What future do we want to create?

I’ve been thinking, as we do, after day 1 of the CIPD L&D Show yesterday.

There was a two-sided debate about whether the content was challenging & different enough or whether it was pitched right for the majority of the audience.

Which is really a question of whether you give your customers what they want as they see the world today. Or whether you stretch their thinking to the possible.

A question which many businesses grapple with for their customers.

It reminds me of Simon Sinek’s work where innovative products come to market not perfect, not polished but which the Innovators queue up to buy because they make decisions to do so based on what they believe. Not whether they’re getting the best version of the product it will ever be.

These people are only about 2.5% of your market.

Early Adopters (the next 13.5%) will then join in and buy-in. Also following their beliefs.

And the tipping point to mass market penetration happens around 15-18% – people begin to follow because others have tried it.

I get this but in L&OD / HR we aren’t about the latest gadget. We’re talking about people. And, even more complex than that, we’re talking about behaviour change.

And we’re also talking about people in a context which is rapidly changing, where organisations need to adapt and change faster, and where there’s increasing talk about existing hierarchical ‘tell’ cultures not being the ones that will succeed.

So why do we want our fellow professionals to follow the well-trodden path that’s been carved out by organisations operating in the old world?

Why would we not want to create a new path for people who maybe aren’t as far along on their journey? A diversion route to a new and different future where they can be at the forefront of what’s going on, without having to go through the same stages of change which others have followed previously.

And if that’s true, conferences must be the place to talk about that. To share truly innovative ideas that are already out there in other organisations. To help people figure out what could be possible in their organisation, their context. And to help them with how to start that brand new, barely trodden journey.

And would L&OD people be able to make that happen on their own?

Well, no. We’re talking about things which, if they really will shift you to a future-focussed culture, need to be joined up across all of HR and in fact the whole business. But is there anything we do on our own today? There shouldn’t be much, if anything. Our real success comes when we work with other teams / functions and get buy-in from senior teams. And maybe people need more help with how to do just that.

One of the biggest signs you’ve been challenged to learn and do something different is when you get that knotted, uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. The ‘I don’t know if I get this / if I can do this / if I know what this means for me.’

I would love to know how many delegates got that feeling yesterday.

Maybe that’s the only evaluation question we need to see if the conference, or any other learning, is really making a difference to create a new and better future.

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