June is a month for breaking down barriers

On the back of the Guardian article today, I thought iId share this slightly longer explanation and summary around Create / Innovate.

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:

  1. approve the review and rationalisation of relevant policies and guidelines and re-present to staff

  2. approve a continued programme of staff engagement, awareness raising and training delivered in creative and innovative ways;

  3. 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.

xjam_3Mar_017
Photo by Paul Clarke (from XJam photo set on Flickr)

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…

  • Involve people:
    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.

Final thoughts

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.

Location Based Architecture – Phase 1

Since colleague Martin Howitt first shared his idea about a location based architecture I’ve seen so many opportunities and areas in which it could add huge value.

So when I saw the latest developments within IOS5 and the new method for managing tasks across devices I naturally got a little bit excited.

Like Remember the Milk, Reminders can be set up to be location-aware. Thus, when you’re approaching your house, you’ll get a notification reminding you to take out the trash. When you get to the office, a whole new list of reminders will come up.

Reminders will sync wirelessly across devices using Apple’s new iCloud feature. This includes syncing with Outlook and iCal on the desktop.

I accept this feature has been in other apps like remember the milk and even to some degree foursquare and gowalla (albeit non task focused but information flow) but if you could add some additional workflow layer to get wider benefits this could truly transform the consumer and business user’s experience with a smart phone.

I’ve briefly blogged about stages and themes of social media development within organisation…

5) “check in” for content and services around me and for me

I am not currently aware of any council really progressing this aspect, but I know some are using services such as foursquare and Facebook places as a method to engage customers/citizens.

Essentially it is about using the location-based services as a means to access particular services or content. An example might be within libraries, someone checks in and then is made aware of a particular offer or event that is being promoted, a simple process really but it does take some planning and co-ordination across channels in order to maximise the opportunity.

An internal example here might be a public sector worker checks into a public building and is pushed tasks via workflow…….

6) “push notification” for content and services around me and for me

This is the only evolutionary step in these stages/themes as this is really pushing the previous stage/theme to a more proactive level and again building on the location-based architecture approach.

The main difference in this area is that i wouldn’t need to check in, in order to be pushed tasks, my smart device which naturally has GPS (ok this is a future thing as we need connectivity and devices to catch up), knows where I am and pushes a notification as I pass within a reasonable distance of a public building/space where I have tasks to complete.

Stages/themes 5 and 6 both require a significant underlying architecture and infrastructure in order to maximise the value and opportunity. This post is not the post to explain the infrastructure, that will have to be another time.

IOS5 is obviously a great step forward and as a current iPhone and iPad user i look forward to using this feature.

I hope however for the consumer market and developer community that other mobile platforms follow suit and look to embed these features into the operating system and exploit the users “location” to drive information and tasks directly to them.

The potential and opportunity could be increased further with a gamification layer, linked data but i need to think further on how these would actually work in reality.

For some this is just might be another mundane Apple update, but for me this signals a new opportunity and direction for location-based data.

 

Its always been about collaboration

A collection of thoughts went through my mind when I scanned this presentation on slideshare…

My first set of thoughts focused on a set of products and or tools, two  in particular popped into my mind:

NB: There are other tools and products available, but these were two which were on my mind at the time of thinking.

Both tools clearly have a primary focus, but in the context of progressing towards Collaborative Enterprises, which is moving beyond Social Business. They have a common purpose – provide tools which equip the organisation with components to progress towards being a Collaborative Enterprise.

My second set of thoughts were about how the skills of collaboration are fostered in society.  My children who are aged 6 and 4 and both in school are always talking about how they worked with their friends or other classes (or even other schools) to deliver a class project.

So collaboration is an essential part of education and learning – that isn’t really news, but it is interesting because when you arrive in work, in most cases, your collaboration opportunities are reduced and you are restricted to poor channels of collaboration and are even forced into particular processes which do not resemble anything you have previously encountered.

My third set of thoughts were about how the progress made on all things social is merely a short-term distraction on our way toward Collaborative Enterprises.

In my experience within Local Government, the word “Social” is often counter productive and I have always preferred the term Business networking instead of social networking – semantics, I know, but it is important. However what we really need to get right is how the collaborative processes of the organisation are either supporting of hindering progress with social tools, that will be the best place to start if you wish to change your organisation.

The word “social” is over used in a lot of terms now and I’m not personally convinced that everyone using it, understands what the implications and impact is – it is also complicated by terms like social business, as this could sound similar to social enterprise, in terms of meaning but this is a completely different context.

My final set of thoughts were about how the presentation misses one key component that I believe any collaborative enterprise will possess and understand and that is Gamification. There are huge opportunities to bring together the skills and approaches of games into the design and architectures of organisations to create truly Collaborative Enterprises.  This is still a new area of thinking for me, but it is something I want to explore more of in the coming months and years.

 

Gaming to re-engage boys in learning – Ted Talk

As a Dad to two boys as well as a Parent Governor at my boys school and as a fan of Gaming to help change the world, this video was pretty much certain to be on my watch list.

