Shiny Objects

June 6, 2018

It’s fun to be considered cutting edge—to be on the cusp of evolution.  We succumb to this in fashion, music, cars, and in technology.  We all want to be on the forefront and show off the “latest and greatest.”  Pursuing and procuring the latest shiny object is the great validator of how cool we are.  I’ve pursued (and procured) many shiny objects and stand in judgement of no one.  However, the sage tutor, Age, impels me to reflect upon this approach and at the very least, act more deliberate and less impulsive.  Now, more than ever, I appreciate the importance of investing in “emotionless analysis.”  Balance is key.  Emotion and passion are wonderful, but it serves us well to also contemplate the more mundane and keep perspective.
Our industry, like most others, is replete with shiny objects.  They are easy to spot.  They are written about by the analysts and talked about at all the conferences.  I remember a decade ago when it was all about “global.”  Granted, few programs had gone global outside of India and the UK but everyone was talking about it. Shiny objects are abundant. They are often exciting and interesting but nowhere near yet realized.  Consider some of the newest and most highly aspirational- “Total Talent Management,” “Artificial Intelligence,” “Machine Learning,” and “Blockchain.”  How many times have these concepts and phrases been invoked to imply innovation and “cool?"  These are indeed shiny, and their day is fast coming.  However, I think we’d be well served to take it down a notch and focus on a few of the basics.
Remember when we used to talk about compliance, demand management, SOW, and yes, global?  At one point, these were shiny objects and for good reason.  They were transformational and would prove to be the building blocks for today’s shiny objects.  Sadly, many suffer from what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton discuss in their seminal book, “The Knowing Doing Gap.”  We know what to do but for myriad reasons, we fail to act.  Most will agree that it’s imperative to capture all non-employee based labor but only a select few have done so.  What’s holding us back?  Technology has been able to solve this for years.  Perhaps the culprits are shiny objects.  Many of us are so busy wondering “what’s next” despite failing to implement yesterday’s “what’s next.”  In order to exploit the innovation that is before us, we must first wipe clean the patina that’s amassed on all those great ideas that failed to manifest.
There is little doubt the “future of work” will be transformative and exciting.  Already, we see advances in technology, data, and machine learning that will materially revolutionize the manner in which we source, vet, and manage labor.  However, it is important to ensure the fundamentals are in place first.  We cannot skip this step.  Data will inform like never before—assuming the data is there.  Christopher Dwyer of Ardent Partners shared an astounding statistic in his work, “The Future of Work Compendium.”  Looking at the largest barrier to workforce optimization, Ardent found that 72% of respondents cited, “Workplace culture will not allow adoption of new technology/strategies."  To me, that’s a cop out.  It’s a defeatist’s attitude.  I’m fortunate enough to work with people who operate in the other 28%.  These people find a way and push hard on things they know are right.  These people shine bright.  Do you shine bright or are you resigned to the status quo because it's easy?  You want the shiny objects?  You better be prepared to BE the shiny object and inspire action within your company.  Come join the 28%.