ABOUT INNOVATION: Why Are Some Cover Bands So Good But Never Make It?

Sell the kids for food
Weather changes moods
Spring is here again
Reproductive glands

He's the one
Who like all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he don't know what it means
Don't know what it means
And I say yeah
 
--In Bloom, Nirvana

If there's one thing that's always amazed me, it's the number of artists that are absolutely ####ing awesome - but never make it in the marketplace.  

You know what I mean, right?  How many solo or group musicians have you heard and wondered why they are accountants during the day? How many sketch artists or painters have talent rivaling Nevermind
Warhol but have never been discovered - and are working an hourly job to make ends meet?

I was reminded of this a couple of years ago when Mrs. Capitalist joined me and some friends to go see the Atlanta-based Nirvana cover band named "Nevermind".

They were - absolutely great.  The lead singer has hair like Kurt Cobain and the Mr. Rodgers-style sweater.  But most importantly, they nailed the Nirvana sound.

WHY NOT THEM?  Why can't you stream their stuff on Spotify/Pandora?

I thought a lot about that in the days that followed.  Here's what I came up with.

Most of us don't have musical skill or artistic ability.  So we're shocked when we hear it/see it and find it to be unique.  But the real reason most artists don't make it has to do with originality/innovation.  

Originals get paid.  Innovators start new trends and cash in.  When you really stop to think about it, it's that way in corporate America as well.

The guy I saw that night sounds like Kurt Cobain.  But he and his band didn't create their own sound.  So the marketplace doesn't reward them.

Let's take someone from the business world.  There's a lot of people in American business that are as dynamic as Elon Musk - many are more dynamic.  They interview well, are great in meetings and damn, are they great presenters.  What's missing?

Elon Musk has big ideas and endless passion.  SpaceX.  Tesla. SolarCity. 

You're as good as Elon Musk on the powerpoint and in front of people.  But your ideas?  They're smaller.

Nevermind is to Nirvana as a smart executive is to Elon Musk.  One wore the sweater first.  The other followed.

It's the same thing in the business world.  You're amazed by the presentation skills of Frank in Marketing, but he hasn't broken through.

Turns out those public speaking skills are missing one important ingredient for the payoff - original ideas. 

I'm so happy because today
I've found my friends
They're in my head
I'm so ugly, but that's okay, 'cause so are you
We've broken our mirrors
Sunday morning is everyday for all I care
And I'm not scared
Light my candles in a daze
'Cause I've found god
Hey, hey, hey


 


So You Want To Be a Thought Leader, But You Hate Writing...

Readers of this blog often ping me to have conversations about the best way to get started writing and sharing thoughts on the world of HR.

With the exception of the recent period where I finished my book (shameless plug - buy my book,  The 9 Faces of HR, here), I've written most business days since 2007.  

Only freaks do that.

For ideas on starting your own blog, see this presentation I did way back in the day.  Most of it still holds true.

But most people aren't going to start a blog and just grind for a decade.  That doesn't mean you can't be involved and share your thoughts.  Here's you're choices in my eyes:

1--Start a blog and write every day without rewards for a period of 3 years. See what happens.  Good Luck!

2--More realistically, start a blog and write once a week - but hit that schedule come hell or high water. No bitching, people.

3--While you're doing that, become active in promoting your content (and that of others) on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. 

4--Become a contributor at a site that has a collection of writers - like Fistful of Talent - with a built-in audience. I like this play for a lot of people since a site like FOT comes with built in traffic and awareness.  See the list of people who have contributed to FOT here - all great, talented people - many left to do their own thing, which is why I like to think about FOT as SNL for HR and recruiting writers (I'm Jay Mohr, not Lauren Michaels).

That's your basic path.  But there's a new angle I'd like to share as well - let's talk about content curation.

I recently saw a social post that encouraged HR pros to share the good work of others as a way to gain influence.  I think that path is valid, but let's be honest - just sharing the work of others doesn't really make you special or add value.

So if you're looking to share your voice but don't have time to write original content, content curation might be a good path for you.

But good content curation is work, as is adding your own voice.  Here's 3 examples of great content curation (2 from HR, one is media), take a look and see my quick notes about what I like about them:

--Lance Haun - Smart guy in the HR space that used to write all the time, now does a weekly curated newsletter called Tech@Work.  It's smart as hell.  Hit the link and subscribe.

