Can The Public Sector Leopard Change Its Spots?

Can the public sector changeI went to an event very recently where a number of public sector and not for profit organisations were shouting very loudly about the joined up way in which they were working together and the great benefits that were being delivered to their customers.

On the face of it, this was exciting news but was everything as it seems? I can hear readers now thinking ‘he is going to have a go at the NHS’. Well in a way you would be right and in a way wrong. It is brilliant that service deliverers can improve and extend the range of services and observe genuine results.

So where is the problem? Well, the biggest one comes when someone reminds us that ultimately these organisations are spending our money. One of the people present who commissions services provided compelling evidence that these services were being effective. Commissioners have predictions for future service demand. This helps to ensure the amount and type of services required are actually there. The commissioner stated that demand was increasing much less than predicted which implies that prevention is working.

Well, that’s that then? Not quite. A gentleman asks politely but in a very ‘civil servant’ type of manner, what evidence he can put on the table at a meeting he is going to attend the next day. He wants facts (and lots of them) as do his colleagues (anyone with the word ‘Manager’ in their job title). We have a whole raft of people whose job it is to justify and account for spending.

The organisations are delivering new or altered services (great) but underneath they are fundamentally the same. This is a little like saying that a supermarket chain is changing and supporting the environment whilst all it is doing is stocking some local potatoes and getting rid of some plastic packaging.

We should remove whole swathes of middle management. We could then fund many more services if we could only change the way in which these organisations work. The public only turn their attention to accountability when the services they seek are not there. When GP visits are easy to make, when libraries are still there and functioning well, when refuse collections do not result in piles of waste on the street, we are all happy.

For a small example of how this can work see my article Ban The Boss – see the BBC’s Business Doctor at work. Its an hour long programme but well worth it.

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Does It Have To Be Like This?

Alternative thinkingDoes It Have To Be Like This?

Let’s face it. There is a lot going on right now both here in the UK and in the wider world. It would be very easy to be dissatisfied with everything and say that the Government, Rescue Services etc could be doing better. Why is our internet not faster, why is there not a bus when I want one?

There might be things wrong with these aspects of life but why are things as they are, and could things be improved? The snow got me thinking this morning. How do people drive long distances to get medical help in very snowy places? The answer is, they often don’t. The key word here is drive.

The issue is getting medical attention. If we focus on driving then we come up with suggestions like 4 wheel drive ambulances which would be very expensive when you have a system such as we do in the UK.

If you are setting up a system from scratch then why drive long distances to a patient and then a long distance to a hospital. We could have some 4 wheel drive vehicles together with emergency/trauma doctors that are based nearer to patients and could get there quicker to stabilise a seriously ill patient. What if they need to get to a hospital? Well, let’s have more air ambulances and less road based ones.

You can see where this is going! Focus on the problem and find a good solution, don’t simply take what is there and fudge it. This might work for a while but is not likely to work for the remainder of our lifetime.

As well as applying this type of thinking to social issues we can also use a different approach to many business issues. A good example of this is the use of telephones in Africa. Many countries did not have a large number of telephones because of the cost and the need for wires and telegraph poles.

But much of Africa is flat and the signal from a mobile phone mast can travel a long way. If the cost structure is right then mobile phones become affordable even in the most remote of communities. Charging is also simple due to solar power.

Imagine if this had been a business. Your helpful business adviser could have suggested that you wait for the cost of installing telephone lines to fall and then install a system at that point. But your competitors have gone mobile (high speed, data, the whole shebang), they have leapfrogged you, left you behind.

So have a think about what your issues really are and if there are better ways to solve them. Look for the difference that makes the difference.

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Could Creative Swiping Provide Your Eureka Moment This Year?

combining ideasYou may very well be asking ‘What is Creative Swiping and how could it help me?’. Think of it as taking ideas from elsewhere and using them or reusing them. The elsewhere could be from within your own life or business or from outside. Be careful that you don’t infringe copyrights or other rights but do keep a look out for the things that others are making or doing and also look out for the ‘how’.

Apart from advances in medicine or advanced materials, most ideas that can be generated are already in existence in some way. The successful people are just combining them in new ways.

To make the most of this way of thinking try keeping the following in mind when observing the world, not just colleagues or competitors:

  • What else is like this or who else works like this?
  • Does this suggest anything else to me?
  • Has this been done before (even if badly)?
  • What has prevented others from doing this previously, have costs come down?
  • What could I copy (legitimately)?
  • Can I combine this with some of my own ideas or technology?
  • Can this be modified to work in another niche or sector?
  • What experiments have failed in one context but might work in another?

As an example, I was taking  seminar in which I was talking about using springboard ideas and using a list of modifications to make to existing products or services. A gentleman attending had created a pop up book for children on gardening. He left with an idea for a ‘scratch and sniff’ book on gardening for children.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on nature also. As more of the natural world is revealed it provides both new materials, medicines and ideas.

Geniuses such as Thomas Edison spent there lifetime doing just this. Just think what they could have done with all of the things that we can play with and combine now.

Remember, originality is not mandatory but adaptability is key.

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Wise Crowding – Have You Tried It Yet?

What do you mean no! I must admit that Wise Crowding is a term that I have only just started to use. Basically it means using the power and wisdom of a crowd (group of people) to help solve issues or maybe create new ideas.

Wise crowding works on the basis that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

So who can use this? Well anybody really. You can run public events where people who don’t know each other come together or within organisations where people might already know one another.

The aim is to find out what skills are available and use them to either solve issues if they can be solved quickly or find a way forward with something that might take a bit more effort or time. You can even use such an event for prototyping a product or service.

So why talk about Wisdom? Well if you collect data it is just that, data. If you organise it then it can become information. Add context and the information becomes knowledge.

Wisdom is the next step up the ‘ladder of usefulness’ where we take knowledge in conjunction with experience and actually apply it to real world problems like the ones you have in your business or organisation.

To find out exactly how this works please do get in touch.

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Where does Creativity happen?

Inspiring meetingsThis is a question that often passes our lips. Where does Creativity happen then? One possible answer is ‘everywhere and anywhere’ but really the original question ought to be better framed. For instance are we talking about where creative activities might take place within an organisation? Maybe we are talking about the mechanisms by which individuals might come up with creative ideas or which parts of the human brain are being used?

So I shall try to shine a light on both of these areas.

Traditionally Creativity would have been found in areas such as Marketing or Product Development, or rather that is where you would have been told to find it and where employees would have been given permission to be creative. In fact Creativity can be found (and always could be found) in all parts of an organisation. The big difference is that now we know that all employees can be creative independent of their job function. This means that in order to tap into this creativity the mechanisms that are used to capture and recognise ideas must have a greater reach.

There are also issues of permission and the ability to handle ambiguity for those in management positions. Things are no longer confined to neat boxes.

But where does creativity happen for individuals? The actual ideas are formed in our heads (the easy bit) and then we have to externalise them somehow (often the hard bit). We can be creative anywhere but creative situations fall into a small number of categories. We are often creative when faced with adversity or tight deadlines. However, over do the challenges and we often give up. The right amount of pressure is critical.

Creativity is often found where there is some sort of tension (not necessarily war like tension). People with varying backgrounds and opinions will often create the right atmosphere as long as they can respect the viewpoints of others.

We can be creative individually but often need to dream or daydream. Either that or distract the part of our brains that screams ‘no you can’t do that so that the creative part of your brain can have a party.

These are only my opinions. It does not really matter where creativity happens just as long as it does.

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