Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Stuck Outside the Sweetshop - CIPD Annual Conference 2014

At the moment I feel like the little girl stuck outside the toyshop - I can see my friends inside, seeing and learning about all the wonderful things they could play with, I can hear the "oohs" and "ahhs" (or at least I can read the tweets and peruse the blogs), but I am stuck out in the cold.

I have not been able to attend Day 1 of the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester, due to some urgent matters that had to be dealt with at work. That's HR for you - 11th hour demands, constantly changing priorities and the need to drop everything to ensure that all is as it should be. Mind you, that's also the joy of HR - we get variety, intellectual challenge, complex demands and, if anything the requests are getting more, not less, complex as we help our businesses and the people within them cope in our constantly connected, globally intertwined, rapidly transforming world. It is clear from reading the posts that Ruth Gunter McGrath, Professor at Columbia Business School's opening keynote address, Are we all Entrepreneurs Now? People strategies for the five-minute competitive advantagetouched on these very issues. 

Professor Rita McGrath
There are some excellent Storify summaries, such as Julie Drybrough's, that can take you through what she said, tweet by tweet, but it is clear that the main message was the need for HR to be strategic and capable of understanding the broader environment in which our organisations operate, to know what might or could disrupt or change the business and to demonstrate the ability and commercial dexterity to enable timely change.

This is not new as a concept, it was Charles Darwin who said:

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

But it is crucial for on-going success. Kodak invented the digital camera, but was too focused on film to appreciate how the world was changing, Fuji realised, from the dramatic change in the value of silver, that the world was transforming and that it itself needed to change in order to thrive - the latter is now a highly successful $27 billion revenue business, whilst Kodak is in crisis. 

What are the potential disrupters for your business?

Do you know what makes you different from your competitors?

How long will that remain a competitive advantage?

Are you sufficiently flexible?

I grew up in Hong Kong, a place where the most amazing skyscrapers a built (primarily because there is a shortage of land on the Island and so the only way is up). Instead of using conventional metal scaffolding, the builders used bamboo, because it was more flexible and able to bend when the typhoon winds blew.

I see HR as the bamboo scaffolding for our businesses, we need to be able to flex, support and help ensure that great heights can be attained. I was flexible today, I had to change my agenda to ensure that desired outcomes were achieved.

I am now on the train on my way to Manchester.

I look forward to posting some observations on what I am sure will be a great 2nd day of the CIPD conference tomorrow.

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