January 2010

I’m not the first to observe that we live in an increasingly observed and monitored world. As we leave for work, CCTV follows our journey – for many of us to the office door. Swipe cards and key codes then follow us round our buildings, tracking our location and our movements. (In a sense that brings home just what ‘too much information’ can mean, that last item can even be taken very literally: I’m struck by the number of buildings that require a key code to get from a desk to a lavatory: there’s a poor joke about emergency evacuation procedures there somewhere, but let’s carry on …). Further systems track our access: what we’ve opened, actioned, read, sent, received (and when and for how long). They say that in any Internet forum, it’s only a matter of time before someone mentions Hitler or Stalin, but these are levels of observation that put twentieth century totalitarians to shame. (I’m disconcerted that this blog has now mentioned Hitler on five occasions, and that one of the pioneers of the digital age will make some interesting points on totalitarianism in a few paragraphs time.)


We couldn’t help but notice just before Christmas news items at both Personneltoday.com and HRMagazine.co.uk announcing the launch of Virgin Media’s new leadership development scheme, aimed at turning its business into ‘a talent academy’. This struck as simultaneously a very encouraging development and an audacious, brave – and potentially foolhardy – one.

We’re optimists, so we’ll start with the good news. Virgin Media’s leadership development scheme will be based in personal and (reading between what are currently a few brief lines) psychometric profiling, judging by the Personnel Today news item: (more…)

Three for the price of two in today’s entry in our on-going Crackers series, each of which gives us a moment to see the world of work from a less than usual angle. (For more useful, provocative or just plain life-enhancing snippets from around the web, see our full Crackers list.)


In a recent Crackers article, we provided a link to an excellent piece at the HR Bartender blog, Thinking Both/And, or – to give it it’s fuller and less ambiguous title – “Moving beyond ‘either/or’ thinking to see the future of work”. Sharlyn Lauby, its author, was inspired by the work of Luis von Ahn in human computation, and how it moves:

the relationship between technology and humans from a ‘either/or’ to a ‘both/and’.  It’s not about either a computer does the work or a human does the work.  It’s about how humans and computers can use their capabilities together to make things happen.”

 As I already commented on Sharlyn’s blog, this isn’t a way of thinking that should be limited just to our relationship with technology (although it surely has a bearing on the problems of qualitiative vs quantitative measurement we’ve addressed here before). “Both/and” – as an alternative to “either/or” – could be a powerful tool in many situations where an oppositional approach leads to either the undue detriment of one party or the stalemating of both.


As a company committed to enhancing and improving the transfer and application of learning, we continue to explore this vital topic not just through our working practice, but through academic research. My colleague, Robert Terry, has recently compiled A Brief History of Research into Learning Transfer which you can download as a PDF file.

At we enter 2010, our hope is that research is supporting our assertion that the purpose of learning and development is not simply to create more skilled or knowledgeable individuals, but to translate good learning into great workplace performance.  This posting in our blog highlights some of the main findings of our review, and flags some of the issues that continue to vex L&D and HR professionals and budget holders (and learners and suppliers) as they seek to enable learning and development to fulfil its true promise.


Don’t judge a book by its cover is a well-worn cliché, but in this case the caveat should really be ‘don’t judge a book by it’s title’. This is a valuable read – that it will be hard to keep this review to reasonable length indicates just how much thinking or comment it provoked (which seems to be a large part of the author’s intention) – but it’s not really about the future: it’s far more about the present and what the author – well qualified by experience, judging by bios and blurbs – finds both good and bad in it. That it considers work in the context of both human life and human society is also to be applauded, even if (like many other aspects of the book) this is both a strength and a weakness.


We figured the Christmas Crackers are probably past their best now, so it was time for the next in our regular series of pointers to thought-provoking posts elsewhere in the blogosphere. A terrific post on a concept for challenging traditional or reductive thinking, and a thought-provoking post on employee engagement and just what it means.

For more useful, provocative or just plain life-enhancing snippets from around the web, see our full Crackers list.

Thinking Both/And: we’ve highlighted her contributions in ‘Crackers’ before, but Sharlyn Lauby’s recent post at The Hr Bartender is truly a cracker. Constructive, positive and challenging – and the concept of ‘Both/And’ is one that deserves greater consideration in many, many aspects of working life. Sharlyn, we will putting pen to paper shortly, and thank you for the inspiration.

What is Engagement, and is it really just about employees?:  as contribution Mike Klein points out, ‘engagement’ may be a hot topic, but discussion suffers from a lack of agreed definition. His post – which has attracted much comment already – particularly struck my attention after reading Richard Donkin’s “The Future of Work” – review to follow – and Donkin’s concern that it is becoming “the one trick pony of modern management”.

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