About a month ago I argued in one of my blog entries that current HR practices’ bias towards reliability is killing innovation. This is a short update to provide further supporting evidence.
Some of my blog entries may be taken as theoretical exercises. While I make use of the latest thinking, most of the things I write about are in fact directly extracted from personal experience. It is my attempt to turn what could otherwise be called frustrations into constructive insights. I felt this short introduction was necessary simply to add a degree of credibility to what follows. Now let’s get back on topic.
Let’s start with a preview of my thesis. My argument rests on three observations: (1) innovation is vital to our future; (2) innovation is slowing down; (3) current HR practices are a contributing factor. Having argued my case, I will end by providing a few ideas on possible solutions.
One of the latest articles on LinkedIn features a thought leader proposing that, and I quote, “when you start telling someone, ‘you are really great at x, but when you do y…’ the BUT negates all the goodwill that you are building up with the first part of your sentence. The BUT gets someone’s defenses up, and makes them way less able to hear the important thing you want them to listen to.” (see https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121130041419-9947747-how-to-give-great-employee-feedback).
This is another good example of superficial understanding of how human beings function. In short, my argument is as follows: human beings are adaptive beings. So during a performance review they can easily adjust their mental sensors to read through the lines quite effectively and decode whether “AND” really means they are deficient in some respect. So replacing “BUT” with “AND” is in my humble opinion not an effective way to get positive results in the short term or help the employee to grow in the long run.
A much more effective (in the transformative sense) approach is to give the employee the larger context, to show them how their behavior affects the bigger picture, and to encourage them to find ways to upgrade their individual behavior accordingly. That is a powerful motivator and it’s a way of treating the employee with due maturity and respect. It can be the beginning of a fruitful partnership in achieving a larger vision and mission.