Dumb acceptance

I’ve written before about the use of the term, “the business” when referring to areas other than HR. To put it mildly, it drives me nuts and normally it arises in one of two contexts,

1) from within HR – “we need someone from the business to look at this”
2) in criticising HR – “they need to spend more time working in the business”

I’m baffled, confused and (I admit) a little bit grumpy. Let’s deal with scenario 1 first as an amuse bouche of perfectly formed stupidity, before we move on to the entrée of down right dumb, stupid acceptance of idiocy that is scenario 2.

If you work in HR and think that you’re not part of the business, then give up now and resign. Go hug a tree, or stare into the sunset, or become a coach. Because you’re wasting organisational oxygen, space on this earth and perhaps most importantly, my time.

There. Done. That was easy, wasn’t it?

So let’s talk about the main event.

I’ve heard a number of people over time espouse the theory that in order to be a good HR professional, you need to have worked in, “the business”. In fact it often features in comments on this blog. Can someone please tell me what “the business” is? Where is this elusive mystical beast? Is it tucked away in the armpit of the Yeti, or squeezed between the tightly closed thighs of the Loch Ness Monster? If anyone sees “the business” running free, give me a call, we need to talk….

I work for a publisher, does that mean I need to do an editorial role in order to be able to do my job as a HR director well? If I worked in law firm, should I spend time as a solicitor? What about an abattoir? Would time as a meat packer help me?

And do you really think these roles have the same skill set? The same knowledge base and the same competences? Of course not. I’m as qualified to do an editorial role as an editor is to do my role. And I can guarantee they wouldn’t want to go within a million miles of my job – because most of them are sane.

Do we say the same about finance, about marketing, about IT? Of course, not. Once again it is just stupid, shallow, groupthink without really understanding what we’re saying or trying to say.

HR needs to understand the way in which the business that employs it works, it needs to understand how the areas fit together, the commercial model, the brand, the strategic direction and the external economic environment. Anyone arguing this will get my full support and a virtual fist bump (or wrist punch as we call them chez Morrison).

Of course, yes.

Anyone saying that people who move cross functionally can bring different insights and expertise to their business areas will get a note of commendation and a wholly platonic, virtual man hug.


But saying HR people need to spend time in “the business” is like saying that to be a good heart surgeon you have to have had a double bypass. It’s stupid, it’s crass, it’s unhelpful and it’s wrong. And most of all, it detracts from the main issue, which is ensuring HR teams understand and are passionate about their organisations.

That’s where the real story is at. Trust me.

It’s time to dump the cliches and move on.

Summing up

One of my favourite quotes of all time if from King Lear, it is delivered by Edgar in Act 5 scene 3, “The weight of this sad time we must obey. Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”

Since the very first moment I read it, almost 20 years ago, this quote has stayed in my head. There is something wonderfully true and sincere and just downright, well…right. And given the last few years, it seems that there is no time more apt.

The thing is that, when you get to the end of the year, the world of blogging is full of earnest blogs, by good people telling you how much they’ve achieved, how blessed they are and how much they’ve contributed.

I’m in awe, you’re all clearly amazing, you make me proud.

So, let me tell you my story…..this year hasn’t been amazing. But, compared to that of many people, it hasn’t been awful.

Like a lot of you, I’ve spent the year trying not to drown. Now admittedly, my water is shallower than most, but you can drown in an inch of water. Most of the UK, most of the world has been trying just to cope, and I admit to being no different to them. I haven’t changed the world, I haven’t added value, I haven’t had an amazing insight. I’ve survived. And in a way, I’m extremely proud to say so.

This year, I’ve let people down, I’ve not been at my kid’s special occasions, the concerts, the plays, the sports days as much as I would have liked. I’ve not been able to see my friends and I’ve pulled out of things at the last moment. I’ve been more of a traditional male than I would ever have thought, relying on my wife to keep things going when I couldn’t.

I’ve not looked after my health in the way that I should have done. I haven’t checked out those niggling health problems, I’ve drunk too much and I haven’t exercised when I could have done. I feel sleep deprived beyond compare.

At work, I’ve been secretive because I’ve had to be. I’ve not been able to include people in things that I’m doing for understandable reasons. Regardless, this has contradicted with everything that I believe and hold dear and has struck hard into my moral fibre and my personal resolve.

This year, I’ve felt more out of control than I have done for decades, I’ve depended on my survival instincts and my reflexes to keep me going. This hasn’t been a “roller coaster” of a year, it has been a “black ice drive” of a year. I’ve got through, that is all I can tell you.

