Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The quickest way to spread scale up change

The most common question I am asked is whether there is a quick way to spread desired change across groups.

My Nobel Prize entry for answering this question is as follows:

"Yes and No"

The fact you are asking the question means you are in a type of powerful relationship over those with whom you want to interact and change. Namely you want them to do something different/ly and you want them to do it quickly.

The "Yes" answer is dependent on the carrot and stick approach. Pay a twelve year old to clean his bedroom and if the reward is big enough, the bedroom will be cleaned. Pay doctors a reward for meeting a quality target and they will achieve it (evidence the NHS and GPs). The stick approach is less effective but still works. It is no longer common to see anyone on their mobile phone while driving in the England. The stick of a fine and points on your license has worked, combined with appeals to common sense.

The "No" answer comes from asking questions like those listed below. If I get more than two or three "No's" in response then I suggest to the person asking that they have probably answered their own question.
- are you making the change yourself?
- can you describe to me the three main reasons why the person you want to change thinks this will be a good idea?
- do you apply the methods you are proposing in your own work and/or personal life?
- is your reason for this work more than doing a good research project you can publish later
- will the person/group you want to change see the change as coming from somewhere other than yourself?
- do your plans involve more than a communication exercise?
and so on

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Spending Challenge - HM Government using crowdsourcing

The UK government is using a simple online webpage to gather ideas on how to save money. It is called the Spending Challenge. You can input your idea, some words about how it can be implemented, add a tag or two and then post it. You can read through others' ideas, add tags and ratings. The system allows you to search by tag, new ideas, most commented or highest rated.

This is crowdsourcing at its most pragmatic. I doubt they spent more than £1000 setting up the system. The addition of a rating system gives it power and meaning. Especially as anyone can rate any idea - not just those in power.

In the same month this is launched I've worked with a variety of public sector teams who range from denying the existence of technology, denying they have permission to use anything remotely interfacing the public (or their staff) unless there are controls, or want to create their own thing. Probably worse, some are still working at the level of theory and concept for social movements, mobilisation and networking, running workshops and developing programmes to spread the word of change. By the time they've spent a fortune on their programme, a huge part of the UK population will have been mobilised using simple techniques such as this Spending Challenge one.

I feel that so often we get lost in the theory and concepts, and the need to develop eloquent (and controllable) solutions, that we overlook the most simple mechanisms, complemented with speed and pragmatism.

Well done HM Treasury for getting the Spending Challenge social movement underway.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Crowdsourcing shifts us from what to how

"to improve" is a verb. A verb is a "doing word". Improvement is action. Collecting and storing examples of good practice is a displacement for action. Huge knowledge banks where the thing of the 1980's (yes, thirty years ago) and by the late 1990's were largely discredited as a mechanism for helping spread good practice. The few organisations that did manage to leverage the codified knowledge, did so because they institutionalised through clever IT systems, the search and sharing of knowledge. Note, this sharing was linked to the individuals with the ideas and not odd pieces of extracted information. The personal relationship mattered.

What does the modern day action to improve look like when we are aiming to avoid the reinvention of wheels?

a) We crowdsource. We call on the community for their ideas. However, asking for and then collating ideas is not crowd sourcing - it is a cheap way to create an ineffective database. Crowdsourcing works when participants rate ideas, decide which is best. Many organisational leaders fear crowdsourcing because the answers may not be what they want.

b) We get more active in presenting the problems and then asking people to provide answers - as an open call. The joy in this approach is it is not limiting the solution to the thinking and mindsets of employees. This has been around for at least a decade and the are many websites and systems to help make this happen. Some organisations even provide all their data so others, not part of the organisation, can use it to help solve the problem. The first step to making this happen s to give up control and to ask for help.

In the UK we are experiencing the crowdsourcing as the Government has set up systems to ask for ideas on solving problems. I like the way they are asking the citizens on ideas and not restricting it to Government employees only.

Crowdsourcing gives the vote to the hungry consumers and nto to the turkeys.

Some Crowdsourcing links and resources

1. Wikipedia: for starters

2. IdeaScale is where you can set up your own Q&A and ranking community for innovations. There are hundreds of existing web applications for crowdsourcing so if you are spending money creating your own then let's hope there is am excellent reason for doing so.

3. Fevote - place to make suggestions and get votes on them (great for research and tests of change)

4. Kluster: - stunning group decision-making tool

5. Good blog post on crowd sourcing resources