The greatest obstacle to better practice, to better results and to better impacts is the temptation to replicated what has worked elsewhere. It's a huge temptation - reinforced by academic programmes, self-help books and conference presentations that focus on "Here's what worked somewhere else, here are the key characteristics and the process - repeat for similar success."
The problem crops up everywhere - in business, in personal life and, most pertinently in my recent work, in development work around the globe. Success in one area for one person/organisation does not mean that that success can be replicated elsewhere for others. (A few years ago, I recall talking with the World Health Organisation who felt that one of their greatest problems was Country Managers on their second deployment whose first deployment had been a great success.)
Next week in New York, I'm working with United Nations Development Programme who are determined to shift their thinking to something more effective. They've recognised that Complexity and Ecology sciences hold potential keys to what to do next.
With that in mind, we've got fierce minds in the room from a variety of disciplines:
The focus and thinking for the day is simple - the output and end-result may be tougher, but I suspect will be more cost-effective to implement, once the necessary mindshift has been made:
Results are not replicable in different contexts, but by looking at how natural ecologies evolve and what feedback loops, essential criteria and boundaries support locally-appropriate ecologies, new approaches to scaling development activity will mean culturally-effective variations can be developed.
Milica and Giulio have already blogged on this:
To make an analogy, Galapagos finches didn’t get a memo one day instructing them to come up (or scale up) to 17 different beaks that will allow for a more efficient food gathering, but the different beaks in 17 different types of finches evolved through time and depending on where different finches lived and what type of food they eat.
In our practice, we are increasingly learning that to be effective, we need to spend far more time ‘listening’ and sensing where the system is and where it is moving to (some would call it monitoring), with constant probing (or prototyping) as a way to understand the issue better and inform our next move.
Our aim is to ultimately come up with a set of criteria that can spur the growth of development innovation activities without falling into the “replication of best practice” or the ‘bigger, faster, cheaper’ trap.
In the spirit of working out loud, and as we gear up for our get-together later this month in New York City, we’d like to present a quick update on where we stand in our thinking.
We have to acknowledge that there is still a major language barrier between the various disciplines and that translating multi-disciplinary insights into tangible criteria applicable to the “finch fund” will require a significant amount of honing. At the same time, we like to think that this is just the beginning of a process of finding a common vocabulary and set of metaphors that can help us move forward.
I'll be honest - I'm extremely excited about the day, and a little daunted by the intellects at play in the room. I'll let you know in due course whether I kept up - and with the help of some colleagues, we'll report back on some of the ideas and applications in due course...
Last Friday was the 2014 Design of Understanding day - a packed room at St Brides Library off Fleet Street, organised by the redoubtable Max Gadney of After the flood. He and I had come across each other in a hotel bar in Kigali, Rwanda when we were both working the GirlHub Rwanda office - me on narrative research, he on visualising geographically-based data from various data sources (and various quality standards...)
I managed to stay for the morning, before some bug that had been stewing since my return the previous week finally got the better of me and I made a dash for home and slept the rest of the day. (I was particularly disappointed to miss the afternoon talks - the standard set by speakers in the morning had been high.)
Thanks to all - and to all the interesting conversations in the margin before natural forces took hold. And a particular thank you to Max for organising what was a great event.
On my dash home, I was disappointed to note that the old pen shop that had been for years in a dingy little arcade at the southern entrance to Bush House has now disappeared as scaffolding and redevelopment envelopes the building. I'd bought pens there for years - and my mother, as a nurse in the 60s, had done too. A minor ending, but a sad one.
Further to yesterday's post about the upcoming courses with Cognitive Edge, diaries have worked out such that Washington DC (Details here) will be a two-handed affair with myself and Dave Snowden teaching, while London (Details here)will be a unique one - three different presenters: Dave, Michael Cheveldave and myself passing the baton at different points throughout the course.
Given the inevitable slight differences and approaches we all take to our various projects, it'll be a chance to get three perspectives on complexity, narrative and interventions. I doubt there'll be fireworks, but it could provide for some very interesting conversations...
