Honesty, Urgency and Optimism

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Warning – This post contains honest and personal views with a sprinkle of optimism towards the end and is the culmination of years of frustration and self motivation. No single conversation or person triggered this but merely the collective build up of mediocrity. If you are offended by this then stop reading and move along or skip to the end and read the last section – you’d probably enjoy it.

I’m not generally a political person although there have been times when I’ve thought about putting my name forward to be a councillor or MP. But the current system really puts me off and i believe I can affect change more where I am than in those positions. I often look at elected members and politicians and say “If only they could be more honest and provide a greater sense of urgency” This applies to anything and everything really, however what happens when you know that some are being honest and are trying to create a sense of urgency – what happens then! Well most of the time and this maybe a bit of a stereotype, people jump on them and try to smash them down for telling the truth or not being sensitive enough to the current situation – but I admire and respect those people and we should celebrate and hold them up as leaders more often, instead of reinforcing the status quo.

THIS DRIVES ME CRAZY….

It really frustrates me, when other people, the media, or advisors or whoever it is decides and makes the decision as to whether I’m mature enough to cope with the truth, to respond to it in a meaningful way and to take that truth and to do something with – to motivate me to change a behaviour or to challenge and have a proper debate/discussion about what should happen.

I know that generally speaking the majority of people aren’t really able to cope with the “big truths” and prefer to sit within a bubble of ignorance as it simply makes everything about daily life flow that little bit better. But this doesn’t deliver the sense of urgency required in some situations.

One of the problems I see is that generally speaking most people think and believe that someone else will solve the big problems and all will be fine…they won’t even have to hear about how close we all were to near certain doom or the end of the world…It has been a successful formula for movies for a long time – James Bond, Mission Impossible, Terminator to name a few…

You know the routine – the general public are completely unaware as the hero battles near impossible scenarios and through personal trauma and tragedy to at the last-minute save the day – it certainly makes great viewing with a bag of popcorn and a beer on a Saturday afternoon…but real life isn’t like that…well I’m sure there are the extreme situations where governments are working behind the scenes saving us from Armageddon every other day, but we need to look a bit closer to home and start thinking about the urgency required locally to save our communities, families, friends and ourselves from going into thermal nuclear meltdown.

Now I’m more of a person which would rather fight and go down then simply sit there and watch the world crash and burn around me…I’d rather sink to the bottom of the ocean on a boat then drown 1″ under the water…

I guess what I’m saying and sharing is that – how bad does it have to get for people to get engaged, at what point to people stand up and say – i’m going to do something about this.

I’d like to think I was a good person who broadly speaking tolerated a range of things, I don’t think I could tolerate the people who stop necessary change from happening…people who continue to protect out dated ways of working, people who protect capable people and ignore vulnerable people. People who claim they speak for others when all they do is speak for themselves, people who write policies which support nothing but outdated traditions and reinforce processes that protect themselves and no one else. I just don’t know if I could tolerate the mediocrity around it all, but yet I guess I do and I guess that is what motivates and pushed me to continue working – I actually believe that I can change things – perhaps not alone – I do believe in people and the power of humanity to do the right thing.

I watched a TED Talk video featuring Simon Sinek called How great leaders inspire action – I’ve linked to this before on the blog and the thing that struck me when i watched it again is the Law of Diffusion of Innovation by Everett Rodgers

I’ve seen it and heard it before, I’ve quoted it in meetings before – but something else struck me today in the context of the wider change happening in society and the service changes happening across the public sector.

How are we actually helping people connect to the changes to facilitate a faster adoption rate?

Rogers defines several intrinsic characteristics of innovations that influence an individual’s decision to adopt or reject an innovation.

