Blog Post

Call people - PEOPLE - not capital!

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 12 May 2010



Call people - PEOPLE - not capital!
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 119
Posted DateWednesday 12 May 2010 11:19 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
Linkshttp://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/id/people-not-thi ... 
http://stevedenning.typepad.com/steve_denning/2010/05/two-st ... 
http://www.linkedin.com/answers/hiring-human-resources/staff ... 
CategoriesHuman Resources
PeopleMadelyn Blair , Seth Kahan , Steve Denning, Victoria Ward

Victoria Ward recently emailed a bunch of people to ask the question "What do you reckon the best pithy read on social capital is?" and like many a web conversation, what started off with a simple question, quickly turned into an interesting exchange on a related but tangential topic!

It was so good to see that people like Madelyn Blair, Seth Kahan and Steve Denning HATE the way that people are referred to as "human capital" or "human resources" and the like. I have been gently ranting about this for some years and I back searched my blog and came up with this post from May 2003 People are people - not things!.

In the email exchange, Steve Denning captures the issue well:

There are thus two deep streams in management in today.

They are like oil and water. We can pretend that they are just evolutions or developments or nuances or verbal nitpicks and that it would be divisive to draw sharp distinctions between them.

But the reality is that these two ways of interacting with the world are incompatible and don't have much to say to each other.

One stream is about turning into people into things--human resources, human capital, social capital--which can be manipulated as things to produce goods and services (MORE THINGS) or profits (MONEY) for the organization and its shareholders. A dispiriting activity for all involved.

The other stream is about inspiring people (i.e (PEOPLE) doing work to generate continuing delight for clients and customers (also known as PEOPLE).

One is a simple linear activity under the control of management. And if it isn't under their control, the object is to get it under their control, as soon as possible.

The other is a complex undertaking in which only successive approximations can make progress to the goal. No one is in control. It is an interaction, a conversation, a joint voyage of discovery. The aim is delight. Generating that is more fun than fun.

The first stream is dying. Its day is done.

The second stream is the future.

Interestingly Steve has also just blogged on this Two streams of thought in management today.

Please, lets start calling people - PEOPLE and get rid of this "human capital" and "human assets" nonsense! And treat each other with respect.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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