After a jam packed first day at HR Tech World Congress, I haven’t had time to fully reflect on everything I saw and heard. But whilst I do that (and get stuck into day two) I thought I’d do a quick round up of highlights from day one.
‘It’s not the boxes on the org chart but the way the boxes work together’
As I expected, Yves Morieux delivered another cracking keynote, evolving his session from last year with sharp insights and a practical outlook. His focus was on simplifying how we work in an increasingly complex world. I will go into what he said in more detail in a separate post, but he made the point that whilst technology has evolved rapidly in the last 40 years, the shape and structure of most organisations have not. And we have effectively now just digitised a whole lot of complexity and ‘mess’. He made an impassioned plea for us to stop thinking about the skeleton of the organisation i.e. the org chart and start thinking about the nervous system i.e. how the boxes work together. This he believes, will start to foster greater cooperation which is the key to real success. HR could unlock this potential and have the ability to make this happen and ‘save the world’. Sounds flippant but could it be true?! Read some more insights in Euan Semple’s excellent post here.
In the morning I attended the learning stream. HRN, the organisers of the event, had asked me to interview Mary Moloney of Coderdojo at lunchtime so I was keen to get to her session. Coderdojo is a not-for-profit organisation that organises free clubs for kids to learn how to code. It is an awesome initiative and I hope to be able to share the video of the interview at some point. But as well as being worthy, there were some great points that could be extrapolated for corporate learning. Moloney never uses the word training as they feel this is something that is ‘done to’ people. They don’t start with the kids by asking them what they want/need to learn. They begin by asking what they’re interested in, what they like, what they want to achieve (as someone else termed it later in the day – they use ‘appreciative inquiry’). And Coderdojo very deliberately don’t use a traditional classroom set up and try to make their physical environment relaxed and open in order to foster creativity. More organisations are trying things like hackathons now to generate ideas and solve problems. Maybe internal dojos should be something we could embrace too. I think the idea could work really well for many.
Collaboration and innovation
After lunch I specifically wanted to watch Matt Anderson’s session on fostering collaboration and innovation at Jaguar Landrover. From a HR standpoint, Matt has begun positively disrupting a very traditional engineering/manufacturing organisation. It’s a command and control type culture where things usually have to be perfect before they are launched, thanks to the precision involved in the production side of the business. Anderson urged us to be unafraid of ‘dancing in a field’. He posits that at a festival nobody tells the audience when to start dancing or indeed, how to dance. So he started ‘dancing’ by just doing the things he wanted and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. He implemented new tools and tech such as Google Docs and Gmail without explicit authorisation for example. He set up an ideation group with no senior level buy-in to start exploring how to meet certain business challenges. And whilst the change hasn’t happened over night, it is happening.
Anderson believes perseverance is the key but being a pioneer can be lonely. Try and find some heroes to support your vision. This is something you hear a lot about finding ‘champions’ internally, but Anderson went out and got in contact with someone at Google. That person then came in to talk to senior folk at Jaguar Landrover and influenced them in a way that Anderson probably couldn’t. I like this idea of external credibility and influence to help support change. When you’re in an organisation it is easy to accept the status quo but when someone from outside comes in, it can put a new perspective on things. His final words of advice were to take any opportunity to share and foster collaboration internally…oh and don’t be afraid to fail. None of us are scared of that though right?
The disruptHR zone here is awesome. It has evolved from last year and the organisers have set up simple, standardised areas for each start-up so there is no difference in their stand/backdrop. It works well because as a visitor you’re drawn in either by the exhibitors themselves or their short bio on their backdrop. I spoke to a few interesting companies including Workometry which is doing some, frankly quite terrifying but incredibly powerful stuff with predictive analytics! And the guys from a company called Klaxoon had a cool idea for making training sessions more interactive. You can read a great round up of the different solutions on show here thanks to fellow Blog Squadder Faye Holland.
Richard Branson’s arrival caused much excitement and I don’t think I have ever seen so many attendees in one session before! He initially shared some insights on how he establishes organisational culture and the importance of making sure ‘people look forward to going to work on a Monday morning’. Clearly building a brand that engages staff as well as customers is something that has helped build Virgin’s success. And in a world where ‘attention is the new currency’ as I heard someone say yesterday, this holds massive intangible value.
I am currently waiting for the day two keynote to come on stage so that’s all for now folks but I will be back some more in-depth reflection and highlights from some of the other sessions I attended later.
Au revoir for now!