2013: A Sourcing Odyssey

What if humans were to function more like computers, and computers functioned more like the intelligent, intuitive beings that we’re thought to be?

Questions like this have been posed from time to time. Perhaps no more dramatically than in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

HAL HS

This cinematic gem is of course fictional, but certainly a social commentary of sorts. And, far, far ahead of it’s time.  The plot:

 

When apes rule the world, one particular group discovers a mysterious rectangular monolith near their home, which imparts upon them the knowledge of tool use, and enables them to evolve into people. A similar monolith is discovered on the moon, and it is determined to have come from an area near Jupiter. Astronaut Dave Bowman, along with four companions, sets off for Jupiter on a spaceship controlled by HAL 9000, a revolutionary computer system that is every bit humankind’s equal–and perhaps its superior. When HAL endangers the crew’s lives for the sake of the mission, Bowman will have to first overcome the computer, and then travel to the birthplace of the monolith.

 

 

The late Roger Ebert’s take is that Kubrick says to us that we became men and women when we learned to think. Our minds have given us the tools to understand where we live and who we are. Now it is time to move on to the next step, to know that we live not on a planet but among the stars, and that we are not flesh but intelligence.

 

Earlier this month Huffington Post noticed just how far ahead of his time Kubrick was thinking by looking at “eerie similarities” between the 1968 film and Apple. From HuffPo:

 

  1. Did The ‘Newspad’ Predict The iPad?
  2. Copywriter Vinnie Chieco is said to have come up with the name for Apple’s digital media player, inspired by the famous line “Open the pod bay door, HAL!” Eerily enough, the iPod was released in November 2001.
  3. HAL Is Just A Meaner Version Of Siri
  4. The sleek, black-and-white design found in Discovery One totally reminds us of all things Apple.
  5. Apple released the very first iPad on April 3rd, 2010. 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in theaters on April 6th, 1968. The two could have a joint birthday party!

 

Coincidences? It’s possible. Was Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” really made to coincide with “The Wizard of Oz” movie? We’ll likely never know. But, these questions regarding HAL and today’s programmers and analysts to design software that no human could do (certainly not with the same efficiency and accuracy) does lend itself to some thought with what is happening in all facets of business, but more to the point of this post: talent sourcing.

 

 

The clip above dramatically shows a turn in HAL’s personality to what is commonly thought to be a devious, evil computer. However, in my opinion, it’s showing that we can now develop technology that we can no longer control.

 

In my years of working in the human capital industry, I’ve seen small steps toward this. But, now, it’s becoming more and more prevalent. Amazing technology is being developed, yet certain HR individuals are reluctant to use it or adopt it at times. The reasons can vary from “being stuck in their old ways” to the paranoid feelings that “this technology will make me irrelevant.”

 

Instead of looking at the tool(s) that are being developed as machines that can “take things off their plate,” make them more efficient, and allow them to perform even better in other areas, they think: If I vouch for this, champion this, or buy this there is no reason for me to exist in my role or organization.

 

They, like Tom Smykowski from Office Space, are concerned that they will no longer have a function.

 

Smykowski

 

 

“Well-well look. I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?”

No doubt, there are still companies out there hiring “The Bobs” to evaluate from the outside and downsize where it makes “business sense.” However, over the years, I have yet to hear one HR Person tell me they honestly felt they had nothing to do. In fact, from small businesses to enterprise level businesses, I hear time and time and time again how many hats they are wearing in HR. And, the focus of forward thinking organizations for years has been that they will only ever be as good as their weakest link. If they hire the best, continue to develop them, and give them the tools they need to do their jobs, then the business will prosper.

 

In fact, this thinking isn’t new, but maybe hasn’t been widely accepted. It dates back at least to Anne M. Mulcahy (who was ironically named CEO of Xerox in…wait for it… 2001):

 

Employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.”

 

Personally, I’m fortunate enough to be on the ground floor of an organization that promotes this thinking. And, it’s for this reason, I know we will succeed for as long as we want. I suspect many of you reading this do too, even if you aren’t certain of it. “2001” was ahead of it’s time. “Office Space” was a comedic commentary about it’s current time. Perhaps many HR people were getting their “professional legs” during the “Office Space” time period.

 

But, I’d suggest this thinking has changed, just as technology has changed. And, I’ll do you one better. I’ll make the bet that anyone reading this could take an idea to their boss that makes you and/or your staff more efficient, saves you money, and gives you a sustainable competitive advantage over your counterparts at other organizations, and you won’t be out of a job in 6 months. I bet you’d be rewarded. And, if you’re not, maybe the wrong people are signing your checks.

 

So, come on, take the 2013: A Sourcing Odyssey Challenge with us.

 

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