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Spotlight: We Shine the Light this Week on Mike Morrison

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Mike MorrisonMike Morrison talks about his eureka moment in this week's spotlight on a member of the training community.





Name: Mike Morrison

Age: 43

Job title: Director, Mike runs a small training and organisational development consultancy.

1. Why did you become involved in the world of HRD?

Strange story – I was an engineer working for an industrial control firm on a technical visit to Marconi. While in their factory I saw an advert on a notice board for a training officer and technical trainer. The fact that this career was available had not entered my radar. I did a lot of training in the voluntary sector so thought the idea of merging my two worlds an interesting proposition. I applied and got the job. The rest as they say is history.

2. What do you love best about your job?

There are two things – the joy of watching the 'eureka' moment in the face of an individual as they suddenly 'get it' and the ability to research and discover new approaches and ways of doing things.

3. What do you find most challenging?

Seeing clients make the same mistakes time and time again – this to me is frustrating, and the challenge is not to show this to the client (internal or external)!

4. What's the best advice that you would give to someone new to organisational development?

While there is a lot of pressure from within an organisation to do something, first make sure that you have all the 'stakeholders' engaged and wanting change of some form. Ensure that they all broadly agree on the nature of the problem and that they are committed to supporting any actions. This to me is critical for any sustainable success in the world of OD. It is all too easy to look to solve the simple things first without taking into account the context in which things are happening (culture, style, desired goals etc).

5. What's the best advice that's been given to you that has helped you in your career?

I am not sure I can put down one but a couple of ‘phrases’ have stuck: "Mike it's OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them – making the same mistake again is... well another matter!" This has certainly helped me to encourage people to have a go and make the mistakes under supervision in a safe environment – better than when back at work without a 'safety net'.

One director of engineering said this to me as a young engineer:
"Mike, I’m not worried about your commitment – but your commitment to your commitment." Every now and again I over commit myself – then I hear this phrase echo around my head…

6. How do you see organisational development over the next few years?

OD is slowly coming back on to the UK agenda. When it was last 'headlining' it focused on structure, now it is returning it is starting to focus on integration with the business, leading change, not just in people and their skills but processes and systems.

OD is starting to be seen as the strategic tool around training, development and learning. It is maintaining the focus of developing individuals and the contribution they can make – but it is starting to put this much more at the centre of business development.

One of the trends I have started to see is the involvement of line managers in the OD decision making process, it is now more of a partnership approach than in the past where it was either a delegated activity or an 'advisory' role from arms length.

7. What's the best career help book that you've ever read?

Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions – Martin Yate.

I have bought several editions of this book over the years (never done that for any other title) and have found the job search skills and method to be innovative and invaluable. Highly recommended to anyone looking to change career.

8. What's the best event within the training community that you've ever attended?

A turning point for me was a session held by the London Branch of the ITD on accelerated learning. A man called Lex McKee in just two hours demonstrated accelerated learning through mind maps, mnemonics and several other 'techniques'. This was a real eureka moment. I suddenly realised why some things I did worked and why many things just did not. This was a kick start which sparked many hours of CPD and a significant change to the way I worked at the time.

9. Who do you think is the most inspirational member of the training community and have you ever met them?

It has to be Peter Honey. Not only is he a knowledgeable person, but his attitude is very giving. He is a man of diverse tastes and willing to try many things. Each time I hear him or read something he has written I always learn something new. Passion for life and learning oozes from Peter in an infectious way.

There are few people in the HRD world with the insight and passion for learning in all of its diverse methods and approaches.

I have met with Peter on several occasions – and once was lucky enough to share the conference stage with him.

10. What else would you like to share with our members?

There is so much diversity in our field, with much yet to learn. To use a phrase I was introduced to by my first paramedic trainer: to hear something from one source is interesting – for it to be fact it must be validated from many sources. One to be considered when researching material.

But to bring this up to date: to hear something from one source is interesting – for it to be fact it must be validated from many sources... however, beware the great knowledge guru - the internet!

New fads – Old ideas?
Be aware of chasing the new 'fad'. If you look back far enough you will often find that what has happened is juts a cleaver re-brand of an old approach. Do not be put off by using old models – our industry loves its fads and fashions – but our job is not to be on the cover 'business of the year' for the right reasons. Models, theories and approaches do cycle, so just because it is not 'in vogue' does not mean it won't work or add value, that is for us to determine if it is the right thing to do or not.
When I started out working in the electronics defence market, I was surprised about the use of technology often years old – when I questioned this I was told: 'We cant afford to take the risk that the new technologies will be reliable so we only use what has been proven.' Interesting approach!

To read the previous spotlight on Graham O'Connell click here:
Spotlight on Graham O'Connell

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