HRevolution 2011 in my garage?


I hope that you had a miserable time in Chicago this weekend, I was home with the kids and watched about 47,000 hours of Curious George. Being a grown-up can be downright brutal at times.

The HR blogosphere (which, fortunately for me, happens to be just around the corner from my house) has been abuzz about a couple of things the past few days. Lots of folks talking (and whispering and tweeting and blogging and screaming) about HRevolution and about China Gorman leaving SHRM, and about what these things might mean to the future of this work.

I do not know China Gorman, but some people that I respect think pretty highly of her and I did see her doing a good job of providing a face for SHRM where it did not really have one. It clearly reflects well on her that so many folks are disappointed to see her go, but part of what I hear in this conversation is concern about the role and direction of SHRM.

In the noisy, “pay attention to me” intersection of HR and social media, SHRM is the easiest target in the world for anyone that wants to find a large credible “friend” or a large credible “enemy.” I think that people who are legitimately about moving this work forward know that SHRM is not the problem or the solution, but contains elements of both as it is a reflection of the craft, and not its creator. I like to throw a stone or two at SHRM from time to time myself. It is fun, easy and safe, especially since the people at SHRM have real jobs and are not likely to have the time to pay any attention to me. I also enjoy being invited (and paid) to speak at SHRM events local, regional and national and the interwebs are chock-full of hypocrites like myself.

We love to throw stones at large institutions, but large institutions (SHRM, the auto industry, congress, Big Bacon) are a product of what we did (and what we did not do) yesterday. Stop worrying about what SHRM is doing. Change your organization, tell your story and help someone else change their organization. If you do these things, you will be moving the profession forward in a very real way.

I personally do not have an organization so I am probably just going to lie down. Talking about change wears me out.

And then there is HRevolution. This was kind of hard to miss because the people that were there spent all last week talking about it on Twitter and on their blogs and in their sleep, they talked about it all weekend, and they are still talking about it right now…as far as I can tell, they are really an annoying bunch of self-obsessed, self-promoting jerk offs and I am filled with rage, bitterness and jealousy that I was not able to spend the day with them on Saturday. I am going on record right now saying that I will be at HRevolution 2011 if I have to host it in my garage and provide the play doh myself.

Since I was not there, my perspective on this unconference is probably the most insightful one and you are all welcome for my insightfulness. And my humor. And my good looks. I would also like to take this opportunity to make it clear that this is technically an unpost on an unblog. I do not know what HRevolution was like and obviously cannot speak to its value, but I do know there was a lot of sharp folks there that are very passionate about this work. But in the spirit of evolution (and revolution) there are a few traits that I believe are becoming increasingly important to those wanting to help create the future of this body of work.

Curiosity: I think that we need to ask more question and do a better job of seeking out information from different places. Questions are powerful and can determine the direction of our growth. Are we asking good questions, big open-ended questions? It can be easy to talk about all of the stuff that we do know, but to wonder about the stuff that we do not yet know is different. Are we looking outside of our networks and our profession for new ideas, new archetypes, new models, new language?

Critical Thinking: Social media is a tricky thing because if we are not careful we can use it to just replace the old talking heads with new more hip talking heads with iphones. Are we using our new tools and new connectivity to distribute power? Are we putting more power in the hands of the practitioner? Are we developing greater discernment? HR has been very susceptible to fads, so called “best practices” and shiny new metrics…even those measuring nothing that matters. Are we getting better at making the decisions that are right for our organizations?

Courage: If you want to help create tomorrow you have to be willing to walk out to the very edge of today and that can be a scary place to be. I would imagine that this topic showed up at HRevolution either formally or informally because I know that there were a lot of smart folks there with a lot of knowledge and expertise. And when you know your stuff it eventually becomes a question of courage. Are you willing to tell the truth and help your organization to tell the truth?

Maybe we can dig into these themes a bit more of the next week or two, I know that you will have some interesting perspectives as an internal practitioner.



  1. You were truly missed at HRevolution 2010 Joe.:(

    Go ahead and mark me down for HRevolution 2011 in Omaha, in your garage, and with free playdoh. Sounds like an event where I'll be challenged to see things a bit differently…

  2. Joe – you were definitely missed at HRevolution. I think, I am pretty confident actually, that the setting, the people, the discussions would have been right up your alley. We will make sure that wherever HRev 2011 happens you will be there. If that means in the garage, then so be it.

  3. great post. i'm going to lie down now because reading about someone talking about others talking about change really wears me out.


  4. It was an honor to step into your vacant shoes (and your speaking slot) at HRevolution, and lead a discussion about diversity – a topic about which i literally never work with professionally! Fortunately, I was surrounded by talented colleagues Franny Oxford and paul Smith, and we actually delivered a pretty good session.

    I look forward to meeting (and hearing you speak) at HR Florida, and hope you have a big garage for 2011!


  5. Thanks for your comments here, I appreciate hearing from each of you, you are all people that I really look forward to meeting in will happen sooner or later! Michael, I would love to spark a new conversation about diversity and inclusion at HR Florida, but I am not on that agenda (if I am wrong on that, please let me know!), hopefully that is something that will happen in the future.

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