The revolution will (not) be sanitised

Last year whilst having lunch with David Goddin, we were discussing the whole “Social HR” thing when one or other of us came up with the phrase, “the cigarette paper of social connection”. The idea that for all we talk about connection and connectivity, social connection online is incredibly thin and superficial.

Fast forward through the Christmas celebrations and I’m in a bar with Sukh Pabial discussing the very same thing. As an output he writes this blog and the response is yawningly predictable. It shouldn’t be a surprise, when I wrote about Social HR last year the same things were said. It is increasingly clear that we have a problem with challenge.

It tickles me when I’m told that people have stopped following me on Twitter because of something that I said that they disagree with. Bless ‘em.

It makes me laugh when we organise, yes ORGANISE, structures to destructure and disrupt and consider ourselves edgy. 

It amazes me when we collect together a bunch of blogs and think that our personal desire for attention and affirmation is in any way changing or influencing anyone.

It entertains me that we dub someone a thought leader or thinker, when all they do is regurgitate and repackage the thoughts of others. And no one calls it out.

It depresses me that we defend this ridiculous status quo and rage against anyone who questions it.

When the medium for disruption, become the establishment, you know that you’re heading for mediocrity and group think. When consensus is valued more highly than difference, you know you’re pushing water up a wall.

The revolution has been sanitised. Time for a rethink.


  1. daviddsouza180 · February 24, 2014

    Alrighty then…I’m not going to describe this as yawning predictable, but this blog is hardly a new position either. It’s a familiar refrain.

    I’m not convinced that as soon as people start sharing a position that negates the value of that position. It might make it a less sexy place for people who want to be on the fringes, but you might want to see it endorsing the position of mavericks rather than threatening it. If everyone came with you I think you’d be bored.

    When we stop being open to criticism, we stop being open to improvement. I get that. I don’t think there is ‘rage’ against the position of the outsider. I’d suggest there is more heightened feeling in the wording of your postings than any other – that’s probably frustration, but strong words invite more strong words. Strong words don’t always more the truth closer, they just make more noise. If you use a nuke instead of a sniper rifle it’s hard to pick out the intended target.

    Does the medium for disruption matter? Is it only disruptive if a few of you believe it? Are we after disruption or after better? Not sure. Things to think on for me – but I’m not convinced that the ‘raging’ is triggered by the threat of being questioned more than the style employed by the self styled outsiders. If people are raging you’ve got evidence and validation of your own disruption…I’m not sure that is evidence of improving anything.

    Like you’ve said before, the real work isn’t done on here. It doesn’t mean that people who’ll be doing that work can’t reflect, learn and share here.

    Good blog, but then I’m not sure you want to hear that.

    • Neil · February 24, 2014

      I think the medium can demonstrate whether it is real disruption or playing at it. I think too many people play, not enough act. But that’s just my perspective.

      • daviddsouza180 · February 24, 2014

        That’s true of any medium. I’d have hated them to have stopped Wikipedia when they decided it was getting too popular. I think the issue is rarely the medium, the issue is the output. Need to go off and do now…

  2. dougshaw · February 24, 2014

    ‘It tickles me when I’m told that people have stopped following me on Twitter because of something that I said that they disagree with. Bless ‘em.’

    It tickles you does it? Well good for you. I’m curious. How do you find out that these people have stopped following you? When you do find out – are you never tempted to dig into that disagreement a little to find out more? Or is disagreement really just something to be tickled by, and move on?

    • Neil · February 24, 2014

      As with anything like this, there are tools to keep your Twitter stream relevant and un spammy. They often also indicate who isn’t following you anymore. The reasons are often learnt anecdotally.

      But to answer your question Doug no I don’t dig any further, I don’t think it is my responsibility. If someone raises an issue, as they have done, I think it is my responsibility to explain, discuss, and even apologise. But if someone wants to walk away and say things in the shadows, I think that’s their problem to deal with.

      • dougshaw · February 24, 2014

        Thanks Neil. It’s interesting (to me at least), how I often read something and, perhaps wrongly, apply my own modus operandi to what I’ve read.

