The 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity was celebrated in print this past October. Many articles described its impact on our Universe in general and in the world of physics in particular. One such article by Walter Isaacson in the NYT (October 30, 2015) caught my eye. I had already known that Mr. Isaacson authored a very well received biography of Einstein, in fact a NYTimes Best Seller. So his comments were worthy of a read.
As so many things make me somehow make the leap from a news item or opinion piece on some general topic to my world of HR and HRT, Isaacson’s comments were thought provoking, especially as it gives me a chance for some yearend shout outs.
In his opinion piece titled “The Light Beam Rider” Isaacson mentions the visualized “thought experiments that were the navigation lights guiding Einstein to his brilliant creation”.
It seems that young Albert ran away from his school in Germany, which he hated because it emphasized rote learning rather than visual imagination, and enrolled in a Swiss village school based on the educational philosophy that encouraged students to visualize concepts. While there, Einstein tried to picture what it would be like to travel so fast that you caught up with a light beam. If he rode alongside, he later wrote, “I should observe such a beam of light as an electromagnetic field at rest”. In other words the wave would seem stationary. But this was not possible according to the science of those times. It eventually led to Einstein’s “psychic tension” – which was eventually resolve by… his, well, “daydreaming”.
Isaacson goes on to say that Einstein “relished what he called “GEDANKENEXPERIMENTE” ideas that twirled around in his head rather than in a laboratory. What teachers called “daydreaming” if you’re Einstein, you get to call them “Gedankenexperimente”.
The overreaching thought in Isaacson’s opinion piece is that creativity is based on imagination.
In my opinion Imagination arises from an inquisitive mind, a thirst for knowledge, a decision to push boundaries and a propensity to think “out of the box”, yes “perchance to dream”. (Shakespeare – Hamlet). Where the daydreaming leads to a sudden inspiration – a sudden burst of light – a sudden “getting it”.
As 2015 ends, I wanted to write and recognize some people who, in my humble opinion, have made or contributed to making a difference in my world of HR in general and HR Technology more specifically.
Thus for the sake of a yearend list – here then are my list of 10 “Dreamers” or “Critical Thinkers” who have pushed the boundaries of HR and HRT, and who have themselves surely daydreamed of solutions, practices and visions to assist all of us in our HR/HRT space. All furthering the importance of the role of HR and it use of technology in many forms, globally.
As colleagues, some of these people you will recognize, others maybe not. But by reading a bit about them, you can clearly see their deservedness in being called “daydreamers” and how their actions have led to some very impressive – even imposing results and deliverables. I have known all of them, some personally, some by reputation, some for many, many years, others for just a few months. In 2015 I have had reason to consider them in some way. I think that in the year ahead it will be interesting to see where their dreams might take all of us.
I met Josh Bersin many years ago when we both did some work with HR.com – (see – Debbie McGrath later in this piece). Josh is now the Principle/Founder of Bersin by Deloitte. He is a well known and effective thought leader /speaker in his expertise as the leading provider of research based information, benchmarking and advisory consulting services focusing on Talent Management, Leadership and Strategic HR.
In 2015, I had the opportunity to listen to Josh at Ceridian’s Dayforce HCM Insights Annual Conference. His keynote presentation about his research findings led him to highlight his “BOLD” vision for HR leadership. Bersin has a strong belief that today’s times require a “bold HR”. He explained: “BOLD” means : “B”= Build an irresistible organization; “O” = Own the leadership agenda; “L” Leverage your employees; and “D” = Demand data.
Clearly Josh Bersin is acting on his desire to educate all of us about what his research is unveiling. In 2015 I had not heard a clearer presentation of such a strong call to action.
Certainly the most well known on my list and a brand himself, I have known Dave from times even before he founded Peoplesoft and have admired him from afar as he acted on his vision of a comprehensive HR Technology with PeopleSoft and now with Workday. Known equally well for his humanitarian work and his deep commitment to his workforce, Dave has, more than any one person, revolutionized the use of Technology and now the Cloud – SaaS in support of making HR a strategic business partner.
Not once, but twice he has led the development of the premier HRIS/HCMS offerings over the past 3 decades. I am pleased that he stays personally well involved in our HR Technology world, and pushes his amazing workforce to create excellence in global HR related functionality and customer service.
I remain proud of the fact that Dave allowed his blurb on my book “Heroic HR” to remain in the second edition.
Speaking of self branding, Bill Kutik has made a significant impact on HR Technology as the “voice” of our HRT community. Oftentimes controversial, opinionated and self promoting (all a “plus” in my mind), Bill is an independent market observer of HRMS vendor offerings, and activities. Currently his talk show “Firing Line with Bill Kutik” provides a portal for HR practitioners, vendors executives, analysts and consultants to share knowledge, ideas and visions with all of us. Bill is one of a kind and I hope in 2016 to get a chance to add my voice to his impressive list of guests. But no doubt his visibility and vision has pushed us all forward. The Radio show itself is a worthwhile “gedankenexperimente” coming to fruition.