--Katrina Kibben - Smart Recruiting-focused pro who writes a letter of the week - see the example and subscribe here.  Also smart as hell. Sharing her own long form writing at times, but the format works even if you don't have OC (original content).

--Jason Hirschhorn - Puts out curated newsletter called REDEF.  Deeper dives and more work that what Lance and Katrina are doing, but gives you a sense of what's possible (maybe as a full-time job).

Why do I share these?  Well, if you're looking to build influence, content curation is a great way to go - but it's more than retweeting shit on twitter if you want to do it right.  Both Lance and Katrina are taking time to share - mostly buy putting together 3-6 articles but MOST IMPORTANTLY:

THEY DON'T SIMPLY SHARE THE ARTICLES - THEY TRY TO TELL YOU WHY THEY THINK THE ARTICLE IS TIMELY AND IMPORTANT.

Which is the whole secret of the curation strategy.  You don't necessarily have to come up with the original ideas, but you HAVE TO HAVE A TAKE.

If you're looking to build influence, have a voice and generally engage with content - but you don't actually like to write - content curation might be a good strategy for you.  Note that both Lance and Katrina are great writers, though.  LOL.

Go subscribe to the curation efforts by Lance and Katrina and be inspired.

 


Get My New Book: THE 9 FACES OF HR...

It's true. I just launched a book and it is selling well. It's called THE 9 FACES OF HR.

If you like reading The HR Capitalist or Fistful of Talent, you're going to like the book and you should buy it. Here's the summary from Amazon for your consideration:

"Popular blogger and CHRO Kris Dunn presents a hard, but compelling reality: every HR professional on the planet can be classified as one of 9 “Faces” based on your
9 facescareer level and your ability to innovate and drive change. The book opens with a behavioral assessment, so readers can quickly identify their own “HR Face” then reveals career tracks, behavioral markers, ROI, macro-trends driving behavior, and market demand for each face. Which face are you? Which one do you want to be? Whether you’re a solo HR pro trying to make your way in the world or an HR leader trying to build a cohesive HR team, this is your no-BS playbook to empowering your HR career and elevating our profession."

I wrote the book because there's been a clear change in what CEOs, other leaders and even your CHRO/VP of HR is looking for when it comes to HR Pros at every career level. The pace of change has never been faster than it is today, and I've seen many of my HR friends hired - and fired - based on the new rules.

Things you'll get if you buy and read this book:

1--Entertainment - You know there's going to be snark.  I can't write any other way.  As I dig into some serious stuff, there's going to be some riffs and rants. I'm weaving pop culture through HR-related stories on people like Drake, Elon Musk and the CHRO at Uber, as well as leading every chapter with a related quote from a cast of characters including Lady Gaga, Oprah, Dirty Harry and Kanye. This is a serious book, but I'll be damned if I'm going to bore you.

2--A better understanding the changing HR marketplace in terms of innovation, change management and adding value.  Sh*t's changing fast for us in the world of HR, I've got your back with my model and notes.

3--My model for The 9 Faces of HR is based on a 9-Box grid - You'll see how career level mixed with cognitive/behavioral dimensions (such as assertiveness, rules orientation, detail orientation, etc.) converge to shape one's work world-view and determines which face you are.

4--You'll learn the details/profile on each of the “Nine Faces of HR” and have a blast identifying yourself, as well as thinking about which face the HR pros around you are (the ones you love, the ones you hate and everything in between).

5--Most importantly - You'll gain awareness of how others around you perceive your HR capability and get ready for change happening around you, regardless of your profile.

At the end of the day, The 9 Faces of HR is a guidebook for your career in the world's best profession - HR.  I love HR so much, I wrote this book to prevent you from getting hurt by the change swirling around us in the business world - and to help you reach your career goals - however ambitious they may be!

Buy The 9 Faces of HR on Amazon by clicking here

See the current reviews on my book on Amazon by clicking here

Note - someone pinged me looking for non-Amazon options, so here's a few:

Barnes&Noble.com

Books-A-Million

IndieBound

Target

Walmart

Google Express

eBay - grandeagleretail


The Complex Relationship of A.I. and Labor's Share of GDP in the USA...

