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HRINZ Conference 2004 Shifting the Thinking
HRINZ Conference 2004 Shifting the Thinking
next practice in people management

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conference summary


Offering its members and others from the HR and business community of New Zealand a fresh, thought-leading and provocative conference poses a new challenge for the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand each year. For the last five annual conferences the emphasis has not been on telling people what they know already, or giving them blow-by-blow instructions on how to practice human resources in five easy steps without going to jail or passing go, but rather providing them with a good long look into the future - a glimpse at how things can or will be in the coming years, in order to prepare them for the inevitable. HRINZ wants to help create a sustainable workplace and workforce with better people management and stronger leadership, and we won’t stop until we’re done.

The 2004 theme, ‘Shifting the Thinking – next practice in people management’ was even more challenging than usual. Change, Creativity and Certainty were the three streams offered and this year a new concept was added – conference weaving. Each day delegates were given a chance to set their own agenda, identify the objectives important for them to take from this conference and weave them into a unique learning experience.

Interactive fringe and workshop sessions generally shifted the thinking in each of the three streams, and all of the keynote speakers tackled their presentations from outside the square – completely different material and very different presentation styles - which reminded us that in order to truly benefit, we must be prepared to adapt in our attitudes and behaviours.

Opening keynote speaker, Dave Snowden of the Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity, got the pulses racing and the hackles raised when he challenged the very cornerstone of our existence – best practice. “Why on earth would an organisation willingly choose to copy its competitors’ mistakes, or at best, its mediocrity?” he asked. Using the example of planning and preparing for a twelve-year-old boy’s birthday party, Snowden showed how ridiculous our current thinking is. Sparing no-one’s feelings, least of all consultants and business gurus, we were treated to a real life comparison, warts and all, to the flawed way we tend to approach problem solving. It was pretty sobering stuff and certainly a great way to set the scene for the rest of the conference.

Eric Lesser reminded us of the critical talent shortages we’re about to face and he gave some excellent examples of how leading organisations are managing knowledge to keep competitive in an increasingly difficult environment. Many references were made to the ageing workforce, and coincidentally his presentation was immediately followed by some light relief – a cheerleader dance routine by the pom-pom lady from the Sleepyhead mattress advertisement, who just confirmed that “grey matters”.

Peter and Susan Glaser kept the audience spellbound over breakfast with their Thriving on Conflict presentation. Delivering the slickest double act imaginable, this husband and wife team role-played the dos and don’ts of communicating without conflict and while they probably didn’t tell us a lot that was new, their presentation style really brought the message home in a way that few could ignore. These two didn’t just walk their talk, they tangoed it.

Closing keynote speaker, Con Stough, spoke on the latest research into emotional intelligence and the effect that emotional intelligence had on successful leadership. He also reminded us that occupational stress is going through the roof and that EI helps to deal with this more effectively. He also reassured the audience that promoting EI didn’t equate to being more emotional.

Two masterclasses provided deep learning and thinking for those attending, with one focusing on technological changes to learning strategies and systems which, until recently, would have been more at home in a science fiction programme. The other was a session on the Cynefin Tools and Techniques, which was equally perplexing. These two sessions were exactly how a true masterclass should be! Both sessions left the participants hungry for more.

The annual Big Day Out for HR business leaders was a mystery until the 40 participants arrived at the stunning Pencarrow Lodge after a ferry trip across the harbour and a bus trip across conservation land. Perfect weather added to the enjoyment and the networking was exceptional. Our best one yet.

In the planning of any great conference, fun must never be overlooked. Delegates are far more receptive to new ideas if they are relaxed and happy and so the challenge for 2004 was to provide an even better party than previous years. Using a colour theme – red or green – attendees were encouraged to dress inappropriately and there were some amazing examples of tacky. At the crucial moment a decision to enter the party through the green door or the red door had to be made, and once inside the group of around 300 revellers were treated to even more confusion. Three of the waiters weren’t what they seemed. When they weren’t serving wine and bantering with each other they treated the audience to the best opera many had heard for a long time. “The Three Waiters” had made a career choice to use their incredible talent outside their square, and having them at our party set the party-goers up for a remarkable evening of entertainment and fun.

Other highlights of the three days included another really well organised Expo where the latest in products and services were showcased to conference attendees and the wider Wellington business community; the HRINZ members forum was used to announce two exciting initiatives – the Career Development Project and the Remuneration Project; and of course the Welcome Reception where guests were introduced to Wicked Blondes and Sassy Reds – again not what you’d think, they’re award winning beers!

When HRINZ National President, Ross Pearce, closed the conference he asked the question “After an event like this, what’s next for 2005?” Luckily the organisers are already on to it and planning for 2005 is well underway - 14, 15, 16 September 2005, same venue as always and the theme…“HR: the value add” - what else?

Click here for speakers’ papers and here for photos.

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