Tag: politics

Crowdsourcing – why it may not work for you

This is not an attempt to malign the use of crowdsourcing as a valuable technique, it is simply a way of pointing out that it is not a ‘cure for all ills’ as some people seem to think. Any technique used incorrectly or inappropriately can be at best ineffective and at worst damaging or disruptive (in terms of both cost and reputation).

Following the recent election and subsequent formation of a coalition government here in the UK, much was made of the need to consult widely and get the input of real people to help in the formation of government policy. Ignoring the fact that this was probably a political ploy and that nearly all of the suggestions collected have been ignored completely, this was never going to work. But why?

The first (and possibly least important) reason was the method of idea collection. Simply gathering ideas electronically via bulletin boards or email is a very blunt instrument and places limits on how much people can say. Neither does it allow other contributors to build or add to the contributions of others. This would be a very good time to build a huge virtual nominal group!

Secondly, the biggest error when attempting to make radical (or progressive as the government labelled them) changes is to consult those at the sharp end, the people who are involved in day to day delivery. This seems harsh at first, but if you think about it the resulting ideas are not likely to be radical, just ways of trimming costs or reducing waiting times. The question for this group of people is ’what should the service look like?’ not ‘how should the service be delivered?’. These people can still participate in consultation but with a different label. They need to take a step backwards and see the bigger picture.

Rather than try to trim money from everyone’s budget, a holistic view is needed. Just as in a business when Marketing and Finance are no longer contained entirely within their respective departments, our new government should take a wider view. The questions should be ‘what is the best way to provide relevant education for our children?’ rather than ‘how can we keep exam grades up and chop 40% from the budget?’ To answer these types of questions simply asking people their opinion will not do. Maybe this is not coalition thinking and radical and progressive politics really are not on the agenda.

Applied creativity – reframing

Since we have seen political and economic upheaval recently in the UK, Spain, Portugal and Greece, this quote seems topical. It is also a good example of reframing in order to sell a concept or to obtain good PR as opposed to actually solving a problem. Enjoy!

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers. Richard Feynman

Creativity – why the UK Foreign Office has very little

Yesterday a huge story hit the news stands here in the UK. Within the Foreign Office a brainstorming session was held to  do some ‘blue sky thinking’ around things that should form part of the Pope’s forthcoming visit to the UK. As with all good idea generation sessions everything was recorded and the results marked not to be distributed externally. Of course, some of the ideas upset one or two people who took it upon themselves to make the document public. The BBC article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

This whole sorry episode highlights some DOs and DONTs for generating ideas:

  • DO make sure that your objectives are clear at the start, that way you will not be left defending your motives afterwards.
  • DONT use any form of censorship, not even telling people to keep quiet. They won’t. Get people to buy  in to secrecy if this is needed in a commercial environment. If they spill the beans they are breaking the confidence of their peers and colleagues.
  • DO invite appropriate people.
  • DO make sure that brainstorming is not the whole process, some filtering has to take place to weed out the wacky ideas.
  • DO publish the results yourself, others may well try to take things out of context.
  • DONT be naive. In any political (in the true sense, not just government) environment there will be points scoring. Some people will go to extreme efforts to sabotage yours!

… and finally please do persevere. I’m sure that the Junior Official within the Foreign Office who has now ‘been moved to other duties’ did a good job and once the wacky ideas had been thrown away the Pope may very well have had some great events organised to complement the obligatory masses and baby blessings. A great opportunity missed perhaps? In the future people will be afraid to try new things so it could be a case of ‘If you do what you have always done, the you will get what you have always got’.

So please try and be a little different, but be careful!

Enhancing Creativity – 10 Phrases To Avoid

This brief list is distilled from a very long list of phrases gathered over many years. Each phrase is given along with comments on its appropriateness and potential underlying meanings. If you hear these uttered then a warning bell should sound inside your head. These are all potential blocks to personal and organisational Creativity. If you are enhancing Creativity then avoid these like the plague.

