Start Your Unusually Creative Journey to HR’s Edge


Journey to the edge of HR.

It is not a hysteria-inducing, stomach-churning helter-skelter ride.

It is not Woooooahhhh! But more of a Wooooo-Aha!

It is a controlled slow-motion fall that brings all of your faculties to bear; not scatter them. Lewis Carroll describes it perfectly.

…she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next….
…then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book shelves: here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs.” Chapter 1: Down the rabbit hole, Alice in wonderland.

The edge is uncomfortable but it is where new discoveries await.

Why should you go to the trouble to push yourself and your HR to the edge?

Because it is where the disruptive, interesting and transformative stuff happens.

You must be willing to self-disrupt (regularly), go cross-discipline adventuring and swim against the tide.

Image creator: André Barros

Travel to the edge of conventional wisdom.

Journey to the brim of what you believe you know. It's valuable for you and to those you serve too.

Teetering at that point, you will make discoveries which can thrill, and help you and your organisation grow from regular to remarkable performance. WARNING: Journeys to the edge are equally scary and slightly addictive.

Let me give you a peek into one of my journeys to the edge on behalf of a client.

Are you ready to join me as I retrace the highlights of a recent journey down the rabbit hole?
Good. Let’s get started.

“Down, down, down”

It started with a seemingly simple client request. My client is a stylish yet understated luxury family-owned hotel.

They wanted help to shakeup and breathe new life into a lacklustre, limp organisation purpose. You know type I mean. YAWN!

The kind of generic purpose statement that, when applied to HR, is a sure-fire way to communicate the wrong recruitment message and attract decidedly unsuitable candidates.

The sort of declaration that is jam-packed with unremarkable values that will fail to connect with both customer and employee communities.

The run of the mill variety from which you would struggle to find a core message to translate into meaningful learning, performance management and reward programmes.

They needed some fresh ideas to create a compelling story.

With a click of the mouse, here we go…

My first thoughts are where NOT to go for the desired fresh ideas.
CLICK: Corporate luxury hotels? NO!
CLICK: Hotels? NO!
CLICK: Luxury? YES!
THINK: But independent, bespoke – tailored… YES!
PONDER: Saville Row tailors. Perhaps, but not quite. Fabulous, but too well-known.
SAVOUR: Shoes? Aha! Shirts.
SMILE: I feel that I am on the right track.

STOP: Imperial Black – makers not only of luxury men’s shirts; but adventurers and artisans of a discerning work-lifestyle.

I urge you to read their manifesto – IMPERIAL BLACK HERITAGE – a masterful demonstration of art of copywriting and a purpose that pulls you in. Here are two snippets to whet your appetite.

“What started as a determination to find just the right shirt became something else entirely. Along the way things went a bit potty as we became further and further immersed in the search. If you have heard about us and read this far then there is a good chance that you share a bit of the madness and recognise something special when you come across it.”

PURPOSE CHECKLIST: Compelling story. Provenance. Values. Character [who they are and what they do]. Customer tribe description. Call to Action.

“Our shirts are not inexpensive- they are made with passion in a beautiful place by individuals with the truest of skills. It has been said that luxury cannot originate from unhappy people working in an unhappy environment. Our experiences have proven this to be as true. (Lee Wulf was also keenly aware of this…as we too have never caught a gorgeous trout in an ugly river).”

EMPLOYER BRAND / ORGANISATION CULTURE CHECKLIST: Employee/Contributor tribe description. Character and skill-set required. Commitment to a ‘happy’ work culture.

MY NOTES: Purpose. Luxury. Passion. Skill. Happy People in a Happy Environment. Inspiring stuff!

PING: Distraction Alert!
RESIST the siren call to click on the link to the “We Want Idris Elba for James Bond” Facebook page. This is diversion with wormhole properties. A quick 2 minute look is actually 40 minutes in real world time!

Get back on track.
Another trail of breadcrumbs popped in my mind. It hinted at an exciting discovery at the end of the trail.

It beckoned. The bait dangled before my eyes as if on a thread.

I scurried after it with a click of the mouse.
Now where is that podcast, I pondered.
Here it is.

CLICK: the Unmistakable Creative Podcast.
LISTEN: “The Keys to Exponential Personal and Professional Growth”  podcast in which Srini Rao interviews Salim Ismail, is a glimpse into the unfolding future.

Our new reality demands that businesses adapt to our new work-life-business landscape or face an extinction event à la Kodak. This entire podcast is a must-listen, must-respond call to action for any business owner, leader and HR.

But for my client’s request to collect fresh ideas to breathe life into their listless organisation purpose; here are my top brainpoke picks.
35 minutes 52 seconds into the recording:  “If you try to do something disruptive, the immune system of the organisation will attack you. Because all our [current] organisation structures are built to withstand change and risk.”

These old organisation structures are built for command and control; not for the reaction and decision-making speed which the 21st century demands.

From 55 minutes 05 seconds into the recording: Listen and learn about the new breed of organisations – the Exponential Organisations (EXOs). They are  designed for speed, built on a business model to leverage abundance with a Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) as their North Star.

MTPs now replace the old-style Mission Statement in these EXOs.Think bold: America's mission to put a man on the moon under President Kennedy. Dream audacious: Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's "I Have a Dream" speech.

At Singularity University their MTP is "Go Impact a billion people positively."

MTPs are designed to encourage you to dream big beyond the limits of your current reality and to create the culture focused on building the systems to achieve this lofty goal. When leveraged correctly, it will act as a magnet - attracting talented individuals to whom achieving this goal will appeal.  Result: You increase your chances of actually achieving your stretching goal.

An MTP could be just what my client needs.

Our journey down the rabbit hole to the edge of HR stops here for now.
It is time to turn my discoveries into a practical and actionable plan for my client.

But please don’t stop your cross-discipline adventures.
Deliberately step to known edge of your discipline and capabilities. The edge is uncomfortable. It is supposed to be.

Don’t look down. Look out to the new horizon.

Become an ‘Edge Dweller’. It is where the interesting and transformative stuff can happen for you AND your organisation. But you must act on your new discoveries otherwise your journey will count for little.

HR, the edge is where you can find Creative Credibility and Remarkable Results. Right there is the place HR can create meaningful value and make a positive difference.

You mustn’t get comfortable. In fact, it is not possible to get comfortable. The edge is a constantly moving horizon, not a destination.  You will need to self-disrupt and move often to take advantage of dwelling on the edge.

HR as ‘Edge Dweller’: this is a topic for another HR Rabbit Hole blog post, for another time.

This post was originally posted in full in the blog The HR Rabbit Hole on 21st February 2016. It has been tweaked only a little by the author and now freshly served for the Recruiting Blogs community.

Nicole is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Aquarius Human Resources Consulting Ltd. Passionate about HR as Art, she is an advocate of Creative HR and transforming HR. Connect via Twitter @AquariusHRLtd.

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