I’ve been fascinated with the subject of gaming for a little while now and in particular around the subject of citizen participation. A previous post titled “World of Govcraft” and its follow-up “More World of Govcraft” were inspired by Joanne Jacobs and another Ted Talks video with Jane McGonigal.

It is a very interesting video and also touches on a subject which is close to my heart (male teachers as role models) if you are interested in Education and Learning then I recommend spending the 13 minutes it takes to watch it.

Ali Carr-Chellman pinpoints three reasons boys are tuning out of school in droves, and lays out her bold plan to re-engage them: bringing their culture into the classroom, with new rules that let boys be boys, and video games that teach as well as entertain.

Moving from Attention to Engagement to Participation – More World of GovCraft

Continuing my thinking on the World of GovCraft, I’ve started to think about what the real challenge is for government, various comments suggested that Government is so disconnected that it is unlikely that we will start to bridge the gap. But i’m starting to wonder whether this just an illusion and we are only creating this gap and reinforcing it by not doing anything practical about addressing it in ways which will reduce the gap and simply not patch it with sticky tape and string that will break after any sustained use.

When I hear people talking about using social software or social media to connect to communities or networks, there is often a focus on “grabbing attention” and “starting a conversation” and “building relationships”. These are all good things to focus on but we also need to actually figure out what we really want to get from these relationships and conversations. It simply isn’t good enough to just grab someones attention in these spaces, we actually need to have a plan on how we will encourage them to engage and participate.

It comes back to a recent post of mine where i started to question whether we actually focus enough on outcomes and creating value instead of thinking that Twitter or Facebook are cool and or sexy to use.

Jane McGonigal who is now a big influence on my thinking published back in 2008 Engagement Economy by the Institute of the Future, this publication – recommended reading by the way – states in the introduction:

The inability to turn members into active contributors is an important signal of a new kind of challenge facing any organization that seeks to reap the benefits of crowdsourcing, collective intelligence, massively scaled collaboration, or social networking. For these groups, they must do more than merely “grab eyeballs,” register members, or collect ratings. To effectively harness the wisdom of the crowds, and to successfully leverage the participation of the many, organizations will need to become effective players in an emerging economy of engagement.

In the economy of engagement, it is less and less important to compete for attention, and more and more important to compete for things like brain cycles and interactive bandwidth. Crowd-dependent projects must capture the mental energy and the active effort it takes to make individual contributions to a larger whole.

But how, exactly, do you turn attention into engagement? How do you convert a member of the crowd into a member of your team? To answer these questions, innovative organizations will have to grapple with the new challenge of harnessing “participation bandwidth.”

There will inevitably be increasing pressures to balance the amount of time someone has available with the number of “requests” someone might receive to “take action”. Clay Shirky mentions in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, “With many more possible groups competing for the average individual’s time, the speed with which a group can become unglued has also increased.”

The World of GovCraft idea is about tapping into the gaming culture and in creating elements of “fun” when participating and engaging with Government.  A question we really need to ask is how serious are we about bridging this gap and are we prepared to engage people outside of the government sector to help put the fun into Government. In the publication Jane states:

…organizations should look to hire researchers and interactive designers with backgrounds in online gaming and playful social network design. Any mass collab project, whether internal or public-facing, will require the strategic input of experienced “fun engineers” and “fun economists.” Whether as permanent IT staff or in key consulting positions, these individuals can help ensure that resources are being invested in projects that have a high likelihood of engaging crowds.

Organizational leaders should find out what kinds of communities are drawing the participation bandwidth of members, and create conversations about what employees get from their “fun work” that they may not get at their “real work.” This dialogue can provide valuable lessons about introducing fun flows into the organization’s primary business practices.

There are huge lessons here for Community Engagement, Internal Communications and Employee Engagement professionals in understanding the motives of people and how game design could help inform and shape engagement and participation activities.

The UK needs to start making progress and look at how we can involve people who are really passionate about social change, but also have knowledge of gaming. In the USA they have something called the Serious Games Initiative. It’s goal is:

to help usher in a new series of policy education, exploration, and management tools utilizing state of the art computer game designs, technologies, and development skills.

As part of that goal the Serious Games Initiative also plays a greater role in helping to organize and accelerate the adoption of computer games for a variety of challenges facing the world today.

Why do we not have something like this in the UK? Or do we? Who would actually drive this forward – Could Martha Lane Fox and the new Digital Public Services Unit play a role in creating or supporting this kind of initiative?

One comment made to me was that the game series “Sim City” is one example of a game where people make similar kinds of decisions to Government. However, I’m thinking we want to go further then just the traditional “Education” approach to what Government does to actually creating solutions that improve peoples lives directly.

Moving away from gaming, we need to also understand what presence we are creating and how this approach and decision will contribute to the overall outcomes we want to achieve, this should also be considered when thinking about whether you simply want to grab attention or want to develop and build a level of engagement or participation with people.

Scott Gould, has posted an excellent presentation about Social Media Presences which i think can help inform people who want to move from simply attention grabbing to engagement to full participation.