Once upon a time there was an enormous turnip


As I do – I think about my work, wider society and the world and wonder why the problems we collectively create that no one wants to see? This post is meant to be a little playful and fun…

Tackling this problem is at the heart of a course I’m currently part of called Theory U which is an online edX environment provided by MIT. Highly recommend the course if you’ve not heard of it before…

In a conversation today with some colleagues, I was reminded of the children’s story about the Enormous Turnip and why collective and collaborative action is required to tackle the big problems facing us today.

If you know or remember the story you might know where I’m going with this but for anyone who doesn’t let me explain.

Let’s say the farmer who planted some seeds represents our historic design of public services. He planted them on good soil, cared for them, watered them and soon they began to grow. Much like our public service landscape

Enormous Turnip

After a while things get out of hand and take over…in this case the turnip was enormous much like how we see the problems of public services today…it isn’t what we designed or intended but it is a direct result of the things we fed it and maintained over time.

Enormous Turnip 2

Much like the farmer our problem is one of bringing people together, he can’t possibly solve this problem on his own, he could if he thought about it harder, start cutting the turnip whilst it is in the soil, but this would leave the roots and it would inevitably grow back still leaving an enormous turnip in the soil. So he starts to ask for help, he realises that he needs the strengths of other people to help solve this problem, to actually pull the turnip out of the ground altogether, including the roots. Much like our public sector landscape we are not sharing our problems, we are in fact trying to cut the turnip whilst it is still rooted in the ground. We have yet to invite the collective efforts of people around us to directly address the problem head on…and we know it will be hard work. Now the farmer manages to pull off some impressive things, he manages to get people you wouldn’t expect to work together to come together all for a greater and common cause…the dog, the cat and mouse !!

Enormous Turnip 3

It is only when everyone comes together and puts their collective efforts to task that the problem is addressed…it required the resilience of everyone and a recognition of the common problem and to bring them together and be successful…

Enormous Turnip 4

When are we going to come together and start pulling the turnip out of the ground…as I’m looking forward to sharing a delicious supper with everyone🙂

Images from Slideshare

UnMentoring Rebooted – Round 1 and Round 2


Back in January we relaunched UnMentoring because we were offered a chance to improve the process and hopefully the experience by Spark Collaboration who provided a platform to help manage the process.

Two months on and I’ve experienced 2 rounds of UnMentoring and have found the conversations fascinating as always. I’m a big supporter of learning from others and connecting people together to break down silos and to challenge our own individual mindsets so we avoid the group think scenarios.

You can register at any time and we welcome anyone who has an interest in public service transformation.

This post is going to reflect on two things:

  1. The conversations I’ve had with some great people and,
  2. How the platform is helping and providing a new insight on the connections

So lets start with the conversations

Round 1 – Sarah Roberts

Sarah works for the Fire Service and is working on employee engagement projects. We initially spent the first part of the meeting introducing ourselves talking about what interests and motivates us and then got into the challenges we face in our work.

We found some good synergies in the work we are doing so we shared some learning, insight and basically supported each other. It is always refreshing to get a sense check with other people in different organisations who share similar frustrations, similar opportunities and are keen to share that openly and honestly.

One of the areas we shared some learning around was story telling and I shared a project we are doing called 100 days of Change which is about collecting stories from within and across the council about the learning people are doing and the impact on them. The power of story telling as a way to support cultural change is fascinating and we are starting to capture some great stories from people.

100 Days of Change

We agreed to stay in touch and keep each other updated on some projects we are working on.

Round 2 – Sharon Dale

The most recent conversation was with Sharon who is doing work in central government with GDS, DWP and Civil Service Learning.

Luckily I’d had some previous contact with Sharon before via twitter so it was good to get stuck into what we were both doing and picking each others brains about things we were both looking at.

One of the conversations was about push and pull leadership

The Art of Change Making - Local Leadership Centre

Screen grab from The Art of Change Making – Local Leadership Centre

I shared some examples of how understanding this better has had a significant impact on my approach in meetings and how it is having a positive impact (that’s my perception anyway)

We also spoke about skills development in two forms, staff but also how we can start to work across organisations to think about skills development within the market and helping to create a more open route into some disciplines around digital. Tom in my team is doing some work on this where we are looking at how we can work with others to support a new apprenticeship opportunity.

Again we agreed to stay in touch and continue to learn from each other.

My reflections on both conversations are that is really doesn’t matter who you talk to, you’ll always find a common ground where you can discover and learn new things. You just need to create the space and allow the time for those connections to happen.  It doesn’t take a long conversation to make this happen either, both conversations were about 30-45 minutes which isn’t long. If you think about how long you spend in formal meetings. Ask yourself how much do you really know about the people in the room and how can you find a way to reach beyond the agenda and create space for different conversations and discussions to emerge.

The Platform

So as mentioned before, we shifted from a process that took hours in excel to something that now essentially manages itself. It has certainly freed up my time and allowed some extra space to emerge.

What the platform does in terms of measurement and visualisation is also really cool.

Below is an image of how the system visually displays the people within round 1 – groups of pairs disconnected in a network and isolated from each other…as you progress from round to round this picture changes and creates a flow of people who are connected – see the second image below.

unmentoring - round1

Round 1

unmentoring - round2

Round 2

This visualisation of how the network of people is developing based on the connections people make (assuming of course everyone actually gets to complete their match).

It will be fascinating to look at the levels of connectivity within the network as it grows…I’m keen to see how the visual display of the network reacts as new people sign up along the journey.

I will continue to share insights from UnMentoring as they happen and part of our work with Spark Collaboration is we look at evaluating the impact of this method and tool has on developing connections and relationships across the sector.

WordPress just got even more funky


I was so pleased to read that WordPress have announced that you can now embed google docs and calendars into WordPress

This is such a good feature that I actually believe we will start to see lots more use of “on the edge” WordPress sites as well as more mainstream sites within the public sector and in particular making use of the great features found in google docs. There are many opportunities here that I’m actually quite excited🙂

To demonstrate this great new feature I have embedded a google spreadsheet which was collating data from a form about the use of WordPress within the UK Public Sector.

Update: If you know of any more WordPress powered sites then please submit them using the form below

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.


I’ve never collaborated like this


This is simply an awesome example of collaboration via google docs….