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From Human Resources to Human We-sources Part II

April 6, 2009

A year ago today, I wrote a blog post called “From Human Resources to Human We-sources.”  The basic gist was that we need to rethink the way we view the human element of our businesses.  We use terms like human “resources,”  intellectual “capital,”  and the like – all of which describe people as things and fail to recognize the shifting paradigms of work.

Harold Jarche recently wrote a great piece on the nature of this shift and touched on very similar themes.  In my comment to his post, I suggested some points of contrast between a “resource” view and a “we-source” view on key topics within the enterprise.  Here is what I said (with a few edits and new ones thrown in):

  • “Resources” are things you consume and discard; “WE sources” are people’s knowledge, expertise, and wisdom which are renewable and improved through extension by others
  • “Resources” are outside of you (them or “other”); “WE sources” are inclusive, not just of “I” and “you,” but “us” and “them” too
  • “Resources” are finite and limited to personnel within the company walls – and thus tied to economic models and management principles based on scarcity; “WE sources” can include customers, partners, even the public and thus are part of an economic and management model predicated on abundance
  • “Resources” are passive recipients of direction, rather than empowered motive forces within the company; “WE sources” are sources of direction, and are viewed as the principal actors in a WE company
  • “Resources” are controlled and managed; “WE sources” are inspired, trusted and empowered
  • “Resources” are taught “best practices” and policies and rules; “We sources” learn and collaborate to create new practices and new solutions.
  • “Resources” are assigned work and work tasks; “We sources” find and define their own work tasks in accordance with their unique talents and ability to contribute toward company objectives
  • “Resources” live within hierarchies; “We sources” live within teams and communities
  • “Resources” are discovered and recruited, often at great expense to the company; “WE sources” are found through connection, relationships, and conversation
  • “Resources” are judged on productivity, efficiency, and cost; “WE sources” are judged on initiative, impact, inspiration, and innovation (the new social “I’s” to replace the old personal “I”)

These are some big transitions from the way most companies “manage” their workforces.  In truth, it’s about rethinking management to be less about control and more about facilitation, empowering, and catalyzing.  We never should have managed our teams as if they were “things.”  Today with the changing and changed nature of work, these models are even less valid and less sustainable.  The result?  Those companies that rethink their “resource” strategies will survive; those that don’t will die.

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