I was asked a question recently about the challenges around organisational change and barriers that “some” managers seem to put in the way.
My response I think took a few people by surprise as I simply suggested that those people who appear to be providing blocks or barriers are simply acting from a different place. They are operating from Fear.
I’ve over simplified this but essentially there are only two ways in which you can live your life, and from there make decisions about the things that affect you and those things around you.
Those two things are Love and Fear (Over simplified but I like the over simplification)
Personally I’m scared of many things, some rational and some irrational and because of that my thinking around those things gets clouded by the feelings of fear which take complete control like an auto-pilot – in those moments I’m not likely to make good decisions, even though those decisions might help me feel better about that fear, or manage it away from me…but all too often those decisions restrict my personal growth or the growth of those around me.
I also love many things and from that place, I’m able to let go, be vulnerable, trust in myself and others and allow decisions to be made more freely and those decisions have wider benefits as they are not about me but are made in a wider context.
Which rules you?
I’ve also thought a lot about how people learn to move away from Fear and I used to think you could simply inspire them, nudge them, provoke them and even shock them into a different place…but the I was reminded on this quote…
All we can do is to support people, create conditions and spaces for them to learn and discover love within themselves.
I recently returned from a holiday in Cornwall where for the most part I had a forced exclusion from the internet due to staying in a beautiful location a few miles from anywhere.
What this got me thinking about was the individual choice about being disconnected from the internet and that it wasn’t my decision to be disconnected but simply a by-product of where I was staying.
Thinking about the future as I often do and the fact that ubiquitous access to the internet will be a reality then how do you or how will someone manage that disconnection as I believe it is healthy to disconnect occasionally just like it is healthy to take a holiday from work.
One of the features on my iPhone is Airplane Mode and this basically disconnects the phone from any connectivity but still allows you to use the device to perhaps, do some offline stuff, write documents, watch some videos, play music or even play some games whatever you choose to do but you are not connected to the internet even though if you switched airplane mode off you would be connected again.
So why not develop a few other modes and give the user greater control and personalisation of the device they are using.
The obvious one is Holiday mode.
I’d imagine it working something like this:
I switch on Holiday mode for the first time and it presents a number of options – for other iPhone users I’m thinking it’s a hybrid solution between settings and notification centre – where the user decides the how each application interacts, sends and receives data.
So for example I can keep google maps running, web browser and perhaps sending and receiving calls and text messages to a selected group of people (based on how I’ve classified them – personal, professional, business, etc)
This would also allow me to make an on the spot request to applications if I wanted to share something interesting such as photo or status update but instead of having the application working all the time, I simply make a call to that app within holiday mode to share the photo or update.
In fact it doesn’t have to be called Holiday mode, it could simply be a personalised version of the phone and how you interact with it – this could also be used in the context of where devices are shared so you could create a mode which was “family” and this would allow your family members to use the device without accessing specific – it goes beyond “profiles” in my view and really creates a personalised version of the device to suit your needs in any given situation.
Personally I would really like to see greater personalisation in devices that allow me and give me the choice to disconnect when it suits me and not having to reply on connectivity black spots which will reduce and disappear in time.
June is a month for breaking down barriers – First and foremost Create and Innovate is about thinking differently it will be about experimentation, discovery, play, learning and reflection.
One of the reasons for holding Create / Innovate is to respond to a recent Council report to our Corporate Leadership Team in relation to the Barriers to Digital Innovation. The key findings of that report stated that we had a diverse set of reasons why digital innovation specifically was difficult and they were different across the organisation and in different service areas, however across the council it was a combination of one or more of the following barriers:
The attitude to risk across different service areas, some were naturally more relaxed than others
The cultural challenges and associated issues
Policy constraints and issues arising from a few conflicting policies
Technical barriers and issues – these were not just about ICT access as information security concerns were also affecting usage
Resource issues and perceptions that the “flood gates” would open and we would struggle to manage the multiple channels effectively
Corporate Leadership Team supported the report and tasked Corporate Communications in collaboration across the council with a series of actions which would start to unpick and address the barriers. The actions which have helped trigger Create / Innovate are listed below:
approve the review and rationalisation of relevant policies and guidelines and re-present to staff
approve a continued programme of staff engagement, awareness raising and training delivered in creative and innovative ways;
support digital and social media pilots/prototypes and the establishment of digital leaders across service areas
So why Create / Innovate?
There were three things really, which led to the idea of Create / Innovate being a month long series of events and activities, although originally it was only planned for one week as it seemed more realistic to fill one week with activities.
