Lessons from an ad man

I have Steve Boese’s blog post delivered every week and he makes some great comments about talent management, and here he talks about that well-known leader of the North American advertising agency, David Ogilvy, and what fourteen years of running his ad agency taught Ogilvy about what ….the ‘top man’ in the organization should consider his primary responsibility:
[Ogilvy said] ‘After fourteen years of it, I have come to the conclusion that the top man has one principle responsibility: to provide an atmosphere where creative mavericks can do useful work.’

Steve comments:

‘Like much of the insights in ‘Confessions’, Ogilvy doesn’t really knock you out with how incredibly profound or ground-breaking his thinking on management was. But if you pause to consider that he was postulating about this idea of management as an enabler of creative accomplishment back in the early 60s then the observation seems a bit more meaningful.

Face it, 50 years later it is pretty easy to find any number of management and leadership gurus and though leaders advising the very same thing. Find the best, most creative and talented minds. Carefully construct an atmosphere where they can and will be motivated to work on what drives them. And finally, be brave and smart enough to stay (enough) out of their way.

A simple recipe for success, no?

Ogilvy had it figured out in 1960. How long do you think it will take the rest of us to catch on?’
..obviously, creatives are the main talent pool in the advertising industry but it’s a good point to reflect on for other industries.


Why your identity will soon be a total construction..


I read this on TLNT Daily’s email today in their article called ‘9 ways HR and recruiting technology will evolve over the next 4 years’ and it was pretty chilling:

Social capabilities integrated into the platforms

When a candidate applies for a position, a HR manager or hiring manager will see the application and their social profiles as an integrated aspect of their application. For example, it will show what company the candidate worked at, the recommendations they received while at that position from his or her LinkedIn profile, recent tweets, and Facebook wall posts. (by Sudy Bharadwaj, Jackalope Jobs).

Go and visit your Facebook pages… have a Spring clean!


Framing theory

In my latest research I aim to further theoretical and empirical understanding of organisational ambidexterity at functional level by using frame analysis as a way of examining exploration and exploitation activities in the implementation of electronic HRM systems for mobilising strategic HRM. That’s a lot of concepts…in this post I will attempt to make sense of frame analysis.

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Frames can be defined as value-laden rhetorical resources (Hamilton and Bean, 2005) consisting of ‘a quality of communication that causes others to accept one meaning over another’ (Fairhurst and Sarr 1996: xi).


Erving Goffman was an early proponent of framing.  He undertook empirical examination of the structures of human experience in everyday life as he tried to make sense of their lived, meaningful experiences. He agreed with W.I. Thomas’ famous dictum, that “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” and so he studied people’s attempts to construct `the definition of the situation’. More specifically, Goffman argued that most who exist within a particular `definition of the situation’ usually do not create the `definition’.

Goffman’s seminal work, a book called ‘Frame Analysis’ has been called both interesting and a very long, dense and at times a rather trying and difficult read. Goffman defines a `frame’ as a collectivity of `definitions of situations’ that together govern social events and our subjective involvement in them. He employs a myriad of concepts embedded within a multitude of frames from which the reader can view a complicated and complex social world. In his book ‘Frame Analysis’ he presents a number of concepts which may be used by the researcher, including: the `frame,’ `primary framework,’ `keying,’ and `fabrications.’

A `primary framework’ provides meaning to events that would otherwise be meaningless and consists of two classes, “natural and social.” The “natural” class concerns frames that are “purely physical” (e.g. Goffman provides “the state of weather as given in a report” as an example). “Social frameworks” on the other hand provide a basis for understanding events that include agency, aim, will, and controlling effort of human intelligence.

`Keying’ consists of an “openly admitted” transformation of untransformed activity and concerns a systematic reworking of something that is already meaningful within the primary framework, therefore enabling social actors to determine what it is that they think is really going on (e.g., Goffman lists the following as basic keys employed in our society, `make-believe,’ `contests,’ `ceremonials,’ `technical redoings,’ and `regroupings’). For instance, style (an example of a keying): consists of features of particular social actors who then through “the maintenance of expressive identifiably” systematically transform or modify a strip of activity. `Fabrications,’ like keying, consists of a reworking of something that is already meaningful within the primary framework but unlike keying concerns the intentional effort of one or more persons to manage activity so that one or more individuals will garner a false belief about the definition of the situation. A “strip of activity” then is perceived by social actors in terms of the rules of a primary framework (social or natural) and that the perception of such activity provides a model for two basic transformations (keying and/or fabrication). These organizational premises then sustained in both activity and the mind of the actor, collectively comprising what Goffman calls the “frame of the activity.”

