My own Week 2 reflection – the Biology of HR

This week’s question for reflection was:

When you were a child, what did you want to do and did it have any impact on what you ultimately became?

Starting early on, like many boys I had the fascination with being a firefighter (even riding on my rocking horse with my plastic fire hat on!) but soon found myself considering other things. For a while, in middle school, aeronautical engineering had some appeal. That ended as my math grades saw a decline during 8th grade.

Entering high school, there was a wide open world ahead. Ultimately, my thoughts for post high school study became focused on biology (specifically marine biology) and that was my chosen field of study as an undergraduate. As I commonly say today, I have my undergraduate degrees in biology and environmental studies and haven’t used them a lick! I might be one of those that some pundits point to about judging the true value of a college degree. That is a post for another time.

Although I am now in the field of human resources (and have my MBA) I still love life science related things and find that there are often lessons from the biological world that can be applied to the art of HR and business.  A few include:

  1. While there is great complexity in our world, some of the best things in both life and business are truly simple in their composition.
  2. Relationships matter and can be symbiotic, antagonistic, or somewhere in between.
  3. There are rules for everything, except when there are exceptions.
  4. What we do not know often exceeds that which we do know.
  5. Beauty takes many forms. Consider that both the warthog and a multi-sheet Excel document with pivot tables each have admirers.
  6. Life cycles exist for living beings as well as organizations.

One of the papers I had to write during my MBA studies was focused on organizational structures. While many of my fellow students focused on mechanical aspects of hierarchy and control, my approach was different. Organizations are very much like life forms in how their systems operate and function. I would make the argument that we get better results when treating organizations less like machines, and more like living organisms.

That is the impact my early fascination has had on me!

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