The first was a conversation with colleagues at the Met Office in Exeter who recently held a similar event. In conversations I explained my aspiration to hold a similar event somehow at the council and mentioned that our Corporate Leadership Team were really supportive, so they offered a room at the Met Office for our Corporate Leadership Team to hold their first meeting in June. After a further conversation with our Chief Executive and his Executive Assistant about the practicality, they agreed that they would give it a go and try it to see how using different spaces helps change the dynamics of the conversations and decisions. So on Monday 3rd June, the councils Corporate Leadership Team will be holding their meeting in the Met Office, they will be using digital devices and smartphones and it will be reported live to staff via the councils yammer network.
The second thing was a conversation with a local Service Design Agency Redfront Service Design (Simon Gough and Phillippa Rose) who organised the recent Service Jam event in Exeter back in March (XJam) and there was an opportunity to host and get involved in supporting a specific Service Jam for the public sector in June (GovJam), which locally we have called XJamGov www.xjamgov.co.uk – this takes place between 4-6 June.
The idea of GovJam is to work around a common theme, small Teams meet at multiple locations, working for 48 hours on building innovative approaches and solutions towards challenges faced by the public sector.
GovJams are especially relevant to local government and public sector professionals, and will give us the opportunity to grow collaborations – exchanging techniques, insights and ideas with colleagues near and far, while working on concrete projects addressing key issues inspired by the common Theme.
35 locations around the world are currently hosting an event including: LA, San Francisco, Barcelona, Warsaw, Eindhoven, Bologna, Mumbai, Berlin, Helsinki, Santiago, Montreal, Toronto, Perth, Canberra and Melbourne – In the UK only Exeter and Dundee are currently hosting events.
The third opportunity also came up through a twitter conversation with the Local DirectGov Team which added more scope to a months long event, was to host a Really Useful Day at County Hall – it is in so many ways similar to the Jam experience although we know the topic in advance.
The purpose of the day is to learn about and explore customer user journeys. It aims to map existing user journeys and take people through a process so that participants are more aware of how the real user journey can be improved – the following challenge is then taking that back into the work place and implementing it.
The great thing about both of these events is that they aren’t exclusively for staff at the council and will be attended by a diverse group of people from across the region which helps us to build new connections and collaborations.
Encouraging a culture change
Like most people the real challenge is trying to change a culture from the edges and this won’t happen in June alone. Culture change is a complex thing to make happen and we are fortunate here in Devon that we are in a climate where the whole organisation is starting to shift and there is more awareness of a new culture emerging.
The council has also spent the last twelve months exploring the next 5-10 years under the heading “Future Landscape” which has provided a lot of internal momentum and has engaged around 300 staff across all services and at all levels in thinking differently, so we won’t be starting from scratch in terms of engaging people in opportunities to think differently and challenging existing cultures.
My aspiration is that if we can nudge or disrupt people forward by 5 steps and then in July they take 4 steps backwards, at least we would have moved. The greater challenge will be in sustaining the momentum from some of the staff and amplify that and make it more visible.
Adding value and the wider benefits
We’ve also looked at how some of what we do can involve the wider public and although the primary focus is to challenge the internal culture of the organisation, we have an opportunity through some of our public facing services to involve and engage the public in helping us to think differently as well as challenging them to think differently around how our services are provided.
One of the most active service areas is Libraries, where we have adopted a more public image called “Time to Make and Play” which we hope will help people engage in small scale activities in some of the libraries to help them explore how the spaces can be used and how collaborative approaches within communities can use those spaces more effectively as well.
Some examples of the activities happening in libraries are, Raspberry Pi Jam, Gadget Days, Free to Play tables, Musical drop in sessions, Smartphone advice and make a noise in libraries.
Lessons so far…
Working collaboratively with a wide group of people from different orgs requires you to be flexible in the tools you use and how you communicate with people.
Sell the idea
Don’t sell a programme of completely fixed events, although start with something to build around, do sell an idea and ask people to help fill the programme with activities and events they believe will help challenge thinking and provide opportunities to do things differently – this allows you to capture all the variations of events and activities that people feel are required, from the more formal events like XJamGov to simply having a social media surgery so people can understand how to use smartphone more effectively.
Be patient, keep focused and relax
There were times that I didn’t think this would happen, I was initially getting concerned by the lack of progress in setting things up and sorting the logistics etc, but being patient, staying focused and involving people means you can relax a little and things do and will happen.
Be flexible and prototype
An absolute must, no matter what you originally thought would happen and wanted to happen, you need to be flexible and be prepared to change plans, adapt to other peoples ideas and timescales and most of all, let go of any notion of a formal plan…after all the whole month is a prototype of how we can engage people in different things.
My aim has been to ensure that Create / Innovate is a creative and fun approach to addressing barriers to digital innovation and a key objective is to start to build sustained awareness and understanding of the opportunities for staff to be more creative and innovative within the council.
We are trying to disrupt people in fun and creative ways and we also hope to inspire people to try new things…the whole idea is really a prototype, so some things may not work out as we expect but that is ok so long as we learn.