I recently had the chance to participate at the inaugural #DisruptHR event in Cleveland. Described as “an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field,” the series is taking off thanks to the efforts and support of chief disrupter Chris Ostoich and his group at BlackbookHR. DisruptHR kicked off last December in Cincinnati and moved on to Denver in April before landing in Cleveland; NEW events are already scheduled for Denver (August 21) and Cincinnati (September 10).
And I absolutely loved it.
There were 14 of us who spoke to the 150 attendees; we each had 5 minutes with 20 slides that auto-advanced every 15 seconds. Ignite style. It was a fascinating preparation process – defining a grabby topic (provocative and on-the-edge) and finding ways to make the message and content memorable and ‘sticky.’ No time for fluff or filler; every word spoken had to lead the audience to the point and slides/pictures had to reinforce yet not distract.
The gist of my talk was that HR needs to stop collecting things merely for the sake of preservation; placing them in a dusty and forgotten cabinet of curiosities. Rather, I opined, we must begin to collect – and use – NEW things: Knowledge (which gives us power), Information (to provide us with options), People (for support), and Ideas (so we can take action and create something new). I also shared some fun facts about Napoleon’s penis.
Friend and fellow disruptor Melissa Fairman wrote a great recap of the event over at HRremix: This Ain’t Yo Momma’s HR Conference and my buddy Steve Boese captured some thoughts on the overall Cleveland and DisruptHR experience in his post Selling your non-glamorous city: 5 observations from 2 days in Cleveland. And yes; the Cleveland Indian’s Social Suite was pretty damn fun!
So what did I learn?
- This style of event is sorely needed in HR to take our conversations about talent, people and HR in new directions. I wish every HR practitioner could attend and participate in a DisruptHR event but I also know this wouldn’t have a strong reception in every locale. This was definitely 21+ (language! alcohol! shorts and flip flops!) and there was no holding back. Some of our more traditional/conservative/old-skool HR brothers & sisters would get offended which is a shame; the perpetuation of HR holding itself aloof and aside from real, honest conversations all for the sake of “propriety” (yes, an HR lady used that word with me) continues in certain areas.
- The members of Cleveland’s HR Community are smart, fun, friendly, curious, and enjoy each other’s company. The event kicked off at 5:30 PM (on a school night!) with drinks & apps. Presentations and other fun rocked from 6:30 to 8 PM, and then a HUGE group headed down the street for a social at the funkalicisous Lava Lounge until about 11 PM. This was amazing and also served to remind me that in my community we can’t get HR people to attend anything after 5 PM….let alone want to hang and discuss talent and technology and people and culture into the evening.
You know what though? Those of us in HR who push and provoke and try to drive change are a bit like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, slowly digging a tunnel with our rock hammers. It took Andy 20 years to finish that tunnel and escape into the light on the other side.
I hope it doesn’t take HR quite that long.
Thanks to Cleveland SHRM for being a primary sponsor and organizer for the event and to Frank Zupan, Tammy Colson Zupan, Lauren Rudman and Michelle Salis for working tirelessly to bring this event to Cleveland and inviting me to join in the fun!