Will A.I. take jobs away? 

Of course it will. The only question is whether the jobs it eliminates are replaced by other jobs up the food chain, in different and perhaps yet unknown industries and job classes.

The world has seen various waves of automation and globalization over the last century. Name the game changing technology, and there was paranoia that jobs were being eliminated and workers would be idle, never to find work to replace what was lost.

Through it all, a little talked about stat called “US Labor Share” has tracked the worker’s share of the economic pie.  For the uninitiated, here’s the definition of US Labor Share from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

"The labor share is the percentage of economic output (GDP) that accrues to workers in the form of compensation. It is calculated by dividing the compensation earned during a certain period by the economic output produced over the same period."

For the sports fans out there, think about this as the salary cap number for the US non-farm workforce.  For the non-sports fans, think about your company’s salary budget as a percentage of revenue.

A quick historical look at the Labor Share (nonfarm business sector) chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that from the 1950’s through the year 2000, Labor Share remained fairly steady at 62% to 64% of US GDP.

Then, things changed. Labor Share started dropping hard in 2008-2009 (both in and coming off the recession) dropping from 60% of GDP to a level now looking to at the 56% range. According to Fortune Magazine, that equates into about $11,000 less in annual income for the average US household when compared to an economy that provides a 65% percent share to the US workforce.

Here's a look at the chart (email subscribers, please click through if you don't see the image):

Labor share

Machines displaced a lot of farmworkers in the 19th century, but millions of new jobs in manufacturing were created.  When the manufacturing sector in the US took a hit in the 50’s, 60’s and 70s’, new jobs in services became a much larger part of the economy, and Labor Share remained steady between 62% and 64%.

And here we are – at 56% - in a peak economy. What gives?

It all comes down to job creation as the term automation gets replaced by A.I.  What’s the new sector of jobs that’s coming online as A.I. – the new, at times scarier version of automation – displaces human labor?

Factory workers became truck drivers across the Midwest when factories went away. What blue collar profession do they turn to when automation/A.I. fully delivers self-driving, autonomous vehicles to the transportation industry?

White collar workers have been impacted by automation as well, but globalization and the impact of cheap labor available overseas has had greater impact. What happens when A.I. delivers a seamless tax return or handles coding at a deeper, more self-aware level that transcends the age-old argument of chasing cheaper white collar labor in the Philippines?

Read enough, and you'll find opinions that A.I is the beginning of the end, or overhyped to a large degree.

I’m a fan of technology and progress. I’ve always believed that jobs eliminated by technology would re-emerge up the food chain.

The current Labor Share chart in the USA is making me think deeper. We’re almost a decade into the expansion, the toughest recruiting environment for employers imaginable, and workers still can’t get theirs?

Buckle up.  The next couple of decades are going to be interesting.


Google for Jobs: A Stat That Will Make Go Hmmmmm...

First, a quick definition - in 2017, Google launched Google for Jobs, a service dedicated to making Google a primary job search source for all.  It works like this - Google scrapes all the jobs from career sites across the world, and by coding your jobs/career sites in a certain way, you can do your best to ensure the jobs at your company perform well when candidates search for jobs (think, "Financial Analyst") in the geographical area they are interested in.

The big news in 2017 and beyond that Google was getting into job search/job postings.  Since so many candidates start searching for jobs with search engine query, the reality of what Google was doing - putting a big listing of jobs from G4J at the top of search results on anything resembling job search - was thought to be a threat to all who market and sell job postings.  This obviously impacts the future business results of Indeed, LinkedIn and the traditional job boards.

Early results show that the change, i.e. the potential to put other companies out of the job posting business (or hurt their financial results), has been slower than expected to materialize. 

But to really understand the potential impact, you simply need to look at other industries.  Here's a stat that should make us think it's only a matter of time before Google for Jobs is completely dominant:

On mobile devices, 62% of searches never leave Google. Google’s desktop dominance is also growing: Between 2016 and today, desktop searches that never leave Google have risen from 9% to 35%.

You may have noticed that in a lot of Google searches you do, Google provides enough information in a dialog box, and you don't have to leave Google to get to another site.  That's by design - Google’s goal is to provide info directly, without having to refer users to other websites.  The stat above tells you how good they are getting at providing enough info/value so you don't have to click and go somewhere else.