The blogtitle comes from the simple act of Googling "The Three..." and watching what comes up. I'll let you decide which is most appropriate...
Two upcoming courses that I'd highly recommend - and not just because I'm helping teach them these days. I've recommended the Cognitive Edge courses for years, but this year has seen a major refresh of the content and approach to the material. It's a real combination of solid theory, exercises and practical examples - all spread over four days.
What's it about? Why should you come?
Never has there been a greater need to manage more things with fewer resources. To create organisations that are resilient under conditions of uncertainty requires new ways of thinking and acting. Those who stay within the safety of the old paradigm sooner or later fail.
For more detail, have a look at the brochure here.
But for those who can't take four solid days off, it's also possible to do them in 1, 2 and 3 day chunks as well, picking and choosing the most relevant elements for your specific area.
Washington DC course is next week - 4-7th November Details here
London course is 26-29th November Details here
Posted by tquinlan on Monday, 28 October 2013 at 06:06 PM in Branding, Change, Cognitive Edge, Cognitive science, Communications, Complexity, Events, Knowledge, Leadership, Narrative and storytelling, Organisational culture, Recommendations, SenseMaker | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
There's a rare opportunity coming up in a couple of weeks in Belfast. In fact, there are two:
Cognitive Edge Complexity Masterclass, October 24th, 8:30-10:30am - a brief introduction to the theory, principles and concepts of working with complex systems/environments and their associated problems.
Cognitive Edge SenseMaker® Foundations, October 24th, 11:00-October 25th, 17:00 - a two-day course giving a really strong foundation in how to use SenseMaker® most effectively - covering why you might use it, how you would run a project and in-depth details of sense-making/analysing the final data - and then turning that into real actions and projects.
For anyone who's been looking at SenseMaker® and toying with the idea of using it, this is a fantastic opportunity and the first time a workshop like this has been run. Both Anne and I have run multiple SenseMaker® projects in recent years, so we'll be sharing the opportunities and excitement of what it offers, along with sharing a few war stories so that others don't fall into the pitfalls we have!
There will be a number of people there from the recent Belfast health-oriented projects, so this will be a great opportunity for anyone in the NHS to see some of the real opportunities available with this radical tool. (That said, you don't have to be in health to come along - just in good health!)
Registration details for both courses are at the links above.
The venue for both sessions is Knockbreda Wellbeing and Treatment Centre, 110 Saintfield Rd, Castlereagh, BT8
I'm packing to leave for Hong Kong in about half an hour - looking forward to some of the discussions that will ensue around Strategy, Leadership and Innovation next week, then off to Sydney for the Cognitive Edge Foundations course. For the UK-based, however, I've just had details of a talk I'm giving with a colleague on my return. Details below:
Measuring marketing activities and expenditure is one of the hot topics in marketing. That is why the Cranfield Marketing Club together with the Cranfield School of Management Alumni organises an event where we will discuss this issue. You don’t need to be member of the club to come to the event.
Please find more info and the registration for our Cranfield Marketing Club event about “Measuring Marketing” here:
Date: Tuesday 9th October
Time: 18.30 – 20.30 (+ after-work drinks in a nearby pub)
Venue: Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG
Agenda (Find talk abstracts and speaker bios at bottom of email):
18:30 – Arrival & networking activities
19:00 – Welcome & Introduction (Manfred Bortenschlager/Paul Baines)
19:10 – Meaning in numbers: a narrative approach to marketing measurement (Claire Spencer and Tony Quinlan)
19:50 – Measuring Marketing Effectiveness for Success (Paul Lee)
20:20 – Q&A
20:30 – Close and informal drinks in nearby pub for those who want to continue the conversation
Abstract: “Meaning in numbers: a narrative approach to marketing measurement”
Collecting stories around customers’ experiences of a brand offers a real alternative to traditional market research. Seeing how customers’ lives are affected by a brand offering can illuminate opportunities to enhance the brand or resolve underlying issues before they become problematic. For many of us in research, we have an innate - and appropriate - skepticism around “anecdotal evidence” but this latest approach supercedes that to provide real, actionable data based on fast analysis of thousands of narratives. This then helps marketers to better assess the ‘keep doing’, ‘stop doing’ and ‘start doing’ for their marketing communication.
