Digital connects but behaviours stay the same

Now I personally believe and I am working under the assumption that  – Building a digital framework and infrastructure will enable better democratic engagement and will also contribute to developing social capital and social cohesion.

I also accept that everyday when I go outside I can see that the majority of people don’t really help each other and most people are selfish and ignore neighbours etc and that is fine for now.

One of the many challenges we need to focus on when creating the digital climate is we must acknowledge that a digital climate is different to a transformation programme. It is a shift in thinking in which people and institutions are routinely aware of and constantly incorporate digital technology and opportunity into whatever they do.

I personally believe that within the next 3-4 years we will start to see a greater sense of individual and collective responsibility emerging and that in turn will manifest itself in communities and interesting things will happen.

Those “interesting things” might benefit from some nudging and this is where I believe the principles outlined in the framework can provide some focus – I’ve copied them in below for reference:

People and communities are unique

  • Design “with” not “for” people and communities
  • Design for Inclusion and accessibility
  • Enable independence
  • Foster health and wellbeing

Positive relationships and networks

  • Respect diversity of opinions
  • Connect people and connect networks
  • Co-operate and collaborate
  • Open by default

Enabling communities and environments

  • Evidence based research and decision-making
  • Support everyone to achieve
  • Think Local and Global
  • Digital infrastructure for smart communities/cities

Learning and development

  • Learn, discover and explore though experience
  • Create space for reflective practice
  • Foster creative and divergent thinking
  • Enable sustained learning

So we need to think about how we focus on nudging the behaviours of individuals, organisations, communities etc and help them shift their thinking by helping them connect to a greater purpose and allow the behaviour change to foster any transformation. This is where the work done on the capabilities within the digital framework starts to play out as they all contribute to the wider shift in thinking and in particular the participation capability as outlined in this post “The capabilities for digital local public services participation” start to form a key part of the shift – This comes back to the Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals mentioned in my post “World of Govcraft” and I’d also add in super empowered communities as well.

Urgent Optimism – extreme self motivation – a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Social Fabric – We like people better when we play games with people – it requires trust that people will play by the same rules, value the same goal – this enables us to create stronger social relationships as a result
Blissful productivity – an average World of Warcraft gamer plays 22 hours a week: We are optimised as humans to work hard and if we could channel that productivity into solving real world problems what could we achieve?
Epic meaning – attached to an awe-inspiring mission.

All this creates Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals – People who are individually capable of changing the world – but currently only online /virtual worlds….

What we can’t and mustn’t do is focus on the transformation itself as we will only end up creating things that people don’t need and won’t want and services which are not holistic and are designed around current mindsets and thinking.  I’ve said it before that we need a complete paradigm shift  in this post “5 paradigm shifts for #localgov” and include the whole thing below…

1. Culture
Number 1 on any list in my humble opinion – the culture of local government generally is one that often assumes that external changes and challenges will often pass by and that a slower pace of change is sometimes considered as the most appropriate way forward. But that is no longer a valid assumption

The Old Paradigm: “Head down and it will all go away.”

The New Paradigm: “Embrace the new direction and provide leadership.”

2. Mindset

You often get people who simply turn up and literally sit in meetings and contribute nothing…I’ve always been a fan of the rule of two feet, if it isn’t working for you leave.

Old Paradigm: “Just put your body in the room.”

New Paradigm: “Show up with a creative, open mindset.”

3. Group Wisdom

Obvious perhaps, but just because someone has been promoted to the top of the organisations, it doesn’t and shouldn’t mean they know more than anyone else…In my personal opinion most senior people are actually more politically aware than intellectually aware.

Old Paradigm: “All wisdom exists at the top.”

New Paradigm: “Listen and make space for various voices.”

4. Environment

I’ve only really recently appreciated this one, most people are forced into cultures that require them to sit in rows, in quiet offices, without any real social interaction even when the rooms are open plan. I understand that the sector is rationalising property assets and encouraging hot-desking and the like but we really should think about what we are trying to do…

Old Paradigm: “Do what is normal.”

New Paradigm: “Approach space creatively to serve the purpose.”

5. Vision

For me this could have also been called purpose…why do we do the things we do…A recent session at Open Space South West creatively called “reducing isolation and helping those who give a shit”

Old Paradigm: “Work to get paid.”

New Paradigm: “Make your work about something bigger.”

One of the key things for me is ensuring that we avoid replicating and amplifying existing behaviours in a digital infrastructure as this will only ensure we do the wrong thing righter and not the right thing from the start.


Organisations as Culture Filters – Social Media and Culture Change Series Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts about Social Media and Culture Change. My aim is to share my thoughts and learning around social media and how it can help transform organisations as well as connecting organisations (well the people in them) with the ever increasing communities that are developing in these new social spaces.  I also hope that others will want to contribute, validate or challenge what i post.

This first post will look at Organisations as culture filters.

What i find interesting about this is the contrast to how people interact with their friends, peers and social networks in their personal lives and how they conduct the same kind of functions within the work place. This contrast is essentially why i have titled this organisations as culture filters, however we do have to accept at this point in time there are logical reasons why this is happening, but that doesn’t mean that it should continue.

The following i hope provides a helpful comparison and is a broad view, which i feel applies across the public sector and perhaps the private and voluntary sectors as well. but i can’t comment on those.