Factor Definition
Relative Advantage How improved an innovation is over the previous generation.
Compatibility The level of compatibility that an innovation has to be assimilated into an individual’s life.
Complexity or Simplicity If the innovation is perceived as complicated or difficult to use, an individual is unlikely to adopt it.
Trialability How easily an innovation may be experimented. If a user is able to test an innovation, the individual will be more likely to adopt it.
Observability The extent that an innovation is visible to others. An innovation that is more visible will drive communication among the individual’s peers and personal networks and will in turn create more positive or negative reactions.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations

If i take these 5 areas, it pretty much sums up why the public sector (broadly speaking) is failing to create a sense of urgency and engaging residents, citizens and service users. We simply fail to articulate or even do any of the above, not on purpose, but because the system doesn’t really promote it…other are breaking this down and GDS are an example of this.

relative change: we don’t actually have a good track record of doing things better and the things which stand out as innovative – are not really that innovative but are the best within an overarching system

compatibility: we don’t have a particularly good track record of making things easy to be integrated into people’s lives, we tend to focus on getting people to fit into our processes. We should understand that things happen in people’s lives and we are part of their processes not the other way round

complexity or simplicity: we always over complicate things as we try to make things bigger, more single system focused and that simply drives complexity – we need to break things down, remove complexity and get back to the purpose and outcomes

trialability: as a sector we have a pretty good reputation of thinking we can’t let anyone access anything until it is perfect and then when people complain then have to wait months or years for those changes to be resolved – an obvious solution is to offer a beta solution, a prototype of even design and develop with people and then iterate.

observability: this comes right back to the honesty and urgency thing – we aren’t very good at getting people to see changes, we aren’t very good at admitting that something is different. Comms and marketing people do this all the time, however they can only do it if they have something to communicate and market.

Earlier this week I read an interesting post by Jane McGonigal titled The Hard part is the fun part where she basically provided the contents of a speech she gave at Miami University to around 4000 students, outlining a challenge – a game and I thought it was such a great way to think about the next few years and thought it would be good to share it with you.

I recommend reading the whole contents of the speech and the game itself, but i want to share this bit with you here:

You’ve put in a lot of hard work to get here today, and your reward is that from now on, you get to choose your own adventures. This is a wonderful power to have. You are now officially in charge of your own destiny. And you’ve earned it. So please, have fun with it. Enjoy everything. Even the hard parts! In fact, especially the hard parts. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a game designer, it’s that the hard part is the fun part. We need a good challenge to have fun, to feel alive, to unleash our strengths, to turn strangers into team mates and allies. This is why we play games – sports, videogames, all games. We play them because nothing makes us happier or stronger than tackling a tough challenge that we choose for ourselves…….

…..I try to remember this when things aren’t going so well in my real life. I try to remember that tackling tough obstacles is what we choose to do for fun when we’re bored. If you play any game or any sport, you’re like me. You crave the hard part.

We can all play this game together – we can all help each other, we can all send up our paper air planes for each other to catch and to inspire each other – I see it already on twitter and in unconferences and #camps…keep doing it as we have a hard time ahead and your words help keep me going.

So my virtual plane message is this:

#advicefrom2017 Stay honest, be brave and smile – reflect on where you have come from – you changed the world.

What would you write, who can you inspire.

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3 thoughts on “Honesty, Urgency and Optimism

  1. pferdy

    Your observations are well-founded. The resistance against innovation are immense, even to getting a bit of moral support. I am attempting to get together some partners and funding for an an ICT ecosystem for family care of independent elderly. I’ll describe it using your headings:

    Relative Advantage: the innovation uses neural networks to analyse data from passive sensors in the home (Internet of Things). The system identifies unusual behavior and gives a single indicator of wellbeing. This does not currenty exist. It encourages better family care and reduces the demand on statutory health and social care services

    Compatibility: The elderly person need not be aware of the sensors – but would obviously have to give consent. Family carers can view wellbeing from their mobile phone or web browser, at any time of day or night. A relative can be hundreds of miles away and quickly get peace of mind.

    Complexity or Simplicity: The family just launches the App and sees a single green, red or amber screen. Ten seconds per day, without disturbing the elderly person, could hardly be simpler.

    Trialability: Each component of the ecosystem exist, almost off the shelf. The trial needs integration of the components. We have experimented with an IoT sensor and machine learning detecting when a person sits up in bed. The demo switches on a light – reducing the risk of a person falling in a dark bedroom. This trial was completed within 24 hours in a hackathon.

    Observability: Whist it is easy to observe, it is the outcomes that really matter. The main benefit is a more informed communications between elderly people and their family or carers. Very often a back up phone call is all that is necessary to give peace of mind.

    I have no doubt that this type system will be commonplace within ten years. The question is, how can it be operational at scale when public funding for adult social care is capped in 2016 and thereafter reduced in real terms?

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