I’m indebted to the loved ones that surround me, many of whom I have let down. The people who have accepted my indifference, my moods, my unreliable behaviour. I’m indebted to my teams who have been beyond compare in their loyalty and endeavour.

I’m indebted and apologetic to my family, the people I hold most closest and whose love I have abused. The times when I haven’t been present, the moments that I will never get to live again, the kisses that I never offered and the hugs that I didn’t feel I deserved.

I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m not looking for excuses. I’m just saying how it’s been, both for me and for a whole lot of people out there. When we are honest about how things are, then we can start to truly support one another.

Life isn’t a competition to demonstrate who is the happiest, it is a journey best accompanied by a dose of reality. That way, you truly enjoy the special moments when they come….however few and far between.


Some of you will know that as well as the day job and this blog, I also run a site called British business bloggers. I won’t bang on about the site here, you can find more information about it here.

(Note to self: there were too many “heres” in that last sentence!)

Anyway, long story short and all that, the site is run by bloggers for bloggers and looks to share content and blog traffic.

(Note to self: don’t say that you aren’t going to bang on about a subject and then bang on about it!)

So why talk about it now? Well two reasons really, I know there are people who read this site that maybe don’t read the other site and it would be good to raise it to their attention. And secondly, because we’re running a very cool competition at the moment!

Basically, we want to give away 4 sets of 100 business cards courtesy of the lovely people at moo.com. Yep, give them away. Because we’re good like that. All you need to do is to make us laugh….intentionally mind you! You can see more details on the competition here where you can also enter. How simple is that?

Go on…..I dare you. You know you want to…..

PS. Please enter here not HERE. OK…..I know…..I did it again.


Creating growth

My friend Rick over at Flip Chart Fairytales wrote a post recently bemoaning (or at least questioning) the lack of creativity in business. Pulling together a number of commentators he makes, as you’d expect, some great points and the comments are equally as good. But, I read the post with a certain sense of despair.

“Creativity has always been a long hard slog, slowed down by corporate obstacles, spiked by saboteurs and smothered by indifference. But I’m not sure this is any worse now than it has ever been.”

So why the despair?

First is the sadly common mistake of mixing the terms innovation, entrepreneurialism and creativity. I’d argue these are very different skills and very different mindsets.

There is a pervasive “old world” business approach and mindset to the blog. A lot of the comments refer to creativity taking place in small start-ups that are later bought by the corporate giants and therefore the lack of creativity in those corporations, and hence a passive outsourcing of thinking.

I’ll come back to that point later.

However, most depressing is a focus on a very limited segment of the economy. And here it brings me great pleasure to introduce to you, the creative industries. That’s right, there are business out there that have as their core, as their raison d’etre, a creative purpose. Film making, gaming, television, design and yes….publishing, to name but a few. We, in Britain, are incredibly lucky to have a ridiculously healthy creative industry. And it isn’t small, the creative industries in their entirety are as big, if not bigger, than the financial services sector. We have the biggest creative industry in Europe and, pound for pound, probably the world.

More so, this is an industry that is growing and growing, despite the current economic climate.

Is there a lack of creativity in UK plc? No. Really, no.

Rick and those that commented are talking about one or two specific sectors of the economy, they are confusing entrepreneurial flair and innovation with genuine creativity. The UK economy is thriving with creativity, but it is lacking the focus and investment that other, less profitable and, dare I say it, less future proof industries receive. If Government is serious about growth then it could do far worse than focus on the creative industries as the keystone of recovery.

Now, to come back to the point about passive outsourcing. Business is changing, the face and structure of business is in an evolutionary stage. Small businesses, sole traders, bedroom ventures are all bursting with innovation and entrepreneurial endeavour. Many of them are niche, many of them don’t grow, many of them don’t want to grow and ultimately some of them do sell out to corporate monoliths, before then going on to their next endeavour. Is there anything wrong with that? I honestly don’t think so. That is at the heart of entrepreneurialism.

So, to answer Rick’s question, “Is there a creativity crisis?” No. Are our established corporations designed for entrepreneurial flair and innovation? Also no.

But the two questions are not the same.

Our creative industries are thriving, they are full of truly creative people, not bureaucrats, working to make world-class products and develop leading edge content. They may be quiet, they may sometimes be unseen, but they are an economic force to be reckoned with.

Overlook them at your peril.