Personal Life

  • we pretty much all have mobile and flexible lifestyles
  • personal devices are multifunctional – mobile phones are also music devices, personal calendars, email clients, GPS devices and internet browsers
  • our interaction with technology is shifting from traditional methods of using keyboards and a mouse to speech and movement recognition, the nintendo Wii is a great example of how this technology is transforming and creating new opportunities for engagement with technology and networks on a global scale
  • We have greater freedom to choose what we want in terms of what technology choices fit within or broader lifestyle – apple mac or PC, windows or linux, nokia or iphone, broadband or wifi, digital tv or satellite/cable, the choice is pretty much ours in all cases, depending on affordability and practicality.
  • ease of upgrade – we all “secretly” want the latest gadget or at least strive to have the best fit gadgets for our lifestyle and it can all be achieved easily generally via an upgrade or a download or even swapping with friends and colleagues.

This personal life has also evolved a culture behind it which is fundamentally different to organisations and this difference can not continue, something has to give.

Aspects of the Culture

  • we now tend to have an “us” culture and not a “me” culture
  • communication is one to many or many to many and not one to one
  • we prefer digital not analogue
  • we prefer flexibility and mobility over fixed and stable
  • we have a consumer control environment and not an organisational control environment

Organisation/business life

  • there is a move toward flexible and mobile working but the technology has not yet caught up to effectively support that approach for all, so it still feels exclusive to a lot of people.
  • you may not even get additional work devices to perform your job, a PC of some kind or maybe a laptop, mobile phones are meant for mobile calling and are not meant for mobile working and multifunctional purposes, even if they are capable, they can often be disabled of their core functions.
  • we still very much interact with a keyboard and mouse (unless of course for accessibility reasons you are already using alternatives)
  • there is corporate control over the desktop and over applications which may or may not be supportive to an individual.
  • new products and applications are often blocked and often access to web based services is blocked.
  • there is still very much a corporate police role in the public sector as a whole which is more about risk aversion then risk management. Managers often talk about new tools being socially based and a waste of time, they only have a negative impact on teams. This distracts from the view that managers don’t manage people they manage time, which in my view is counter productive and often encourages misuse.  The reality is that the web/internet as a whole began as a “toy” and was for some considerable time seen as something for tourism information and academics and not online business and interaction. If we could only learn from the last 15 years we would be embracing the new wave now.

aspects of Culture

  • Command and control culture, top down and everything in order
  • communications has elements of one to many, however the feedback loop is often closed and doesn’t effectively feed into improvement but rarely provides many to many.
  • strong support for digital, but there are barriers, sometimes outside of public sector control over usage and take-up
  • we encourage flexibility but often lack the skills and knowledge to manage this new way of working effectively. How often do you hear, there are some jobs that simply can not be flexible. That may be accurate due to current business processes and technology, but unless you ask the questions, what does someone need to perform this task from home or on the go, you will never truly have a flexible workforce
  • Organisations still want and demand control, there is a political aspect which often conflicts with some of the changes required. But strong leadership will always be effective when massive change is inevitable.

The role of social media/web 2.0…

Social media for me and from personal experience has proved very useful. i can find tools that connect me to others with similar interests, i can connect with others who can help me, i can also help other people i am connected with. All of this has essentially been done outside of a “corporate framework” and has been achievable because all of the tools i have started to use are web based and are easy and simple to use.

Social media or even web 2.0 depending on whether you look at tools or outputs, has shifted culture towards a new way of thinking. For me the world seems much smaller, flatter and collaborative then previously thought and witnessed.

New generations (so called digital natives) are working in groups to solve problems and are seeking and discovering new ways to connect with each other. Now whilst i believe the future will be very different, most of us now seem to be split between personal life and work (the old don’t mix business with pleasure scenario). New tools are increasingly blurring that line and new business models are emerging.

In terms of change and rapid growth and adoption of new technologies, we have all been here before, the era, showed that. Whilst the majority of businesses failed during this time and lots of people got their fingers burnt, some great innovative companies succeeded and have continued to grow and dominate their field.

The reality of these new approaches is the fact that the cost of failure is small or non existent, the risk to participate and try new things has reduced significantly that anyone in there bedroom can become the next big thing and try many versions of something without needing huge capital funds to get off the ground.

I have recently started to believe that social media and web 2.0 is more than just technology it is a statement about you, a direction of travel for most people, if you participate, it actually says a lot about you –  for example:

  • you want to be part of a community and many communities regardless of geography or religion or race or ability.
  • you want to share what you create and are happy for that to be passed around the globe and reproduced without making any money from it, only recognition.
  • you are happy to tell everyone what you are doing at any given time, from “making a cup of tea” to “just seen something hilarious”
  • you want to explore and evolve your identify (avatars, second life, WoW, online gaming etc)
  • you are happy to share information (often not normally shared) about yourself with friends and friends of friends and even networks and communities
  • you don’t see organisational barriers to learning and sharing knowledge, information is power and we all seem happy to share
  • you want to be part of practical communities who can make a difference, who can influence and enable large scale change.

This is a new way of thinking and one which challenges most of what people hold dear to them now. The reality is everyone still has a choice and that is what makes it so appealing. I can participate if i want to, and it doesn’t have to cost me anything to do that.

The new thinking is very altruistic in its nature as it ensures that the wider network succeeds even if some individuals loose the ability to gain relative to what they contribute. That does depend on what you want to get from it. It seems to be a global exchange system, where you can do someone a favour today and in return they will help others on the basis that when you need help you will get it. Very new world and radical, but it seems to work and it is growing rapidly. I for one, support this as when you are actually part of it, you don’t feel alone, you feel connected with everyone and that is a powerful thought to hold on to.

So as this post comes to a close, it is worth exploring, why these tools seem so popular and how they have rapidly integrated themselves into our daily lives and are on the verge of transforming organisations and to some degree countries themselves. My next post will focus on this topic – “What is driving the culture”