Sir Isaac And The Talent Junk Drawer

Sir Isaac And The Talent Junk Drawer

Do you recall the last time you packed everything up and moved? Perhaps it was to a new office with a promotion, a career change to another organization, or even a relocation to a new apartment or house. I’ve done all three in the past twelve months, and I noticed three different emotions in each packing process.

First, it’s the excitement of imagining the new location with the promise of a fresh start. Second, it’s the busyness of packing up all that stuff. Third, it’s the avoidance — perhaps even dread — of facing one space to pack, that one area commonly called the junk drawer.   

Whether it’s the bottom desk drawer with all the broken pens or the kitchen drawer with old batteries, it’s the place that contains what doesn’t fit neatly elsewhere and is a bit broken.

Consider the state of your talent management. Is everything well ordered, appropriately placed and in useful shape? Or perhaps there is one spot that isn’t well maintained or in tip-top shape — the talent junk drawer. As with the physical drawer, we don’t seem to get around to paying enough attention to some aspect of our practice, and it may have gotten a bit out of hand. 

If you have the courage to take an honest look at that bit of a mess — either the one in the home kitchen or the organization talent space — you may reflect on why you let things get go.

I propose it’s Sir Isaac Newton’s fault. 

Newton’s first law of motion is called the inertia law. The first part of the law states that an object in motion remains in motion and one at rest stays at rest. Inertia in the talent world is mostly motion. We move fast and keep busy.

The problem is inertia may be heading us in a direction we don’t want to go. Or the direction was correct when we started but now we need to make a strategic shift. Inertia will fight that shift. Of course, talent inertia could also be something remaining at rest that should be moving.

As you move to 2016, will you take the talent junk drawer with you in the same condition it was last year? Sir Isaac would say “yes” — you are too busy and need to move even faster in 2016 to ever consider a change in direction. And don’t even think about paying attention to that aspect of your talent practice that is stuck and not going anywhere. 

Newton will remind you that the second law of motion is about the “force” you would need to get some mass moving in a better direction. Further, the third law is about the equal and opposite push back you would get from trying to change things.

But before you stretch the packing tape across the box labeled “my talent junk” and carry it forward, take a moment and reflect on the cost of maintaining the status quo. 

What’s the cost of continuing to apply limited time and resource into a talent practice that, while still moving, isn’t delivering at the level you now need to succeed? What’s the “ticking time bomb” of the ignored the talent gap that is at rest?

Yet we know the new home or new year will never realize the vision of a better place if we concede to a “status quo” or “in denial” talent leadership agenda because we’re really busy or too tired to deal with the push back of change.

We know that it’s unsustainable to have an expanding junk drawer of talent practices with declining return on investment, rusty irrelevant policies and disregarded people issues that can’t wait.

So if you are ready to battle inertia in 2016, relook that second part of the first law of motion: objects will stay at rest/in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. 

Be the “unbalanced force” as you set your talent agenda. Summon the courage to redirect a practice to a improved course and dedicate energy to a talent gap that needs to get moving. 

It’s a much better way to keep your talent house in order.

(c.) Kevin D. Wilde 2016