Monday 27 August 2012

Tom Peters' new rules on Human Capital

Tom Peters Reframing Capitalism.png  I've just been reading Tom Peters piece in the FT describing 'his' new manifesto for developing human capital.   This links back to his presentation at the World Strategy Forum event in Seoul: 'The new rules: reframing capitalism'

The article suggests that countries' prime source of growth, productivity, wealth creation and social stability is the way local organisations maximise the 'gross domestic development 's their workforces.  This means that developing human capital should always be the top priority – for countries, organisations and individuals.
It's a good article with some interesting ideas, for example that generic brain-work is no longer enough and that the real differentiator is imagination and innovation.  I'd agree, though I also think countries, organisations and individuals probably need to apply that imagination in different ways / in different areas.
But I also found the article to be a rather depressing read.  The reason I wrote 'his' (in quotes) above is that there's really nothing new in all of this - we already know how important human capital is, but Peters is right to note that it's still unlikely to be mentioned, other than very superficially, in a meeting with a CEO.  It's this gap between rhetoric and action that's still the most critical thing to be addressed.
So it's disappointing that there's nothing in the article about how to deal with this.  But for me it's a mixture of:
  • Continuing to focus on better measurement and collecting the case studies which emerge from this.  The Engaging for Success taskforce in the UK is a good example of this approach.
  • Continuing to nudge the business community in the right direction through programmes like Investors in People - not training levies.
  • HR functions being more assertive about changing the organisations they work within - and ending this 'business person first, HR person second' nonsense.
I also disagree with Peter's focus on training ('the chief training officer becomes the top staff job in a business).  Training is just a part of an organisation's focus on learning, and an even smaller part of its development of human capital.  It's human capital that needs to be placed atop the enterprise agenda (well above capital expenditures and it's the human capital / talent officer who needs to be given a charge equivalent in gravity to that of the chief financial officer or chief information officer.
I do agree, however, that the imaginativeness of the training must be subject to a quantum leap and that would enable this to take on a bigger role within the broader human capital development agenda.



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  1. Good post, Jon, especially agree about the over emphasis on training. This is important but identifying what a workforce is 'naturally' good at is even more strategic.

    While there's certainly no linear answer to the global human capital challenges, I agree with Peters on innovation/imagination. The key is to find this inside your organization efficiently and easily, then use the insight about people to inform business decisions. Analytics is one way to do that, but again certainly not the only way.

  2. Thanks Mike, I totally agree, and you'll find plenty of other posts on this blog focusing on the importance of imagination vs just measurement and analytics. Thanks for commenting. Cheers, Jon.


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