5 essential HR speedreads (pt 1)

The 5 books I aim to cover in these blogs are all worth a read. To make things faster (and probably shallower for you) I’m going to give you a short summary each books and then key lessons for HR – so it’s almost like you don’t have to read them.

Obviously I would recommend that you do read them- but this should be enough for you to sound relatively familiar with them at conferences etc. If somebody asks you for more detail simply explain that you read so much in this area ‘it has all just become part of a central repository of concepts in my mind, rather than me segregating by title or author’.

That should sound impressive without being a lie, in that it’s true to say you aren’t in a position to segregate by author.

The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinov

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Drunkards-Walk-Randomness-Rules-Lives/dp/0141026472

Summary: Your brain is attempting to impose patterns of things where patterns don’t exist.That is why we hold to feelings like after 5 heads we must be ‘due’ a tail. We also assign things a status of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way before we are logically in a position to do so – as we might be in the middle of a logically possible/probable sequence. You throw a coin and it comes down tails the first 10 times and you assume it is biased; in fact that isn’t as unlikely as you would think. People look for patterns in the stock market, but in fact the patterns stocks and shares take often look like a drunk tottering down the road, bumping off things as he goes.Hence the title. If you enjoy this then the slightly more challenging ‘The Black Swan’ by Taleb should also grace your bookshelf.

Key HR lessons:

  1. Performance tends to regress towards a mean, that’s why people sometimes think their teams respond to being told off or slack off when praised. The team’s performance is just regressing towards a mean- what the team would normally do. The manager has often had no effect – but we like to assign cause and effect to make sense of the world and make ourselves feel important. Next time you go to ‘coach’ a poor performer hold back, see if their performance uplifts without your intervention. If it does then reflect on your career and how often you have really made a difference.
  2. We completely underestimate the fact that some stuff just happens. And some stuff will always just happen. Reviewing it for meaning when it was a random event can be counterproductive. Could you have done something differently on that last project that failed? Possibly, but even with the best planning some things just don’t come off. The trick is just not to postrationalise things and draw conclusions for change in future behaviour.
  3. You (probably) regularly draw the wrong conclusions from small data sets. If you are going to start analysing data then make sure everyone is aware with it’s limitations – starting off with yourself. If you have 5 leavers from your company in a row called ‘Steve’ it probably isn’t worth your while pulling together a ‘let’s retain Steve’ taskforce. Part of there being no pattern is sometimes that things look like patterns, but aren’t.
  4. There is lots of luck/randomness involved in success. There is lots of bad luck/randomness involved in failure. So stop judging people by their status or wealth and start judging their content. Research has shown that people give more credence to people who earn more – where you can, start making sure your company gives airtime to the best ideas, not those who are at the top of the payroll.
  5. We are less good at making judgments than we think, even in our areas of expertise.As an experiment a Nobel Prize winning book was sent to 20 publishers. They all rejected it. JK Rowling’s recent work only became really successful when the name of the writer was revealed. Recognise your own blindspots – and the best way to do that is to get people you trust to question you.

The human understanding, once it has adopted an opinion, collects any instances that confirm it, and although the contrary instances may be more numerous and weighty, it either does not notice them, or rejects them in order that this opinions will remain unshaken’ Francis Bacon

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn here -> uk.linkedin.com/in/daviddsouza180/

And follow my #bookofBlogs project and other posts by signing up for email updates in the sidebar.

Dave

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