Edward Binney and Harold Smith co-invented crayons in 1903, which doesn’t seem that long ago. Fortune cookies were invented back in 1918 — but I have to admit that I thought fortune cookies were some sort of ancient Chinese dinner ritual. (This makes me mildly racist. Sorry, guys.) John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry built the first electronic digital computer in 1942, and both the VCR and liquid-crystal display (LCD) were invented in 1971. MRIs were invented in 1977 by Raymond V. Damadian, and RU-486 and Prozac were first commercialized in 1988. Facebook started in 2004, and YouTube came out around 2005.
I give you those highlights to remind you that the greatest achievements in life have nothing to do with human resources.
HR doesn’t innovate.
At its best, HR supports people who innovate.
At its worst, human resources gets in the way.
I know many of you want more for human resources. You want to do something more with your career than watch someone else do awesome work. I get it, but I think there’s something noble in paying people on time and guarding against civil rights infringements in the workforce. It’s not innovative, but it’s not nothing.
I really want to shake my head when I hear about HR departments that try to innovate, whatever that means. Good ideas are good ideas. If you have something to contribute, do it. Otherwise, do your employees a favor and meet the basic covenant of your job. Then get out of the way.
The invisible hand is the best hand to play. That’s what effective HR is all about.