Garrett us the Publisher and Editor for The HRIS World Research Network

If you are new to this series, you can use the hashtag #HRdog on twitter to follow previous as well as future installments. This series examines the challenges we are having anytime we throw people, HR and technology into the same barrel.


Not understanding how to use big data is a symptom, not a problem initiated this series by focusing on 3 points (you can read why in the post)…

  • Nearly all businesses are all revved up with no place to go
  • Most are really asking the wrong questions and need to learn to ask the right questions
  • What we ignore, what we believe, what and whom we are willing to listen to is the human element contributing to this lack of understanding

2015_Paris_450x450_promAll this is knowledge heavy, which means there is a balance that needs to be made. In our more detailed 2nd installment, we discussed understanding how to use big data can be dependent upon one trait and why…

  • Are we looking at technology as the means? the ends? both?
  • Just because we can does that mean we should (aka the Jurassic Park problem)
  • Discernment (that one trait) is more about catching than teaching
  • Recognizing differences in people, situations, events, processes can lead to a discernment that makes the difference in the results
  • Adding discernment to our focus whether it be means or ends

We are where we are at because of our decisions so…

Why are we trying to solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them?

What Is Ends? Means?

Ends and means were the study of Aldous Huxley, an English writer, philosopher and a prominent member of the Huxley family. You may have read some his books, with Brave New World being one of his more popular. He summed his work on this topic succinctly in on phrase…

“The end cannot justify the means, for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced”

We as humans are ends, technology is our means to an end… But is this how we are holding all this? Is this how we are focused on all this? Or are we treating humans as a means to the technology ends? Stop and think about that for a moment…

An Unexpected Conversation

Going to digress here for a moment. While catching up on some of my favorite contributors on LinkedIn’s Pulse, I came across a contribution by Kevin Grossman. While I agreed with most of what he said, to me there was still the viewpoint that mixed the means and ends, to wit…

“There is a strong current in the industry of looking at technology as the ends and not the means… that would be indicative of replacing humans with technology as humans are the ends not the means… Can’t have both occupying the same space as only one or the other can do so, yes?”

That last sentence took a little explaining in a follow up reply and I provide this explanation below. I fully believe it is also why many are struggling with the people, HR and technology thing when it comes to big data. I will leave the human personalities and psychological profiling for a bit later.

What Is True for the Sciences is True for Everything

This is going to be a bit heady for some but hang in there as the principles are universal — meaning they work whether you believe them or not. They are also something, that if ignored, will only cause more headaches, more pain. In mathematics, chemistry and physics, there is a principle that states 2 objects cannot occupy the same space. This principle has been found to be true in the macro, micro and atomic worlds. Any principle in 1 of these areas is true in all 3 areas — and all 3 have everything to do with life and existence. If the principle fails in one then it fails in all 3 fields — as well as life and its existence (disclaimer: the 3 subjects were my majors before moving on to business)… So what does this principle have to do with HR, employment, technology and innovation? The mistake all of us are doing, and I have been part of this as well, is trying to solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them — failing to do so only creates more problems. We are also trying to put 2 objects into the same space. Solid solutions in the past have come from trying to solve our problem outside the thinking we used to create them. This requires testing every belief we have — something most are not willing to do as it is too comfortable where they are presently and they haven’t learned to make being uncomfortable a part of their life.

The Space of People and the Space of Technology

Besides solving our problems by thinking differently (that is, different than the thinking we used to create the problems), we also have ascertain a few things…

  • Actions: From our actions, what are we treating as the ends: technology or people?
    • If technology then we have two objects taking up the same space as people are ends, not the means
    • If people then we understand technology as a tool, as a means to the ends
  • Beliefs: Are we believing people and technology can occupying the same space? Or 2 separate spaces?
    • If the same space, then we are attempting to have 2 objects in the same space — something which goes against the very principals of life and its existence (which prompts the question, just what are we pretending not to know?)
    • If 2 separate spaces, then we understand 2 objects can exist side by side, work side by side, and one is the means to the ends while the other is the ends (which prompts the question, is there anything here we are pretending not to know?)

To coin a phrase, we are without any doubt still permitting the HR dog to be wagged by the Technology tale… We’ll pick on this in a few weeks, just follow the hashtag #HRdog on twitter to read previous installments as well as to keep updated to the latest.