work and workplaces. Since the economic and manufacturing capability value play for the basic application of robot technologies for work can no longer be argued, the next set of questions are more about the future.  What will the next stage of robot-work and as we will see in the example below, robot-workplaces look like? That's correct, not just robots at work, or robots replacing some of the work that people used to do, but could we see one day entire workplaces, (factories, warehouses, maybe farms), where humans only enter and engage to swap out broken or failed components, or possibly as the clean-up crew to salvage parts once a particular solution or capability is no longer needed.

    Seem crazy? Well, some technical leaders at none other than social-networking leader Facebook are already thinking about this, envisioning the Data Center of the future, (you know where all the hardware sits that makes up 'The Cloud'), might be one where we hardly ever see an actual person. From a recent piece on ZDNet:

    "I've always envisioned what could we do with a datacentre if humans never needed to go into the datacentre," (Facebook VP of Hardware Design) Frank Frankovsky says. "What would a datacentre look like if it wasn't classified as a working space? What if it looked more like a Costco warehouse?"

    (Facebook) hopes its ability to manage its infrastructure mostly via software could cut the amount of time people spend on the IT floor of the datacentre — eventually, it might be possible to have no one there at all, Frankovsky says. This holds a number of intriguing possibilities for datacentres.

    If people did not need to go into a datacentre, then you could deploy devices floor to ceiling and run them at a much higher heat, allowing the processors inside them to perform more efficiently, Frankovsky says.

    Looking further ahead, the datacentre could be treated as a "degrade and replace" model, Frankovsky says. "Essentially, you fill up a datacentre, put it into production and weld the door shut." If a company did this, it would only need to send someone into the facility every six months to perform processor upgrade and swap out failed storage, he says.

    Realistically, or perhaps unrealistically depending on your general level of pessimism/optimism, the kinds of robotic, computer, and server technology changes needed to support this kind of 'no humans inside' data center is perhaps a decade away, maybe less. But there seems to be little doubt that increased robot and automated technology and less human interaction with the technology in these workplaces is likely. If you have a 10-year old kid that you have any influence over, I recommend having him/her start preparing for a a future where 'gets along well with robots' is going to be a key professional competency.

    Let's just hope when the skeleton crew of people show up at the door of the data center to perform their twice-a-year inspections and maintenance that the robot in charge will be a little more friendly to the people than the Cantina bartender was to R2 and C3PO.

    Happy Monday!


    Off Topic - The Highlights of the Olympics

    I am on record as not caring about the Olympic. I much prefer traditional American team sport where we crown the our champions as 'World Champions', even though all the teams are based in the USA, (or Canada, which I think technically is a part of Michigan).

    So that said, and while still trying to remove from my scarred corneas the few minutes of team synchronized swimming I stumbled upon last wee - here are my two (video) highlights from the recently concluded, (are they still going on), Summer Olympics.

    In category one, advertising, hands down the winner has to be this Nike spot, reminding us that there just might be greatness in all of us. (email and RSS subscribers click through to check the video).

    I dig that kid and the message, (call me a sucker if you like).

    And in category two, and just about the coolest thing you'll see this weekend, a dramatic re-enactment of World's Fastest Man Usain Bolt's victory in the 100m dash, rendered in that most evocative and emotional medium - LEGO stop motion, (email and RSS subscribers click through to check the video)

    Amazing right?

    Anyway, farewell Olympics for now, I can't wait, (kidding), to see you again for the Winter games in a couple of years and pretend I care about Nordic Combined.

    Have a fantastic weekend!