HR as work system tinkerers

I read a great blog post by Wayne Brockbank today on HBR about HR's focus on "talent" in the past years and why it is somewhat misguided. The core of the argument is this: organization is about making the whole greater than the sum of its parts, and not at all about maximizing individual performance. Searching for individual high performers, ranking staff according to individual performance etc is acting in accordance with a view of the world opposite to the idea that organization itself adds value. That the configuration of the parts, is valuable.

However, having a psychology background, I think that "who" you hire matters too - but maybe more to the degree that people bring ways of interacting with them into organizations. How people interact with each other, with systems and other artifacts et cetera, bring about certain patterns of order. This is what can give a company a competitive advantage. So, I agree with Brockbank that HR should focus more on what happens with talent once inside the organization. Maybe see themselves more as tinkerers of the "work system," and support for the organization to self-tinker, tweak and evaluate the effects of the tweaks.

The link: The Best HR Departments Don’t Just Focus on People

"Quests" as organizing principles

Make quests visible to as many people as possible. Default: whole organization. Possibly even more visible, to customers or the public, where not inappropriate. Visibility enables serendipity. The point is to facilitate the match of person and task. For the right people to be able to self-select to the right tasks, the quests need to be visible. /.../

From a management point of view, a big reason function lock-in is a problem is because it squelches passion. You already have bright & talented people (right?) and if there is a place in your organization that resonates really strongly with them, you should let them go there. You need them to go there. That is when the magic happens.

From my entry in the MIX hackathon 2011 

HELIX Conference 2013, Opening keynote - Organising for Learning at Work

Below are some notes from day 1 of the International HELIX Conference in Linköping, this years theme is Innovative Practices in Work, Organisation and Regional Development - Problems & Prospects.

Bengt-Åke Lundvall
Organising for Learning at Work - An Important but neglected dimension of Innovation Systems

Work org and innovation in collab with Ned Lorenz (Edward) and others 2000.

OECD Lissabon initiative: The goal was more & better jobs - we did not really succeed.

Take home message: we need to link the organisation of work to innovation and economic performance.

Innovation is dependent on active participation and learning of workers. The role of the work process itself is neglected in most innovation studies. But the quality of work is worsening in the crisis.

Two types of innovation 1) Sciencebased: STI - Science, Technology, Innovation; 2) Experience-based: DUI - Doing, Using, Interacting. Science based combined with experience based learning = significantly more innovative firms than one method biased firms. (Odds-ratio 5 vs about 2). Controlled for size, sector & ownership.

Major driver of innovation is competition. Interaction with users, and employee involvement, is crucial for innovation. Human resources and organisation in and across firms very important.

Research tends to look at managers, scientists and policy makers as the main actors. How work is organised is more important! Common indicators of innovation - such as the european scoreboard - do not reflect how work is organised.

The underlying structure of how people work & learn is more important than technological infrastructure

Some preliminary results from a European study. Survey interviews were made with individual workers. Main dimensions: Do you learn new stuff? How much freedom do you have to organise your own work? 

Four clusters of jobs: discretionary learning (high learning, high freedom), lean (high learning, low freedom), taylorist (low learning, low freedom), traditional (low learning, high freedom).

When you work in a Taylorist mode you are very exposed to competition from China etc. That's why we need better jobs.

Correlation between "discretionary learning" and firms leading innovation. Neg. correlation between lean practices (in their definition) and firms leading innovation.

Egalitarian economies are better off. Income inequality goes hand in hand with decreased influence at work.

Source not yet published: Holm & Lorenz - A decline in the quality of jobs EMAEE 2013
[[How exactly does this translate to a measure of quality of jobs?]]

Economists reduce work to employment, to numbers. Ignore quality of job, how work is organised.

KEY! Open education systems that you are never excluded from, that you can always enter as needed. Make theoretical education more practical, more experience based and make practical education more theoretical and reflective.

Flexicurity is important. Which is to say, not just flexibility, but also security. The latter has been lost, Lundvall says. Security & trust must not be ignored.

Q&A session

Lundvall says that actually they found that the more discretionary learning, the fewer startups!! His hypothesis: Where jobs suck, you have to start your own firm to get an exciting jobs.