How Organisations May Stifle Community Creativity
One of the many challenges for the public sector is that it must start believing in people and communities again.
We know that many organisations are out of sync with technology , but there’s an argument that they are increasingly distant from an economy where sharing and collaboration trump paternalism and top down protocols.
One of the most interesting comments on my post How To Kill Creativity was from John Wade. In it he wondered whether the organisations that limit the creativity of their employees also inadvertently stifle citizen and community strengths.
I think the answer is almost certainly yes.
It’s well established that meetings, emails and design by committee suck the creativity out of a business , so surely this would trickle down to the end user?
If you have a risk averse culture surely you also contribute to risk aversion in communities?
One of the more damaging ways we can stifle creativity is just by not listening. Of leaving the thinking to the ‘experts’. If it was an idea worth having, the experts would already have thought about it. They have all kinds of qualifications and can write reports and they tend to use very long words. When there’s a problem they really can’t solve they will often bring in a consultant or make an appointment to their board.
We can also – without meaning to – make communities defer to authority. Everyone is a manager or an officer. This indicates that someone is in charge and is important. The people in charge must know what they are doing, or they wouldn’t hold the positions that they do. They don’t need any ideas on how the service could be run differently.
These behaviours are out of kilter with networked communities and the way we share information and resources.
If we approach public service purely as a one to one consumer transaction we’ll view the world through the lens of efficiency, reduced contact, metrics and performance indicators.
In an economy moving towards sharing rather than just transacting we need to build a new set of behaviours based on trust, fondness, habit and traditions.
Huge parts of the public sector have designed services around what people can’t do for themselves rather than nurturing what they can.
Every individual and community has assets, talents, skills and abilities. Better to focus on helping to develop and release these, rather than treating people as a series of ‘problems’ that need to be solved.
If we think of our organisations as platforms to enable people – rather than just as service providers – it fundamentally changes how we seek out ideas.
Yesterday we hosted a discussion in Bromford Lab kicking off a 12 week period looking at the problem , or opportunity, of loneliness.
What struck me more than anything was how the conversations we have are completely changed. Very quickly the contributors stopped talking about loneliness and starting talking about community connection. About amazing examples they had seen of people doing things together. Of Bromford leading by stepping back. Of the organisation no longer feeling it has to be omnipresent.
Believing in what people can do means being brave enough to admit that we won’t always be needed.
Many of our public services are actually products of failure. They only exist because things don’t work.
Planning for obsolescence may sound suicidal, but it’s actually the most enlightened creative state your organisation can be in.