        I honestly don’t think I’ve ever looked at a tool and seen who isn’t following me anymore, hence my ignorance. I’ve been blocked a couple of times and you can’t help but notice that as Twitter stops you from mentioning the blocker, but I am blissfully unaware of such specifics as who has unfollowed me. Given the ticklish effect it seems to have, maybe I should dig deeper occasionally.

        On the up front v shadowy option – I learned the hard way that almost always – your explanation here makes good sense.

        Cheers – Doug

  3. Julie@fuchsiablue · February 24, 2014

    Alright… I wasn’t going to reply.

    What makes me smile is you now have me trying to work out how to be more unpredictable – to say or stay silent?

    Well, bollocks to it, I’m in for a bit of a dance, so let’s go.

    There are bits of this that are so staggeringly patronising you had me shaking my head in wonder…..what could you possibly achieve by being thus?

    Is there power in sneering? Does it shift anything?
    Did I miss that part of “revolution 1:01”?

    When I read the above, I see two conversations, some blogs and a lot of pointing, but what else have you got for me?

    As ever, you point out the nasty sanitisation of the muddy field, but you offer no means (revolutionary or otherwise) to remedy it.

    Time for a rethink, Mr Morrison? Well… good. Let’s hear it.
    Show and tell….. come on now…. You are itching to…

    my invitation is get off the intellectual sidelines and show me that you can get down & dirty and in the mix….otherwise?

    Well I might just think you are too clean to be inviting mud pies.

    • Neil · February 24, 2014

      Yes you missed it. It was great. You would have loved it.

      So what is next, what is the rethink? That’s a good question and one that I’ve been mulling over. I’ve got some ideas. Watch this space.

      Or join in, but only if you’re willing to be unpopular.

  4. broc.edwards · February 28, 2014

    Was there a revolution? Did I miss it? Is social media a tool solely for disruption or just a tool that can be used for disruption? I guess I was such a late adopter that I never thought of any of the social media as edgy or disruptive. Just (yet) another communication channel for people to (mis)communicate like they do with every other channel. Only broader and shallower.

    Of course, the fringe is no fun once it’s the mainstream. For some reason my immediate thought was back to a line from an old Dead Kennedys song: ‘Buy, buy, buy from Circle A. Like hula hoops, a disposable craze. A fast food fad to throw away. It’s Anarchy for sale.’

    Not only will the revolution be sanitized, it will be packaged, marked up, and eventually find its way into the bargain bin with last year’s left overs. And then it will be repackaged as the “new” revolution and the cycle will start again. Anyone can be unpopular, the trick is being popularly unpopular.

    • Neil · March 2, 2014

      The trick is being popularly unpopular? Why didn’t my mum tell me that? Damn.

  5. interimity · February 28, 2014

    Revolution in HR? And the issue that is exercising you is social media?
    I would like us all to think bigger. A lot bigger.
    And think about social ‘evolution’ in terms of moving away from the highly cynical exploitation of all of us, but particularly the most vulnerable in all societies. Big Big business runs our lives (and also runs social media).

    The economic system went into meltdown for many economies in 2008. Now, look around. What’s changed? Investment bankers who are (to quote Lord Turner of the FSA) ‘socially useless’ are still doing exactly what they did before. Even last year Mark Carney said they were still potentially socially useless. Shareholder value is STILL the most important driver in many businesses – and HR colludes with this (zero hour contracts, unpaid internships, minimum wage). And, of course, it’s not just banks. It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything great coming out of HR or, indeed, the CIPD. Which is headed up by a career consultant and I know what you think of consultants versus practitioners.

    If you want revolution in HR, let’s start a movement to being socially useful. To get organisations to become client and employee centric and thereby be much more financially sustainable and profitable. There is evidence out there to support the connection between engagement and profits. I’ll march for that one.

    And don’t worry if social media is trite. Most of HR is trite at the moment. It’s not a real problem in our lovely first world democracies – although when used with heart and and passion it can change the world. We’ve seen that. Otherwise it is a just another form of pleasant noise.

    • Neil · March 2, 2014

      I agree completely, and that is my point to an extent. There is far too much happy consensus about pathetic and unnecessary topics and we feel that somehow we are creating a seismic change. Which is, put simply, delusional.

  6. Pingback: Social Is As Social Does | T Recs

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