Abstract: “Measuring Marketing Effectiveness for Success"
The evolution of buyer behaviour now requires marketers to think and act differently to effectively influence the different stages of the sales funnel (for engagement and revenue creation).
Claire Spencer, FCIPR Visiting Fellow, Marketing, Cranfield University
Claire is Chief Executive and founder of i to i research, a research consultancy specialising in insights and measurement around how people interact with brand communications. Previous to this, Claire worked in advertising and ran her own Public Relations consultancy. Over her 25 year career, Claire has been involved in some of the most high profile communication campaigns including the privatisation of British Telecom and London’s bid to hold the 2012 Olympics.
Tony is Chief Storyteller and founder of Narrate, a unique organisation that has been developing tools for working with narrative since its formation in 2000. Tony himself has 25 years experience in communications, having started in the Press Office of the Internatiaonal Stock Exchange just weeks before the 1987 crash. Since then, he’s driven public relations for Hewlett-Packard, IBM, UNICEF and many others, both as in-house client and external consultant. He has been a regular speaker on aspects of communications, chairing conferences and giving keynotes for many years. Until recently, he was also a leading member of The Medinge Group, an international branding thinktank.
Paul Lee is Regional Sales Director for Eloqua, the leader in marketing automation and revenue performance management technology. Paul’s 20-year sales career has been spent within the high tech, media & publishing industries. Today he supports customers with improving demand generation, sales & marketing alignment, enhancing marketing effectiveness and efficiencies alongside Eloqua best practice methodologies.
I'm in Brussels this coming Friday to run a workshop for the European Commission in the afternoon. (I'm missing the Royal Wedding - you can probably tell how much that matters to me...)
I've got some time between arriving in the morning and the actual workshop at 1pm in the afternoon - anyone for coffee and conversation?
Just before Easter, I was in New York for an excellent project exploration meeting with Starlight Runner and others. (An opportunity to let out my inner sci-fi geek and talk all sorts of speculative fiction, from Jasper Fforde to Stephen Donaldson. And indulge a little comics talk too...)
One part of the discussion - making stories available for artists to use to produce new art - prompted me of two things.
When we were collecting stories in Pakistan as part of the pilot of Children of the World, the intention was that those same stories would become part of cross-cultural discussion - pupils and students engaged in international debating, but gathering source material from each others' narrative cultures. It's still in the plan for when we get the next tranche of Children of the World off the ground.
And, more recently, at Mat Locke's excellent The Story conference, (reviews here, here and here here here and check out Mary Hamilton's wonderful talk on Zombie gaming here) I talked briefly with Adam Curtis. His talk is neatly summed up here
Adam covered much ground in his talk, but among the elements that resonated with me were his comments about how we experience the world in fragments that only make narrative sense later, how the stories we hear daily are edited versions of the raw stories of people on the ground, how making those raw stories is better. I was keen to talk further, but timed it badly as Adam was headed off to meet someone.
Our brief interchange at the back of the hall, however, made me think. One of Adam's criticisms was that what we had done in various countries - gathering local people's stories, with their explicit meaning attached to each one - was "just information". He was more interested in what is done with those stories to create something new.
Which naturally, led me back to our intention from the Children of the World pilot.
So. As part of the Children of the World pilot, we collected some 1500 fragments of stories from people in Pakistan. These were collected Open Source, so are something I am willing to share - in order to create new art.
If you would like to get in touch to talk about using them, please do. Most are in English and are short snippets of experience in response to ambiguous pictures. They're available as a text file, but get in touch and there may be some interesting things to play with beyond the pure text.