The latest news covering this trend  - song lyric site Genius.com has accused Google of scraping its site.  More from Mashable:

"Lyrics annotation service Genius.com has accused Google of scraping its site and stealing its content, the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend. However, a lyrics data provider at the center of the controversy claimed on Monday that those allegations were without merit.

The Journal reported that Genius had been complaining to Google about the alleged theft for some time, with Google consistently denying the allegations. To prove its point, Genius proceeded to alter lyrics hosted on its site with a variety of different apostrophes.

The company alternated between apostrophe styles in a frequency that allowed it to embed a secret morse code message into the text. The message in question: “Red handed.” Soon after, the modified lyrics, complete with the hidden message, showed up on Google.com, according to Genius."

Why the drama about song lyrics? Genius.com says its traffic is dropping because, for the past several years, Google has been publishing lyrics on its own platform, with some of them lifted directly from the music site.

In other words, when Google provides its own data rather than referring web searches to other sites, life gets hard.

The fact that Google does that in 35% of all web searches today - with an eye to take a lot more market share - should make everyone who relies on referral traffic really nervous.

Google for Jobs hasn't put anyone out of business in the job posting industry  - yet.  But, it feels like we're in the first quarter of this game.

Diversification of business model seems like a smart play for those in the crosshairs.

 

 


Old Town Road, Lil Nas X, and Your Creativity...

External reading/case study time today at the Capitalist.  If you haven't heard of Lil Nas X, you should ask your kids.

His short cut "Old Town Road" is a streaming sensation. This video of him surprising an elementary school in Ohio went viral this week. Lil-nas

But the real lesson is in how he put this cut together.  Rolling Stone dropped a piece related to the emerging scene of sites offering musical tracks on the cheap:

"No one saw Lil Nas X coming. His race to ubiquity came impossibly quickly, and it’s a rare instance of an artist’s industry story — the making-of chronicle of an underdog star — becoming to wide audiences as compelling as his music. Ever since the 20-year-old rapper rose into the public eye a few months ago, first on the madcap video platform TikTok and then in headlines amid controversy over country-music charts, fans and executives alike have been scrambling to work out the method behind his one-song success.

Of the dissections of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” which has sat at the top of music charts for eight weeks now, neither the treatises on its roots as a social-media meme nor the examinations of the charming sonic wackiness of its melody have paid much attention to one crucial aspect of the story: how and why the song’s underlying beat — the source of its all-important Nine Inch Nails banjo sample — only cost the rapper $30. That Lil Nas X was able to put together a chart-smashing song for less than the price of a tank of gas is a perfect testament that the traditional structure of the music business has blown apart.

“I don’t know if I’m living in some type of simulation at this point,” Lil Nas X recently told Rolling Stone. His smash hit only started taking shape in June 2018, when a Dutch teenager named Kiowa Roukema, a.k.a. Young Kio, tossed a trap beat under a banjo loop pulled from the Nine Inch Nails song “34 Ghosts IV,” which he’d found on a whim while browsing YouTube’s recommended section. He uploaded it as “Future type beat” (though it doesn’t really sound like a Future type beat) to a website called BeatStars. In November, it caught the attention of Montero Hill, a.k.a. Lil Nas, who had only been making music for a few months “out of boredom” from his sister’s home in Atlanta, Georgia. Nas recorded a song to the beat, and by the close of the year, the pair’s work was all over the internet, without the two ever meeting.

BeatStars is a digital marketplace where producers and artists are able to link up without ever getting into a studio together. Artists can pay a bargain-rate fee to download a beat, leaving it open to other artists to use as well, as Lil Nas X did. If they shell out a little more, they can get an exclusive license. The website is the brainchild of Abe Batshon, a musician-entrepreneur who only found out that “Old Town Road” came out of a BeatStars deal after the track blew up on music charts and he checked his records. “I don’t think Young Kio even knew about the song until it started having legs and trending on TikTok,”

The Rolling Stone article is worth reading in it's entirety.

The lesson here is pretty simple. Creativity matters, but there's creativity with a capital "C" and creativity with a lower case "c".