As over 15 years as the owner and “Chief Instigator” of HR. com, Debbie McGrath is another well-known dreamer in our industry. She has led HR.com in reaching over 1 million HR professionals worldwide who have utilized and benefited from her company’s online offerings in collaboration, certification, training, webinars and other virtual events. I had the pleasure of working under her guidance as one of her hands-on contract analysts (circa 2004-5) focusing on HR Technology vendors. Back then I saw in Deb a visionary who then recognized the power of education of our HR community by creating the first publically available “podcasts” on HR topics. To this day Debbie McGrath continues to push, promote and educate HR professionals to become leaders. She pushed me into embracing various aspects of technology to better myself and my consultancy.
Coming from Workbrain, creating Dayforce and then transforming Ceridian’s products offerings from old school payroll (mostly), to an industry leader with Ceridan Dayforce HCM, David Ossip has the proven ability to make a sudden impact in our HRT environment. As Chairman/CEO of Ceridian he is a dreamer and risk taker, always seeking to drive new and interesting functionality into the minds of HR executives. His recent addition of Work Angel into Ceridian’s EAP – Lifeworks and the integration of TeamWork’s functionality to track inter-team “relate-ability” into Dayforce HCM was eye opening and added a bit of a more “human” factor psychology to HRT. Clearly, a leading edge vision becoming a reality.
Peter Palme and Pamela Harding
These are 2 hugely visible HR professionals that I discovered and interacted with on LinkedIn. I don’t know Peter personally, but we are connected via LinkedIn. I do know however, that in addition to his Basil Switzerland based work at the Carlsbad Breweries, Peter has long championed his LinkedIn profile tagline “accelerating business performance and business development through people and organizational development excellence.” A complex mission that Peter supports by his massive content and discussion leadership on many LinkedIn Groups. In fact his profile is among LinkedIn’s top 1% in views as well as his content in “Slide Share”. Always a fascinating poser of HR related questions, Peter has indeed kept HR and HRT entrenched in the arena of organizational and leadership development. Plus, he speaks 4 languages including Mandarin. This further enables him to “gedankenexperimente” all over the globe. He keeps me interested in LinkedIn and helps me learn new concepts beyond my own sphere of influence. Also it helps me teach and motivate my MBA students at NYU, as most are from AsiaPac.
Similarly, Pamela Harding – described by HR Magazine as ‘An HR Linker and Thinker’ – runs LinkedIn’s largest group of HR professionals. As CHRO and Director of Corporate Operations at Next Dimension Media, she brings together 1.5 million professionals as they network within more than 100 groups and subgroups on LinkedIn and is community chair of Linked:HR, the largest single profession group on LinkedIn. She recently also became CEO of Metzano, an exciting new HR Vertical Network. Her leadership and ability to raise discussion issues on LinkedIn has proven immensely valuable as I personally combine my deep experience with HR Technology into my MBA courses on Fundamentals of Human Resources.
John is the founder and CEO of PeopleInsight Workforce Analytics. His company allows his users the ability to analyze workforce data by presenting amazingly detailed and complex – yet graphically pleasing charts and dashboards of HR and related metrics. PeopleInsight can do so within days (not week or months) of signing up with their offerings. His functionality lies on top of most HRT software file structures. PeopleInsight is cloud based and its value proposition brings workforce analytics “as a service” to any sized organization. Certainly another exciting “gedankenexperimente” that has come to reality for John and his able staff.
A former colleague of mine as an NYU Professor, (now too much in demand to teach) Yael is the founder of Aim-Strategies which is a leading consultancy in the very needed arena of Virtual Team Management. A speaker, cross-culture coach and author of numerous books on Cross-Culture team leadership, Talent Management and Process Improvement, Yael was one of the first to realize the importance of improving collaboration skills between team members residing in different time zones and of belonging to differing cultures.
Additionally, as busy as she is, Ms Zofi graciously agrees to guest lecture to my HR class at NYU. Students from across the globe recognize and learn from her anecdotes and expertise and realize that they will have to embrace these concepts in order to succeed as they enter the global workforce – from wherever they are located.
My clients, former, recent and decades old
To my clients – a yearend thank you. I was glad to assist you in realizing your dream, your “gedankenexperimente” in implementing your vision for HR Technology at your workplace.
And to all my clients, (most recently Chantal Washington and Julie Mann) and my industry colleagues, thank you for giving me a chance to turn my “light beam ride” into my reality and my passion. I wish you all to have a chance to catch and “Ride that Light Beam” and to Daydream.
Have an enlightened 2016. Best Regards.
Marc S. Miller
December 31, 2015.