Innovation and engagement depend on conversations inside, first

Just before Christmas Dave Briggs wrote a typically thoughtful post about Is government a knowledge business? which led to an interesting discussion which I might sum up as “organisations can’t have useful conversations and collaborate with people externally if people aren’t talking to each other internally”. Roland Harwood has just tweeted “Ironically the biggest challenge of open innovation seems to be internal”. Wonder how Civil Pages is working inside the civil service.


  • January 15, 2010 - 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve asked – admittedly on Twitter – if anyone was able to provide a session on the lessons learned on CivilPages, CivilWiki, CivilBlogs and CivilInternet* and nobody seemed forthcoming.

    It’s a shame – because such initiatives are bound to have a difficult early life, and we need to learn lessons from where things go wrong (attitudes to failure once again an issue).

    Though, one might say about the pan-civil service stuff, “organisations can’t have useful conversations and collaborate with people in other departments if people aren’t talking to each other in their own”.

    How far down can we go with this? Can people in the same team collaborate, if people in ajoining desks aren’t sharing with each other?

  • January 15, 2010 - 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, the asterisk in the previous comment was for:

    * ok, I made the last one up.

    But I’ve kind of ruined the (rather weak) joke now.


  • January 15, 2010 - 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Dave. Don’t have enough personal experience on this. The last time I worked in an office we were sitting in front of type-writers rather than computers so there was the excuse borrowing a few sheets of carbon paper. I blame this modern technology:-)

  • January 16, 2010 - 10:15 am | Permalink

    You may know about ScienceWise? The support and expertise hub which funds and advises on public dialogue around science and technology subjects? It’s connected to BIS.

    There is a team of external experts (practitioners, facilitators, dialogue people) who carried out strategic research projects. One of them explored just this point – what an organisation is like ‘inside’ affects its ability to talk (and listen to) people ‘outside’.

    It’s called the Departmental Dialogue Index, and Lindsey Colbourne did the research and wrote the paper. See here

  • January 17, 2010 - 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Penny – Lindsey’s Index sounds really useful. Do you know if the paper is online anywhere? The link just has a brief description. Tantalising:-)

  • January 18, 2010 - 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Interesting debate and I’d be keen to here peoples experience. I’ve just blogged about it here too

    Frustratingly I feel I can’t tell the really important lessons made in this discussion as they are usually commercially sensitive, however it’s definitely a big challenge.

  • January 29, 2010 - 11:47 am | Permalink

    I’ve been lucky enough to walk in and round many organisations and been amazed (at first) how little people talk to each other even when they have good opportunities and reason. I see them standing in canteen or shop queues for food to eat at their desk so that they can get on with preparing presentations or emails about presentations to give to each other, instead of eating their sarnies round a table having a chat.

    If I mention it, most people look blank and say We’re much too busy for lunch”. A few may say something like, “Oh yeah, ‘Brown bag lunch meetings’. We did that at … I’ve got the rules somewhere.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I see people worrying more about a type-face than how to catch a colleague’s opinion. They genuinely believe that what they are doing is ‘work’ and that it is hard and lonely. When offered an alternative that is more effective, more engaging and more sustainable, they do not recognise it, or think it could apply to them.

    Blind followers of Mr FW Taylor, you have a lot to answer for with your unscientfic “Scientific Management”. Even in 1920, his contemporary, Mary Follett, offered a better way to organise and work based on community and creating power through the integration of difference without losing the differences, which means true sustained dialogue, but she is now
    almost totally forgotten, though he ideas are still fresh and ahead of many current thinkers
    It is a perverse cliche now that the more we technically enable communication, the less communing we have. Dialogue is the basis of community and it seems we have to learn again how to do it. Fortunately, I and some colleagues have, slowly and painfully, learned some insights how to do it and I’ll be very pleased to share the very simple learning and tools we have, when we have some time, but I don’t want now to impose more on your space now, as a newcomer to this interesting conversation

  • January 30, 2010 - 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jonathan – thanks for further insights from your wide experience. Delighted to hear more from you on the work you have been doing in this field

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