1. We tried that before
Well yes you might have done but were the circumstances the same and what happened exactly? Perhaps whatever you did was not executed correctly or you did not have the right skills? This is a phrase usually uttered by someone who has a vested interested in doing things in one particular way or who dislikes change. Try saying “When we tried this previously we got these results, how can we improve on this?”

2. That’s not my job
Maybe not, but if you are looking to the future then it may currently be nobody’s job. Again a phrase uttered by those who dislike change in their personal workspace or who simply want more money. If you are trying to get someone to behave differently then point out the advantages to a) themselves b) the organisation (in that order).

3. We don’t have the time
Time always gets filled with something so it really is a question of what is more important. Are you looking to the future, do you have your backs against the wall? What is the result if you do NOT do this?

4. It’s too radical a change
The word radical has to be taken in context. Any step towards where you wish to go has to be good. There will be repercussions though and if sufficient research is carried out, any unwanted effects can be minimised. This is a phrase uttered by the risk averse.

5. The staff will never buy it
Who said this? Someone is attempting to predict what a group of people will say. Taken at face value, it is a reason not to proceed, but try asking your staff. Likely to be uttered by those opposed to change.

6. Let’s get back to reality
What is reality when thinking about the future? If you want to maintain the status quo then fine, but if you wish to improve things then you will have to dream a little (of new products) or try to predict the marketplace.

7. Let’s give it more thought
This is used as a political gambit to bury ideas or by those who prefer talk to action. The ONLY reason an innovation project can fail is through inaction.

8. Let’s form a committee
A way of gathering like minded people together to oppose an idea! Cynical perhaps, but committees with the best intentions often slow things down. Empower people to DO things and co-opt others if necessary.

9. It won’t pay for itself
Does it have to? What is the cost of not taking a course of action? It may cost $10000 and only make $5000 but what if it prevents the company from going bust? Cost, like benefit can be measured in many ways.

10. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Only if you wish to get the same results all the time. Broke is like cost, dependent on context. A system can have worked well in the past, but if the future is different from the past then your system could well be ‘Broke’ sooner than you think. This is often used by those who have actually invented the ‘Unbroke’ systems.

The politics of Innovation – wising up to the gatekeepers

Organisations are filled with politics and organisational games. Here are just a few insights into the politics of innovation, common culprits for stifling innovation.

An interesting idea
In a mild form, resistance can be as simple as declaring that “I thought the ideas in your presentation were really interesting”. “Interesting” is the key word here, because it is the word people frequently use when they want to appear supportive and positive about an idea when really they are indirectly resisting. We say “interesting” when asked for feedback and we do not want to reveal our concerns and doubts. “Interesting” can even be a euphemism for “your ideas are rubbish and I will not support them”.

Another Time
This is the tactic of resisting an idea or suggestion by pretending that the timing just isn’t right (and at the same time implying that at some future, unspecified date the timing may be better) “The only thing wrong with your idea is the timing, come back in the New Year and we will take another look” This usually means “no way is this idea going any further!” Of course, the timing may genuinely be bad but often this tactic is used for sabotaging ideas that someone does not want to see implemented (out of political self interest).

More Information
This is the tactic of deliberately stalling a valid suggestion by continuously demanding more information, hoping that the other party will eventually drop the idea, or forget it.
It is entirely reasonable that before new ideas are acted upon, that they should be researched and tested. It is good practice for competent managers to ensure that bright new ideas do not propel organisations into oblivion but this can go too far. This is a convincing, ‘professional’ and deliberate viewpoint that hides genuine resistance.

The Wise One
They have seen it all and done it all before, and with their vast experience we would be foolish to ignore their protestations when they say it is a poor idea and won’t work. We face an uphill struggle against arrogance and ego, it is them or us! Note the key to disarming such a person is that their wisdom is rooted in the past. Times change.

The idea is challenged on the scientific level and the resistance takes the form of long winded, confusing, jargon filled explanations which are presented as just being “helpful”. They have seen it all before (and have a pile of facts to prove it) and see no new reason to go down a road which has already proved fruitless.

Once recognised, these ploys can often be countered or you may just choose another course of action rather than waste your valuable energy.

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