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We like lists don’t we… they help us remember the shopping… they help with gift ideas for Christmas or birthdays… they help remember the things we need to do.

Great for the inanimate but it just doesn’t sound like a wholesome place to put a human being does it?  Outside of technology platforms, does anyone actually have a list of friends, or family or enemies even?

Perhaps you’ve read People Management’s top 20 power tweeters list this week.

That’s the trouble with lists.

In the context of achievement & endeavour there’s good reason to mark the culmination of people’s efforts, such as the Olympics/Paralympics.  Recognition in a competitive context seems to provide people with a useful record.  There are clear rules and processes.

Unlike some well known industry awards… what can be seen as subjective selection is open to dispute or can “miss” those that perhaps also merit their place on the list in others eyes.  The suspicion of bias, favouritism or even cronyism taints.

I believe there is great value in recognising exemplary people or high standards in the context of role models.  That is to say, this is what good looks like, now go create your own individual good.  We don’t want to be carbon copies of others, do we?  Such exemplars don’t need to be put on lists.  They often stand out on their own and even when we “promote” them it’s as an individual not as a “list”.

Please don’t be a troublist

Please use a list for the inanimate.  Use a list for governance & compliance records.  Use a list to share a great process.  Use a list as a record of a fair competition.  Heck, use a list as a record of an unfair competition!

However, let’s not mistake technological functionality as a good reason to create a list.

When we’re talking about great people, friends, family, enemies even, you don’t need a list.  It creates suspicion of bias, favouritism or cronyism…  It creates false prophets… It inevitably misses those you should have included but didn’t include.  It excludes for no good reason.  Above all it taints.

Please don’t be a Troublist!


10 thoughts on “Troublist

  1. Love this. Recently being profiled as a strong non-elitist I was nodding all the way through. However, I loved the sentiment behind the recent power list creating the space for those still in the ‘to tweet or not to tweet’ camp to take a peek at those timelines, jump in and connect.

    Ps …. actually found it really hard to limit my fantasy dinner party list over @treacletiger this week. Almost extended it to say, I invite the world, but then shivered at the thought if sounding like a Beauty Queen contestant. *GRIN*


    Posted by Natasha @StirTheSource | November 2, 2012, 8:47 AM
    • There’s an awful lot to be said for being a strong non-elitist Tash!

      Have to say I’m unsure as to the sentiment behind the “power list”… but I have loved the way others (on & off the list) have rallied around on Twitter and shared who they feel is clearly missing for no good reason. Much more representative of the Twitter community in the HR space than any single list.

      Similarly I found it nigh on impossible to work out a fantasy dinner list over at @treacletiger (link below). I’m just not big on favourites – I like too many things!


      Posted by David Goddin | November 2, 2012, 9:35 AM
  2. Yep. Good point! Working from one of your recent blogs …. the possibility or potential is for it to come from a place of ‘Sentiment’ the actual reality is that Sentiment should have moved out of the way for the word ‘Opportunity’ to slip in. That’s the prob with being a person of limitless possibility (the feelings and words get skewed) 🙂 .


    Posted by Natasha @StirTheSource | November 2, 2012, 9:46 AM
  3. Great post – you’ve got me blogging again……


    Posted by Julie@fuchsiablue | November 2, 2012, 10:15 AM
  4. The FTSE 100; Who’s who?; the PFA player of the year; “A” Grade students – lists; shortlists; almanacs – they’re everywhere and I’m just not sure we will ever find ourselves without them.

    Let me throw something else in the mix that I really do dislike. Hierarchies. We put people into positions of power and influence. They’re ranked. I guess that’s been the case since tribalism and people of superior intellect and fighting skill were considered chieftains or shamen with mystical powers. The military with its rank and file. I don’t like them though. They play into a fierce sense of competition. I guess being on a list does that and I think that’s one of the nubs of your point here.

    When we recruit, we score, rate and make an assessment on their abilities and put them on a list though. How else do we make sense of performance or credibility or reputation or je ne sais quoi.

    Codifying people is something that we do, is increasingly noticeable and will probably intensify. I’m not saying it’s right I am saying it’s the way things seem to be.

    Please allow me to put a very personal and a slightly contradictory view here.

    There’s something alluring and rewarding about being on a list. It naturally invokes a reaction and a real sense of “wow” and undeniably something positive. It may be vanity, it may just be incredulous disbelief. I was taken aback. I was as surprised as anyone to be included in this now infamous list. What I will say is, being on the list, off the list, never on the list – we should all take it with good grace. I’m actually enjoying sharing this with nearest and dearest; like getting loads of hits on a blog; getting great comments from a presentation. As long as we’re not just pursuing plaudits, if you do get praise and recognition, then surely we just all applaud that and not say – not fair there’s others who also do that kind of thing well.

    No-one on this list ASKED or COURTED to be on it as no-one knew it was coming. I enjoyed the moment yesterday and because of the outcry on it I now feel bad for being on it. And I was the one who started the “What no Michael Carty?” so probably have myself to blame for some of the twitter storm.