Lil Nas X is somewhere in between.  Old Town Road likely wouldn't have been made if he had to be the original source of all of it's elements. But sampling ideas from others (in this case a trap beat) and mixing them into something greater matters just as much as truly original ideas.

If you want to be valued, you've got to do more than make the trains run on time.

The Lil Nas X story shows that intellectual property rights are shifting faster than ever. People say their are no new ideas. I'd say that the true value of workplace creativity is being a mix artist, combining old ideas into new cuts/solutions.

Lil Nas X was sitting in ATL doing nothing less than a year ago.  But he was curious.

What's your excuse again for not creating new things in your job in 2019?  Mmm hmm.  Good luck with not adding additional value. I hope that works out.


Should We Really Trust IBM as an Expert in the World of HR?

It's a fair question. Does IBM deserve to be an expert in the world of HR?

When you think of IBM today, you probably think of Watson, the supercomputer that resides at the intersection of processing power and artificial intelligence.

One of the latest science/research pushes IBM is promoting is that they're the experts in predicting turnoverWatson

IBM HR has a patent for its “predictive attrition program” which was developed with Watson to predict employee flight risk and prescribe actions for managers to engage employees. IBM's CEO Ginni Rometty has been on the PR push for this program this month and stopped short of explaining “the secret sauce” that allowed the AI to work so effectively in identifying workers about to jump (officially, IBM said the predictions are now in the 95 percent accuracy “range”). Rometty would only say that its success comes through analyzing many data points. Rometty claims the AI has so far saved IBM nearly $300 million in retention costs.

The AI retention tool is part of a suite of IBM products that are designed to upend the traditional approach to human resources management. 

I think AI should always be considered as a way to make our profession better.  I'm just not sure that IBM deserves to be the expert in HR.  

You know the first reason I'm skeptical.  Most of my readers could predict turnover with 100% accuracy if they have access to the right information. The right information in turnover prediction is full of privacy issues - involving deep email, social, web and phone indexing and analysis.  Simply put, if you had access to the right information, you could make a pretty good call on who's at risk.  That's nothing new and the fact IBM doesn't disclose what information is needed to get to 95% accuracy is 100% problematic.  

So you're great at turnover prediction, but you fail to say you need to big brother information access to fine tune the model.  Most of us would say no to the cultural ramifications of getting all the data necessary.

But my biggest issue with IBM coming in hard to HR for business development is much simpler.  They've been awful to their own workforce.

Big companies are going to have some people issues, I get it.  But do a couple of web searches and you'll see how IBM has treated it's workforce, discarding strong, older professionals for cheaper labor.  It's a systematic play they've been a part of, and it includes normal playbook items like layoffs and more creative items like requiring long-term IBM team members to report to a centralized office location or lose their job.  

Translation: We've got a lot of high earners and it's killing us. Time to retrench and get a cheaper cost basis on labor.  Let's say no to remote work!

Watson is cool, and IBM is OK. But I'm not sure they deserve to be labeled as an expert in the world of HR.

IBM is a data company.  You're the HR expert.  

Watson told me so.


Minimum Viable Product in the World of HR...

If there's one thing that HR could do better at, it's caring less about being perfect and shipping more HR product.

You see it all the time in the world of HR. We have big plans. Those big plans include the need for project planning, for meetings, vendor selection and deep thoughts.  After awhile, the process takes over the original intent, which was trying to serve a need and make the people processes of our company just a little bit better. MVP

We chase big, risk adverse, "get everyone on board" type of wins.  The development of those big wins can stretch into a year - no make that two years - of prep.  

What we ought to be chasing more is Minimal Viable Product, which in the software industry gets defined as this:

minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.

A minimum viable product has just enough core features to effectively deploy the product, and no more. Developers typically deploy the product to a subset of possible customers—such as early adopters thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. This strategy targets avoiding building products that customers do not want and seeks to maximize information about the customer per amount of money spent.

I'm looking at you, Workday.  You're on notice, SAP.  We love the big solution in the world of HR.  But the risk of big failure goes up astronomically when implementation plans are more than 120 days and your own HR team hates the product - after 18 months of work to "customize" "configure" it.

