November 2009


Your working day, if it is typical, may well provide you with several reminders that time and cost are critical factors to manage. To be profitable, we must be competitive; to be competitive, we must constantly monitor costs and timescales. But do you occasionally hear a distant high-pitched tinkling noise that you’re fairly sure isn’t just an unattended mobile phone? It might be a triangle.

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Human beings – especially the English – seem programmed to use the weather as a metaphor, and the recession has been no exception. You’re probably as tired of hearing about stormy weather and ill winds as you are of travelling in the real thing. Although there are no bonus points for collecting the set, the missing cliché is the one about battening down the hatches.

But it’s not one to dismiss. Last week’s news coverage included updates from the OECD on growth forecasts. The anticipated growth rate for the UK for 2010 has risen to 1.2% – recession is ending, at least by its dictionary definition. The OECD expects unemployment to continue to rise throughout 2010 and possibly into 2011, albeit at a slower rate. Here are the opening words of the OECD’s Economic Outlook No 86:

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We seem to mention driving quite a bit here (the jury may refer to Exhibit A and Exhibit B). Partly this is just irony – I can drive, but by and large don’t – but I suspect the larger part is explained by the power of metaphor. Metaphors help us grasp something by explaining it terms of something we already understand. And driving is an interesting ‘human beings in the work environment/mindset’ metaphor: we each have some degree of autonomy, but our progress is ultimately determined by complex patterns of interplay. And, of course, by the outcomes of the work of road and town planners (the HR of personal transportation?) Our little accidents can affect more than just ourselves: we’ve mentioned airbags before, and I wasn’t expecting to mention them twice, but I found a blind spot that might be worth sharing …

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Judging by his post on 5 Skills for Career Success, Indian blogger Gautam Ghosh values ideas. Always a positive sign. We picked up on one of his ideas – essentially, why don’t HR make themselves redundant – in an earlier posting here, because we liked the emphasis on direct line management involvement in recruitment, mentoring, development (and more) that it implicitly promoted. Maybe the world really is getting smaller, but we seem to have remotely synchronised our metaphorical songsheets on another topic.

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Two links on employee engagement where you can actually get engaged a little yourself – download a free resource or participating in an online poll – and a little levity on the thorny issue of self-awareness. (For more snippets from around the web, see the full Crackers list.)

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Marcus du Sautoy recently presented a fascinating edition of Horizon, looking at consciousness – when do human beings become self-aware, how can consciousness be measured, monitored, recorded and so on.  One of the classic tests for identifying its emergence – placing a toddler with a stick-on spot on its face in front of a mirror and seeing if it notices the spot and tries to remove it – shows that we typically achieve self-awareness somewhere between the ages of 18 and 24 months. So it’s just some of us who need another couple of decades then …

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We’ve added downloadable PDF versions of three more ASK-authored articles that have appeared in the L&D press over the last few weeks:

  • Behind that locked doorVenture, November 2009
  • How to facilitate learning transfer and applicationStrategic HR Review, November 2009
  • Dealing with the Dynamics of ChangeHR Director, October 2009
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