Almost three years into the coalition one of the most noticeable differences for me has been a lack of changes to the machinery of government. Changing the make up of departments and ministries was an often used tool while I was in government.
I got thinking about this when I read the latest ft article on the potential spending review and graphs on the potential impact for departments. Having formerly been in DCLG and knowing 44 percent having already left I was wondering what sort of department it would be if, as the ft predicted, over four fifths were to leave. And that was a relatively large department so were the smaller ones like Culture still sustainable?
Perhaps it is time for mog to return. Now departments have the same logo and image shifting the functions is perhaps less painful and costly.
So what would you move to where and why?
Brainpickings recently referenced a 1945 essay from Vannevar Bush entitled ‘As we may think’ predicting information overload and fomo – fear of missing out. I’d recommend it. I was reading on Monday morning during the commute and amazed at how predictive the commentary could be especially when we tend to think it only became an issue with electronic communications. It has been gnawing away at me all week. I have been recalling a conversation I had with Dan at @commoncapital a couple of years ago castigating me for moving around too much while also thinking about the 10,000 hours argument if you want to be top of the class.
The essay line that particularly interested me was ‘those who conscientiously attempt to keep abreast of current thought, even in restricted fields, by close and continuous reading might well shy away from an examination calculated to show how much of the previous month’s efforts could be reproduced on call’.
Joining the civil service it was drummed into to me about the advantages of being a generalist – having transferable skills and being able to work on almost any issue from a dispassionate point of view. As I’ve got older I’ve benefitted from that logic having worked for different organisations and on a wide range of issues within those organisations. I know a little about a lot. I like the summary pages in the newspaper.
But increasingly I’ve wondered whether it would have been better to have been more focussed and disciplined about fewer things so that I knew a lot about a little. But then I think about the master craftspeople whose professions have disappeared. And the people I would not have met or connections I could not make as a result of moving around.
What I think is really important is not whether you have transferable / wide skills or whether you have deep craft. Its about whether you have a passion about what you are doing and whether you can connect with those on a different axis to you.
I am lucky. Let me be clear about that. We live in a nice house in a nice neighbourhood. But this week has been interesting.
On Sunday the early morning outing is stopped by police tape. Another knifed youngster. Tonight both the police presence at the train station and the knock at the door of people making enquiries about the burglary opposite questions my view about where we live.
But then again before the police knocked we’d already spoken with our neighbours. And the previous murder in our neighbourhood has seen so many positive outcomes.
My first girlfriend fancied me because I was always smiling in the exam hall. In times of stress I hope we can all keep smiling. There is a better way. We just need to find it
Over the last few weeks I’ve been taking part in a couple of challenge prizes. One is public and until last week I was getting worried I might go through to the semi-finals without even trying because the entries were so few. In fact they have just extended the deadline for another month. The other is quasi public operating within an organisation and a more captive audience. I was doing quite well on that one too and now have plenty of points to spend on the short list.
I love these competitions. They’re a bit like a modern day crossword – exercising the brain as a way to relax. I just don’t think we’ve found the right mechanism yet for getting mass participation and involvement yet. Both have been going on for a while and starting to overload my in box.
Usually I like six weeks to get something done but if you are trying to stay top of the tables that requires a lot of effort. And the formats are not easy to use, make comments and integrate with platforms and networks we’re already on.
What’s more its mainly about the idea and leader. What I’ve liked about the semi closed version if how you’ve got to build the team and to engage in the conversation to progress.
And that is if you find them in the first place. There are quite a few challenges out there with significant prizes on offer but it’s a bit difficult to keep track of where to look. And register. And track progress.
I hope we find a solution soon to getting more people engaged and maintaining the interest and momentum. There really are some great ideas out there but diffusing all the effort means we risk duplicating and leaving people frustrated.
There must be an opportunity here for a system and integrator that makes it easier to participate as an entrant or commentator. And easier for funders and hosts to reach a mass audience.
My wishes would be building the debate before you the voting bit starts, keeping the intensive effort period to a short period and making ideas transferable and tradable.
Are you proud of where you live? I’m not surprised because most people are. Are you involved in decisions about where you live? No, really? Okay, so you are like me. You care about where you live but you are not involved. It is not that you don’t want to be it is just that the opportunities to be are limited. Have you got something to offer? Guess so – most people do. What’s missing is a meaningful way of connecting people, skills and place.
The Big Local Council concept blends some of the principles of Venezuelan Government idea, interest in hyper local media and encouraging pro-social activity and reciprocal exchange. In Venezuela self defined groups of under 400 families can form neighbourhood based communal councils that initiate and oversee local policies and projects – nearly 20,000 groups have formed and are responsible for billions of dollars. My former employer, NESTA, are embarking on a two to three year study of the economic and social potential of hyper local media. Another former employer, DCLG, want to devolve power to communities – something Governments of all shades have been talking about for awhile. We want to make it happen, starting in London.
But more than just helping our own community why not to earn credits by helping others with your skills. Linking mobile communications and matching skills to needs we can surface the hidden wealth of communities and make it easier to share and help each other. One platform, many benefits.
Interested? You might want to visit www.thebigawards.co.uk and join the conversation. You might even want to vote for the idea so that we can get some help taking the concept off the drawing board.
I have been rereading a few chapters of #carlhonore’s excellent “in praise of slow http://www.carlhonore.com/?page_id=6a” over the last week.
There is a really interesting chapter on work. Part of me is nostalgic and dismissive some of the words (which are not that old but show how fast work has changed) and at the same time parts of me are frustrated at how we have consistently failed to address the issues raised.
No point saying more. If you are interested make the time and go read the book. All I promise you is that it will make you think. Slowly.
If you haven’t got time then what is that extra day for next week?
At your last leaving do did someone say that you were going over to the dark side?
No, maybe you were retiring then. If, like me, you have ever moved between sectors (charity/social enterprise, public sector, private sector or vice versa) then I’ll bet you a bag of peanuts someone said it in the pub (or at least wrote it in your card).
On one level this is an entirely harmless, Star Wars inspired, phrase we throw around. But on another level it troubles me. It says a lot about what we think about those who work in organisations that are a bit different from our own and too few of us understand Basically, I think we focus too much on the organisational form not the form of the organisation.
Does it matter? I think it does. We get very exercised about having a public health service. We seem less concerned about whether or not we get great treatment. I have had fantastic treatment experiences on the NHS. I have also been waiting six months for a physio appointment. I’ve loved going to a social enterprise run leisure centre yet my wife cancelled her membership when verbally abused by the staff. Some think private sector organisations are brilliant. Others the devil. Same organisations, different experiences, different perceptions.
My point. It’s not where you work it is who you are.
The next time you move to the dark side, light it up with your brilliance.