The “frame of activity” contains the subjective aspects of social life whereby human actors constantly adjust their behavior based on the actions (and subsequent interpretations) given off by other actors. An empirical examination of meaningful activities taking place within the frame of activity as outlined by Goffman in his nearly six hundred page masterpiece allows us to then develop a very basic understanding of the social production of reality. This book is not recommended for the novice sociologist but is geared for the more serious student (e.g. those considering graduate school or those in already in graduate school). A more suitable `beginners’ Goffman book might be The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) which provides a less systematic (and theoretical) approach toward the mundane interaction in everyday life.


Blumer, Herbert. 1969. Symbolic Interactionism. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Brissett, Dennis and Charles Edgle (eds). 1990. Life as Theater: A Dramaturgical Source Book. New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Fairhurst, G. and Sarr, R. (1996) The Art of Framing: Managing the Language of Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hamilton, F.and Bean, V. (2005). ‘The importance of context, beliefs, and values in leadership development’. Business ethics: A European Review. 14 (4).

Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY:Doubleday Press.

Lofland, John (ed). 1978. Interaction in Everyday Life. Beverly Hills, CA: University of California Press.

Digital notebooks

Over the years I’ve tried a number of different types of notebooks for research and found the paper kind to be less than satisfactory. These days the iPad has revolutionised my notetaking and I have a variety of apps which all work to a greater of lesser degree. I began with Evernote and found their functionality to be wonderful, from having my own email to send research emails to my ‘electronic filing cabinet’ to the capability to clip web pages straight into the app. Great stuff. Www.evernote.com

Evernote logo



I don’t know if it is because I have been on holiday for Christmas and New Year but this week my reflective mood seems to have sent me to read up on all things from a personal perspective. For example, a book I particularly like is Carolyn Ellis’s methodological novel ‘The Ethnographic I’…This is a fictional account of a year in the life of a university course she teaches where she combines both methodological advice and her own personal stories into a learning vehicle. She presents her students’ narratives as they try to focus and craft their research projects and thus begin to understand what constitutes the auto-ethnographical research method. ‘Through Ellis’s interactions with her students, you are given useful strategies for conducting a study, including the need for introspection, the struggles of the budding ethnographic writer, the practical problems in explaining results of this method to outsiders, and the moral and ethical issues that get raised in this intimate form of research. Anyone who has taken or taught a course on ethnography will recognize these issues and appreciate Ellis’s humanistic, personal, and literary approach toward incorporating them into her work’ (Amazon review).


I also like’Autoethnography as Method’ by Heewon V. Chang. She presents a guide ‘on the process of conducting and producing an autoethnographic study through the understanding of self, other, and culture’. Advice is given on’steps in data collection, analysis, and interpretation with self-reflective prewriting exercises and self-narrative writing exercises to produce their own autoethnographic work. Chang offers a variety of techniques for gathering data on the self, from diaries to culture grams to interviews with others, and shows how to transform this information into a study that looks for the connection with others present in a diverse world.’


Following on from this I clicked on a feed to my Twitter account (@HR_innovation) and read about auto-analytics – a term new to me but quite an interesting concept. The blog post was called ‘MANAGING YOURSELF. To Stand or To Sit at Work: An Auto-Analytics Experiment’
by Suzy Jackson at http://s.hbr.org/VBeOAg .. An interesting article on measurement of self-analytics..she ‘wondered if I could use the burgeoning field of auto-analytics — collecting and analyzing data about myself — to make my life more active without having to join a gym.’
All of this collection and analysis of research material about experiences of living from your own perspective can only illuminate our understanding of our world to good effect (but it isn’t an easy way of doing research, so beware).