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The Professor and the Sex Book

Saturday, July 28, 2007   

“ I feel that knowledge gained at such a cost should be placed at the service of humanity”.

These words by Marie Stopes resonated with me when hearing them during a recent TV programme featuring the ten most influential books of all time.

Although the For The Want Of A Nail campaign hasn’t yet been officially launched, I’m already receiving emails from people interested in getting involved.  Great portents for the future and the blog’s purpose.

What is already clear, though, is that I’m going to have to be less ambiguous about why I’m throwing my weight behind For The Want Of A Nail.

To quote one long-standing client:-

“Nice one, Pete – but where do you make your money?”

First off let me say that I believe profit is a wonderful thing, for everyone.  Profit means investment,  higher returns through taxes, better schools and hospitals, greater opportunities for all - and greater personal choice and security for me as an individual. 

Prior to shifting into business consulting and training, I spent a number of years in the private recruitment sector where turnover was then around £22billion in the UK alone.  The formula to become extremely wealthy in recruitment was (and remains, I’m sure) fairly straight forward.  I always knew what that formula was and possessed enough drive and business acumen to execute it if I so wished.  

For me, though, the fascination and passion was always the impact that hiring practice had on the performance of the organisation doing the hiring, and the individual careers of the people they sought to hire.  I had a brilliant team of people around me who believed in exactly the same things:

we just didn’t see why making profits, and getting something as critical as hiring practice right, had to be mutually exclusive?

Some might consider that a 'crusading' attitude.  I was just not comfortable with working in a way that potentially damaged careers and company performance when I knew there was an easy to adopt alternative.

Whilst most people in the front line shrug their shoulders with the attitude of "that's just the way it is", I have a touch of George Bernard Shaw about me, when he made an observation along the lines of:-

"A reasonable man seeks to profit by giving people what they want, whereas an unreasonable man seeks to make profit by giving people what they really need.


"By definition, therefore, all progress comes from the efforts of unreasonable men"

I'm not sure such blatant sexism would win much favour today, but the point is well made .  On that basis, I would place myself in the bracket of 'reasonably unreasonable'!

However, going against the flow and pushing the case for best hiring practice over the past twenty years, has not been without sacrifice.  When my youngest daughter celebrated her fifth birthday, for example, I realised that during her first five years on the planet, I’d spent just one week away from the office; and all the way through that 'holiday'  I had been on the telephone negotiating a deal with Richard Branson’s corporate team back in London. 

That was a big wake-up call for me and so when I heard the words of Marie Stopes talking about gaining knowledge at a cost, I could certainly relate!

When I realised that influencing opinion was the way forward, Sir Digby Jones challenged me to go out and gather the robust evidence that supported the early case studies I shared with him. 

The journey of discovery put me in touch with great advocates of modern HR and people practices.  The single most significant influence in launching this campaign, though, came in the form of  author, Philip Darling, erstwhile of The University of Surrey, Roehampton; someone who has dedicated his working life to investigation and researching organisational performance and workforce development issues. 

Part of his body of work was the book, Training for Profit, in which he details how investment in a so-called ‘soft issue’ can be traced through to an increase in profits in the company balance sheet.  In turn this has led to highly respected research for organisations such as the CIPD in the associated areas of Organisational Culture and 360 Degree Feedback, and the Role of the Trainer’

Drawing obvious parallels between training and hiring practice, professor Darling made two very significant observations when considering how to influence management thinking:-

1. The essence of how seemingly insignificant hiring decisions have a massive impact on organisational performance, is captured perfectly by the Benjamin Franklin poem, For Want Of A Nail.

2. As important as the research itself was the ability to gain coverage for its findings in the media, for from that comes the pressure from shareholders and stakeholders for leaders to instigate change.

The ‘about’ section details my ambitions for the For The Want Of A Nail campaign, but to this blog entry is about why? An article on business I read recently perhaps sums this up rather well.....

Entrepreneurs don't necessarily do things for the money; they just have ideas and can't help themselves!

 

 

© Copyright www.ftwoan.org 2007 - please credit where shared or reproduced.

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Marie Stopes

 

 

 

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George Bernard Shaw

 

 

 

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