01/02/2019 Kathy Graham

Education – a leading light in driving social and economic change, or a job for us all? (Part 2/2)

So how do we help drive social and economic change in an environment plagued by rules bureaucracy and policy making which does things to and not with people?  That was one of my reflections when I attended the SERC’s conference on Driving Social and Economic Change. Following on from my first blog, more answers came from the second key speaker, Dorte Nielsen, founder of Creative Thinker and the Center for Creative Thinking in Copenhagen.  I think I’ve been living in a bubble. Dorte drew me in and I think I’m hooked.  Firstly, “Creativity isn’t just for creatives”. That means I can.  I will.  There are no boundaries and it can be learnt. The problem is, creative thinking isn’t currently being taught.  There is huge untapped potential out there because most of us don’t know we can think innovatively, which obviously means we don’t know how.  But innovative thinking is essential, which Dorte illustrated beautifully with the Chinese Proverb:

“When the winds of change blow some build walls others build windmills”

Dorte highlighted a number of big, no, enormous brands from the recent past such as Kodak and Blockbuster.  They kept going in the same direction, but change happens so fast, is the life span of a big brand now only 5 years?  To me, this highlights the need for diverse competent teams that not only have the ability to horizon scan but to innovate and imagine endless possibilities.  

Dorte described the process of divergent and convergent thinking.  This brought me back to a memory of a conference I was at some years ago.  We were told to look at the highball water glass at our place on the table.  We were requested to write down all the possible uses for that glass, and we were encouraged to be as creative and as imaginative as we liked.  Remember above  – I am not creative.  I was the last person standing when we were asked if anyone got 5; 10; 15; 20; 25 uses for that water glass.  I followed the brief… I was creative (perhaps wacky) in my thoughts…. But, maybe that’s the point…?  A team approach will even consider the wacky ideas, refine them and reshape to make viable products, services or policy options.  And if anyone is interested, from memory some of the uses of the high ball tumbler water glass – vase for flowers (yes everyone got that); pencil holder; plant pot; cookie cutter; ornament; door stop (slightly dangerous); weapon (very dangerous); you get the idea and I bet you are adding your own….

The importance of divergent and creative thinking in leadership is highlighted by several studies Dorte told us.  Encouragingly if we practice for two weeks we have the ability to change how the brain works.  However, she also pointed out that we all go to these talks and feel inspired by them, but often afterwards we go, it will all be as it was before.  We need to do something with it.  So, this blog is perhaps my small step to doing something with it!  As Dorte said – we cannot afford not to be creative.  We all need to take the step forward.

The last speaker at the SERC’s conference on Driving Social and Economic Change, Steve Orr, CEO of Catalyst Inc., shared his experience of San Diego.  Wow, what parallels there are with good ole Norn Iron – 20 years ago with a population of 1.8 million and heavy reliance on the public sector.  Skip forward to today and it has accelerated from the bottom of the creativity leagues to close to the top. 

Steve explained that old fashioned thinking and mind sets frustrate and present barriers ultimately denying success. An ecosystem of a connected culture of collaboration and two main ingredients of timing and team could secure success.

Steve reinforced Sir Harry Burn’s point, you have to make what people want.  This involves design thinking and to get it right involve the end users….. Exactly!  In the world of engagement and consultation that’s what I and my colleagues have been banging on about.  Ask the people! 

So perhaps, if we follow a set of instructions set out respectively by our three speakers (Sir Harry Burns; Dorte Neislen and Steve Orr):

  1. Think Yes
  2. Do something about it
  3. Involve the user

Together we can achieve a change which will drive Northern Ireland forward socially and economically.

The final take away of the day was this quote from Ernest Hemmingway “Write drunk, edit sober”.  I couldn’t possibly comment on that!

Engagement pointers;

  • Are you struggling to involve the end user in your decision making?
  • Does the thought of preparing for a public consultation scare/excite you?
  • Is this something you’ve never done before and are wondering where and how to begin?
  • Would you like to know more about effective methods to engage with diverse audiences?

If so, drop me a line at kathy@tciengagement.com, I’d love to hear from you.

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,