    I’m pleased there’s recognition that the list will move some people from non-participants to join an active and very productive online social community we have. You could argue that is exactly what People Management wanted to do. Show they’ve embraced Sukh and Neil – who’ve knocked the CIPD in the past; Doug, Rob and Rick – who don’t hold back at all; and Flora, Steve and others who’s considered use of social is a joy to behold. I think I stood out for being enthusiastic and sharing stuff. I’ll have that if that’s the case. ALL of us “in the know” realise there’s a community of at least another 50 more people who make up the “best” of the bunch. People Management could’ve done a top hundred and people would’ve knocked the rankings.

    So I think I’d prefer it if we just said “well done” to all those who were on it and see what next year brings. If I drop off it next year, I’ll say with good grace to those reelected and newly elected “go you avid, active twitterers” and maybe list my own top 20 again…


    Posted by perrytimms | November 2, 2012, 9:12 PM
    • Oh boy… this response could be longer than the blog itself!

      Firstly & mostly, really appreciate you commenting Perry. Everything on this blog is a personal view and the sharing of our thinking and feelings is always and very much welcomed and valued. It’s the discussion and debate where the magic happens!

      Here’s my thinking broken down on the first 4 main areas you’ve raised. These are probably fundamental which is why I’ve elaborated to this degree…

      For me there’s a very clear difference in lists in terms of purpose & usefulness. The FTSE100 is a very fixed (competitive) and useful index – I think it reflects approx 80% of the market cap. of the London stock exchange. It is well understood and useful.

      The “Who’s who” type publications are for most of us either useless or an interesting biography source. To my mind, if you’re bothered about being on the list it’s a vanity exercise.

      “A” grade lists on the one hand celebrate success against a standard framework. On the other hand they give us no sense at all about the environment, learning, or more importantly the people themselves.

      My point is that at some level, lists always fail when they look at people. I don’t what you think but I feel it’s connected to this recent piece by @fuchsia_blue :

      Hierarchy is for me is fascinating… If I look at the hierarchy in a family unit it’s clearly useful and formative. Perhaps we can see it as a fantastic survival mechanism.

      In organisations, I’ve seen hierarchy work very well, with a basis in merit and with enormous contribution to the system. I’ve also seen it become sycophantic and useless…

      I’ve thought quite hard and hierarchy for me isn’t part the point I’m trying to bring across. Even when it’s dysfunctional, hierarchy includes at some level. Lists do not – by their very nature they must exclude.

      Can you recruit by numbers? Do you want to? In terms of applicant comparison, “lists” can help identify overall relative strengths or suitability. Do we share those criteria with candidates? When used ethically and properly, I think this type of “list” sits in my definition of a competitive context and has validity.

      4.Codifying human beings…
      Codifying is pernicious especially with technology trends. It can be illustrative or a metaphor but more often it’s something we do to others. Try to codify yourself… actually don’t. Be yourself – it’s more important. This video from Joe Gerstandt hits this spot perfectly for me :-

      Hopefully, the above gives a strong sense of where I’m coming from and how I see these 4 aspects. They are very much open for debate and discussion as always!

      I’ve also found the following related article which I think is fascinating :-

      Perhaps, this articles closing paragraphs capture this perfectly for me especially… “For better or for worse, the list now recycles culture. Where once it bred, today it borrows.”.

      Your personal experiences around the People Management’s “top 20 power tweeters list” are yours and I don’t see them being up for debate or discussion. However, I do really appreciate you sharing them.

      This post has been coming for a while and was prompted by the publication of the list. However, this post is not about that list… it’s about how any list of people can cause trouble.

      Having said that, maybe there’s value in sharing my own experience & reactions to that particular list…

      Did I look to see who was on that list? Yes. I’m genuinely curious and such lists are indeed alluring.
      Did I notice who wasn’t on that list? Yes. I have my own expectations of who I’d think of being on that list.
      Did I notice I wasn’t on that list? Yes. It was vanity & curiosity looking.
      Do I think the order of the list is correct or even useful? No. I see no merit or value in the order at all.
      Did I think placement on the list was “asked” or “courted”? Never crossed my mind. To be honest it has now!
      Has the list done some good? Yes. The discussion it’s prompted has been progressive and community enhancing I think.
      Has it created more activity? Hard to say but those mentioned have attracted c. 50-100 more followers each in 3 days. PM have probably provoked a lot of traffic to their site!
      Will I congratulate those on the list? No – you’re all stars already and those that know me already know my full appreciation of them. There are others who in my eyes carry just as much merit as this list of 20 do.
      Am I glad that it’s been a positive experience for those on the list? Of course!


      Posted by David Goddin | November 3, 2012, 7:06 PM
      • You gotta love a thread that is longer than the blog itself! Lots of really fascinating stuff here which I’ll review tomorrow. Great job in curating the content and sharing your views and knowledge.

        That’s what’s so good about knowing those crackers we know across the social HR world, the sharing is abundant.

        Thanks again for stimulating thoughts and putting out some good “brain food”. Much appreciated.



        Posted by Perry Timms | November 3, 2012, 7:25 PM


  1. Pingback: Are you In… or Out? « fuchsia blue - November 2, 2012


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