Of course, we'd be a lot better off if we would simply either design/buy the simplest solution to a problem we think needs fixing by HR.  To be clear, you can buy or design these minimalistic solutions.  Which way you go depends a lot on what you are trying to fix/improve.  The general rule of thumb is this related to the following types of HR "needs":

--Technology - always buy. Find the simplest solution you like, buy for the shortest term possible and roll the solution out.  If you prove the use case and gain adoption, you can always seek to upgrade to something more complex, but if it fails, initially buying simple is the smart play. Recruiting, performance and system of record tech falls into the "buy" category.

--Teach - You're buying a tech solution for early forays into Learning and Development?  You're kidding me, right? You know that you may build this and no one will come, right? You also know that the type of training you're generally asked for (manager and leadership training, etc.) is an area where you're the expert, right? hmmm....

--Process - You never buy process initially - you build.  You never spend money on a consultant to help you in any area before you  - the HR leader - has your own hot take related to what you want in this area.  

Thinking in a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) way is simple.  For tech buys, If you're first generation HR (no tech has existed), you should always find the simplest solution you like, buy for the shortest term possible and roll the solution out.   Figure out what's usable and what's not.  See this article from me for Best in Breed vs Suite considerations.  Open API's mean you have limited worries about tying all the data together.  Let's face it, you've got to grow up your HR function before you were going to use that data anyway.  Buy small and learn.  Maybe your v 2.0 tech solution is an upgrade to a more advanced provider.  But you don't by the BMW when you're kid is learning to drive - you buy the used Camry.

Here's some lighting round notes on what Minimal Viable Product looks like in HR - for some specific areas/pain points:

--Manager/Leadership Training - You want to shop big and bring in an entire series from an outsourced partner.  The concept of MVP says you should listen to the needs, then bootstrap a 2-hour class together on your own.  At the very least, you order a single module of training from a provider (I like this one)and walk before you run.

--Redesigning Recruiting Process - Put the Visio chart down, Michelle.  Dig into a job that represents a big area of challenge at your company and become the recruiter for that job for a month.  Manage it like a project and be responsible personally for the outcomes.  Nobody cares about your Visio chart - yet. They would love the personal attention you give them.  Once you run a single, meaningful search in a experimental/different way, you'll have real world stories and experience to create a <shudder> Visio chart that's based on reality.

Doing Minimal Viable Product in HR means you plan less, get to doing, run the action you're taking through a cycle and evaluate.  If it works, build on the 2.0 version with a bit more complexity.  MVP in HR means you ship more product that's lighter than what's traditionally come out of your office.

Get busy shipping more HR product.  Plan less. Play the Minimal Viable Product game and if you're going to fail, fail quickly.

 


Must Listen Interview: Robert Hohman of Glassdoor...

You hate Glassdoor. Check.

You can't get your good employees to rate you on Glassdoor. Understood.

Are you done? Can I move on?  Ok, finish your tweet - I'll wait.

Look, I know Glassdoor is a sticky issue. But it's a reality in our world.  You might as well seek to understand it.

That's why this interview with Robert Hohman, co-founder and CEO of Glassdoor, is a great listen.  Hohman appeared on Recode/Decode, a podcast hosted by Kara Swisher, one of the strongest female figures in Silicon Valley and the business world.

One to the things you'll learn in the podcast is that Hohman was part of the early team at Expedia, and the goal of that team was to bring more transparency to the travel industry.  After the team gradually left that company after being purchased by Hotwire, Hohman and people on that team looked for other industries that needed more transparency. 

Guess what came up on that list? Careers and a look inside companies - and Glassdoor was born.

Other team members found similar opportunities elsewhere - a Expedia teammate of Hohman's disrupted real estate and founded Zillow.

Regardless of how you feel about Glassdoor, throw this podcast on on the drive home. Hohman is engaging, educational about the thought process behind Glassdoor and insightful about the research the company has on our workplaces.  (email subscribers click through if you don't see the player below)


Mindfulness and Meditation Might Be Bad For Your Company...

