Innovation Incongruence

It’s no secret that I don’t have a lot of time for Vance Kearney. He comes across as a really poor listener and I don’t think his arrogance serves him, his colleagues or his customers well. And in the interest of balance it seems I’m in a minority if his fourth placing in HR Magazine’s influential list is anything to go by.

I and others have previously challenged him in response to two articles on HR Magazine. The first where Kearney seems to want to bury his head in the sand and ignore reality and the second where he just seemed to make no sense on engagement being quoted as follows, “I like employees to be engaged and motivated. I like them to be dead and not dead. I don’t think anyone’s ever tested it. There is a lack of rigour around the subject.” The written challenges made to Mr Kearney which he never responded to are now gone. When HR Magazine changed owners recently they tell me that a switch from two servers to one meant they lost all their article comments and discussions. Oops!

So when I learned that Vance Kearney was in a panel discussion at the CIPD conference I ummed and ahhed and decided to give it a miss. He and I rub each other up the wrong way and I had plenty of much more enjoyable stuff to see and do. I kept an eye on the emerging Twitter feed and learned that he chose to insult one of the delegates (disagreement is the food of life, but calling a conference attendee an arsehole is going too far for me). The tweeter may have misheard but something unpleasant was certainly uttered as you can see here over at Jon Ingham’s blog.

In September this year when I spotted Jon had tweeted Vance Kearney had been booked to attend the most recent ConnectingHR unconference I confess I was worried. I don’t care how influential Kearney is I don’t think his rude, arrogant approach sits well in a community focussed set up. For whatever reason he never showed and I for one am very pleased he didn’t.

Kearney also said “No significant innovation has ever come by asking a customer what they want – they will have no concept until you present it to them”. If you Google Oracle Customer Innovation you can see that Oracle were running customer innovation days as recently as last month. Perhaps Kearney should tell the rest of his colleagues they’re just wasting their time and money, or maybe he could just cuss at them instead – I guess that at least is quicker.

I and doubtless many others have spent years innovating with customers. When I worked at BT we innovated with customers on communications and product  solutions to meet their needs, joint sustainability innovation to improve supply chain standards, and plenty of other things too. And more recently we (that’s me and my customers, and their customers) invest time innovating and experimenting with better ways of working together. Sure they don’t all succeed but hey – that’s the point of innovation ain’t it? And of course we innovate without customers sometimes too.

Ask, listen, innovate, execute and repeat. It’s a simple enough process and the ask at the start, yes the bit that Kearney dismisses, is a great place to begin as far as I, and seemingly Kearney’s employers are concerned.


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