Ordinary leads to ordinary

One of the biggest problems within the HR profession, is a lack of innovation. By this I don’t mean harebrained schemes dreamed up in those horrible “away days” that come to nothing, or worse, that actually come to something…….pointless. I mean true innovation. The creation of new and different ways of thinking about situations, and the definition of exciting future realities.


Because we worry too much about “the practicalities”. The moment that anyone starts to suggest ideas, to progress thoughts that are maybe slightly out of the everyday is also the moment that others start to provide reasons why it wouldn’t be possible.

Because we have to deal with practicalities right? We have to take into account the reality?

Yes. And no.

You see the problem with staying rooted to the practicalities is that you are anchoring your reality to the now, to the understood and known and therefore any solution you pitch will also fall into the understood and the known. It won’t be a game changer, it won’t radically alter anything. It will be humdrum.

When you frame your thinking in the ordinary, your solutions will be ordinary.

Now I know that at this point people will start telling me that there have been innovative solutions for mundane problems. Think Velcro, think Tippex, think Elastoplast. But innovation that shifts our paradigm does so because it pays no account to practicalities….it redefines them.

Think the internet. Think the steam engine. Think the transistor.

These are not answers to problems; these are enhancements to society. If we accept the workplace is a community, then we too should be striving for innovative enhancements rather than tactical solutions. Not every idea that we ever come up with will fly, but if we stop worrying about the here and the now and start defining the future, we’re more likely to find a shining jewel.

Practicality is the enemy of innovation.


  1. Stephen O'Donnell · January 24, 2012

    Sometimes we need to think the unthinkable to come up with a unique solution.
    That is not to say we implement the unthinkable, but rather we use the imaginative thought process to broaden the scope of what is possible.

    Allowing yourself to consider and “think through” outlandish ideas frees you from previous preconceptions and arrive at solutions that could never have been found previously.

    Rather than take baby incremental steps from your current position, think crazy thoughts, and then reverse back to what is actually do-able.

    • Neil · March 14, 2012

      Stephen – I couldn’t have put it better myself. Think crazy thoughts first.

  2. Sara (@TeenyTinyBean) · January 24, 2012

    Just the other day, one of the scientist here at CERN was telling me that when they thought up the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) the technology to create it didnt exist. They were talking about something that they had no idea how they were going to build and yet they planned for years. There was a faith that if they could think of it, they would somehow find the way to make it a reality; and they have.

    Practicality is something that needs to be solved once the innovation happens.

    • Neil · March 14, 2012

      Now that is the prime example of what I’m trying to say…..!!

  3. David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum) · January 24, 2012

    The reality is that adopting & following best practice is what professions tend to do. I think this creates lots of followers of “stated wisdom”. Nothing wrong with that perhaps but it does seem to conspire against innovation. To compound the issue, if you don’t know what your organisation needs in the first place then perhaps it’s then easier to hide behind the practicalities. What could so easily have been a virtuous circle becomes a vicious circle instead…

    I love the point @TeenyTinyBean made about faith & belief. Perhaps endeavour is something we need to pay more attention to when looking at Human Resources.

    • Neil · March 14, 2012

      Stated wisdom sucks…..

  4. Parag · January 24, 2012

    you decide if the following is practical or innovative –
    if two part-timers can job-share to do one job, it’s time we combined two full time jobs into one and allowed two full time employees to job-share to do it. the model is exactly the same and so are the advantages. besides it could do a lot towards enriching jobs, make the participants happy and secure, and raise the probability of a 1+1=2.5 performance.

    you could read more about this in my post, ‘a small glass of milk each or a tall one together’, at http://eyeseework.blogspot.com

    • Neil · March 14, 2012

      I need a sit down…..

  5. James Mayes · January 25, 2012

    If this kind of thinking would benefit HR people generally, I’d suggest getting involved in more tech start-up events. The prevalent mind-set I see currently represents a group of people who believe that anything CAN be built. As a result, the smartest question is often “Not can we build it, but should we?”…

    • Neil · March 14, 2012

      James, you’re right traditional businesses suffer from this more than start ups, generally because they have “tried this before”….

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