There's a great scene in the movie The Matrix i'll use as the intro to talking about mindfulness.  It goes something like this - one of the machines (Agent Smith) has captured the leader of the human resistance, and he can't help but taunt his prisoner (Morpheus) about how stupid the human race is.  The quote is as follows:

"Did you know that the first Matrix (editors note - this is the software program the human minds are plugged into as prisoners) was designed to be a perfect human world where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster. No one would accept the program, entire crops were lost. Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world, but I believe that as a species that human beings define their reality through misery and suffering. So the perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this, the peak of your civilization. I say "your civilization" because as soon as we started thinking for you, it really became our civilization which is, of course what this is all about."

Translation - there can be a lot of unintended consequences to what seems like the right thing to do. Smith

So let's talk about mindfulness and meditation. I haven't been bitten by the bug, but I've actually been at conferences where someone asked the question if they could force people to use the meditation rooms at her company.

I'm not joking. 

Mindfulness and meditation are hot topics/trends in the cutting edge of corporate America.  There are a lot of people experimenting with this.  We accept through research that this is good for our employees (I'm assuming, I don't have research to quote), but we've never really asked if it's good for the company or even the employee's career.  Hmm.

A new study digs into that question. More from the BBC:

"Meditation has long shed its Buddhist roots to become a secular answer to all of our ills in the West, with numerous studies finding benefits like reduced stress and better concentration.

Some of the world’s biggest firms, including Google and Nike, have embraced the practice, using meditation programmes as a way of tackling stress, staff turnover and absenteeism.

Meditation is also used as a tool to motivate workers, partly thanks to research on the relationship between wellbeing and productivity. But a new study suggests that mindfulness meditation, a popular type of meditation that practises being aware in the present, may not be the best way to increase your motivation at work."

That's the level set for the research.  Here's what the study found about mindfulness meditation, which is a flavor you''ll encounter on your journey if you explore the sector of meditation:

“Meditation is about accepting the present, which is the opposite to being motivated to do something, where the present moment isn’t acceptable, so meditation is inconsistent with being motivated to achieving a goal,” argues Kathleen Vohs, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the study.  

Vohs enlisted hundreds of participants to test her theory across five studies. In the first, 109 participants were given audio instructions in common mindfulness meditation techniques by a meditation coach. A comparison group were asked to simply let their minds wander.

After one 15-minute session, all participants were asked to tackle some simple tasks including doing an anagram puzzle and editing a cover letter. They were then asked how motivated they felt to carry on with the task.

Vohs, and her co-author Andrew Hafenbrack from the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics in Portugal, found that the self-reported motivation levels of those who had meditated were lower than the control group, though their performance of the task wasn’t affected. The meditators also had fewer thoughts about the future, which the researchers said could interrupt the behavioural processes that contribute to achieving goals.

“The Western world, Americans in particular, love a panacea,” she says. “If mindfulness meditation came in a pill form, we’d all be on top of it. It’s calorie-free, portable, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s capitalised onto you sitting down and doing nothing. To think the antidote to what ails you is to ‘just be’ is probably a welcome message, but it’s pure speculation.”

Meditation is a fast-growing industry – in 2018 meditation services are expected to generate $1.15bn for the US economy, according to IBISWorld’s Alternative Healthcare Providers in the US industry report – and Vohs’ message is an unusual one amid a generally positive tide.

Another study from Germany and the Netherlands that looked at mindfulness in the workplace, meanwhile, found participants reported improved wellbeing and lower stress levels, but didn’t look at motivation. 

So, the picture is mixed and, according to Desbordes, compounded by confusion over what mindfulness actually is. Some mindfulness teachers, she says, teach the importance of putting your daily suffering aside to achieve a new level of consciousness, whereas others advocate gaining insight into these challenges and how to improve them; two very conflicting approaches."

Look, I'm just a kid from the Midwest who lived in a blue collar household growing up.  

Am I skeptical of meditation and mindfulness?  Yes.  Am I open to learning more? Yes - and I have an app on my phone as proof I know I should be exploring this more.

But the article referenced above is a cautionary tale to me.  Agent Smith had to make the Matrix less than perfect to get the results the machines wanted.  Mindfulness Meditation might put your employees so much as ease that they're more mellow than you'd like them to be about goals.

The truth and the right solution is out there somewhere - but you're going to have to invest a lot of time to find it - and to ensure you don't get unintended consequences from your meditation program.

(h/t to Jenny Briggs for the article referenced, she's one of the best Human Capital pros I know!!)