Tag Archives: groups

Serving citizens best by collaborating with them

by Craig Thomler

Government runs on rules. Policies, processes and procedures designed to address every contingency and plan for every possible risk in order to provide equity, stability and certainty.

However, as experience has shown time and time again, we cannot predict the future.

While we continually attempt to plan ahead, largely these plans are based on extrapolating past trends and experiences.

This has served us well in times of relatively stable and slow-changing societies and provides enormous capability to mobilise and focus resources towards a few large and separate goals.

However it doesn’t work as effectively during rapidly changing conditions where there are a myriad of interlocking issues. The approach can also neglect large and important changes, which are often discontinuous and almost totally unpredictable.

History is littered with enormous societal, economic and cultural shifts brought on by unpredictable innovations; gunpowder, the printing press, steam-power, radio, television and, most recently, the internet.

Each of these – and other – innovations profoundly changed how societies operated, destroying industries and creating a stream of new inventions, professions and both political and cultural challenges in their wake.

In hindsight we can often see very clearly how these changes unfolded and they can appear historically as an evolutionary process. However when living just before or during these enormous shifts it is virtually impossible for most individuals or organisations to predict outcomes ten, five, two or even a single year ahead.

I believe we are living in this type of time right now. The invention of the internet, progress in nano and bio technologies and in alternative – hopefully sustainable – sources of energy is in the process of increasingly rapidly reshaping our world. At the same time we are facing the consequences of previous disruptive innovations – most notably climate change, fuelled by enormous levels of fossil fuel use over two hundred years and population growth, fuelled by improvements in food technology and medicine.

This becomes a time of enormous challenge for governments. How do we extrapolate trends, develop policies, acknowledge and address risks which didn’t exist a few years ago?

How do we continue to serve the public appropriately when the time required to plan, develop and implement national infrastructure is greater than the effective lifespan of that infrastructure?

How do we let go of faltering systems to embrace new ways of developing and implementing policy without losing continuity of governance?

And how long can we continue to govern incrementally when living in an exponential world?

We’re in a place where there are many more questions than answers. Issues are ever more complex and multi-faceted and can no longer be in silos. Our organisations need to be more flexible and adaptive in response to an increasingly assertive community who often have better tools and information than the government departments servicing them.

Fortunately the disruptive technologies we are developing also allow us to approach many of these challenges collectively on a national and international scale.

We have the means to mobilise the brainpower of a nation – or many nations – using the internet and simple crowdsourcing tools.

We’ve already seen communities emerge online where companies ask their insolvable questions publicly, allowing scientists, academics and the general public to discuss and provide suggestions.

We’ve also seen governments willing to ask questions of their constituents, rather than rely on traditional stakeholders, academics and bureaucrats to have all the answers.

I hope over the coming years we see Australian governments embrace serendipity rather than attempt unsuccessfully to chain it. I hope we see bureaucrats and citizens working collaboratively to address major issues, working in adaptive and flexible configurations rather than rigid silos, stepping beyond ‘consultation’ towards participatory policy development and evolution.

This will require courage on the part of elected officials and senior public servants alike. It will require different types of leadership and thinking, better communications and a broader focus on connecting people over managing fixed resources.

Can we achieve this step from where we are today?

I’m optimistic that we can, but it will take significant work and pain to achieve.

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The Power of the Human Jumbotron: A Lesson In Crowdsourcing

Sourced with compliments from http://sparxoo.com/2009/10/28/the-power-of-the-human-jumbotron-a-lesson-in-crowdsourcing/

When has the crowd been more exciting than the game? No, it’s not the wave, nor is it the “war paint” covering bare-chested men. It’s crowdsourcing: when everyone works collectively towards a single objective. Below there is a video of a soccer game where the power of the crowd created more compelling entertainment than the game itself:

Crowdsourcing has never been more apparent and pervasive than in the online world. Wikipedia is often the most cited example of crowdsourcing–as it has met extreme success since its inception in 2001. It has tapped into the collective knowledge of the world to create a comprehensive and awe-inspiring assortment of content.

To understand how more brands can incorporate crowdsourcing into their business model consider the following key characteristics that lead to successful crowdsourcing initiatives:

Set an objective — Before throwing in tons of money and time in to your project, what are you trying to create; who is going to get you there; and who is going to benefit? In Wikipedia’s case: create an online encyclopedia; those experts specialized in specific areas of study; all those with web access seeking more information knowledge in one site.

Rally the troops — When you tell 100 people you want to create a human jumbotron, they can get excited about it because 1) it’s unique and 2) it’s tangible. With two words, you can inspire and lay out a clearly defined objective.

Plan — A human jumbotron does not get up and running overnight. It takes time, training and planning to make a vision a reality. Consider Wikipedia, they have a solid foundation for which individuals can build an rich resource for information.

Work as a team — The human jumbotron exemplifies how no one person is of greater value than another. It is through the collective efforts of everyone that the human jumbotron was successful. If even one person was of greater value, it would dissolve the final outcome.

Have a pay-off — Sellaband is an example of a crowdsourcing website that has a financial pay-off for participants. Fans give money to their favorite bands so they can cut a record. Once the record is released, fans can even share a portion of the profits if the album is successful.

Leveraging the power of the crowds, even if it’s only to fact-check or spark a discussion on your blog, can be invaluable for your brand. Allowing users to participate in something greater than themselves is tremendously rewarding and the nature of the web as a connector and facilitator has made collaboration and crowdsourcing more possible than ever before.

Bruce Nussbaum on Design, Disruption, and Innovation

Sourced with compliments from http://www.dachisgroup.com/2009/10/bruce-nussbaum-on-design-disruption-and-innovation/

Sharing ideas and insights with Bruce Nussbaum, contributing editor at BusinessWeek, is always a pleasure, so it’s fitting that he’s one of my first round table interviews. Previously assistant managing editor in charge of BusinessWeek’s innovation and design coverage, he was named one of the 40 most powerful people in design by I.D. Magazine in 2005. Nussbaum wrote The World After Oil: The Shifting Axis of Power and Wealth, and Good Intentions, an inside look at medical research on AIDS. He has received awards from the Sigma Delta Chi Journalism Society, the Overseas Press Club, and the Industrial Designers Society of America. Nussbaum is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. For more of his thinking and writing, you can read Nussbaum on Design or follow him on Twitter. Photo credit to Alex_Cheek.

Events Often Overtake Companies

Sourced with compliments from http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/09/events-often-overtake-companies.html

I’ve found myself saying “events overtake companies” a lot this week. I’m not sure exactly why it was the phrase of the past week, but I did spend a lot of time talking to entrepreneurs running businesses that are growing rapidly, causing the founders to rethink their strategic plans.

I think less than 20% of the companies we back end up doing what they started out planning on doing. They build something, get it into the market, and then things happen. Often it turns out the market wants something a bit different than they are offering. Or that the users adopt one part of the product and don’t use another part very much at all. Or developers start building things on top of the API that opens their eyes to a much bigger opportunity. Or it could simply be that the market loves what they built and they have to spend all their time on scaling and infrastructure and all the things they planned on building go to the back burner.