Blog Archives

Feeling ‘instinctively right’

How much of a guide is ‘gut feeling’ when it comes to strategy? Is it a useful indicator of what sorts of action will work; or should it be put aside for more overtly rational ways to decide what to do? The dismal proportion of women directors on FTSE-100 Boards is a case in hand. Research by Cranfield University shows that in 2009 just 12% of FTSE-100 directors were women…

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Expertise beyond the silo in areas of public interest

There’s some interesting discussion going on in the LinkedIn Dundee IHP-HELP UNESCO Centre Group just now.
The Dundee UNESCO Centre is concerned with professional fields such as water law, and some of us have been discussing the role of the ‘Expert’ in bringing this critical issue more into the public eye.

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Vaccination: Understand at individual level, debate at group level…

case studySir Leszek Borysiewicz, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, is reported in The Times (10 June 2010) as saying doctors and nurses must take greater responsibility both for educating the public about vaccine benefits and for exploring any objections. In his view public health strategists rely too heavily when responding to concerns on ‘big sign solutions’ such as comprehensive studies and analyses.

“We need to train a whole cadre of health professionals to be able to address at an individual level people’s concerns and fears …. It’s about getting to that point where you are asking: ‘What is it that you are really worried about? Let me try to understand where you are coming from as an individual’…. For most people it goes back to the primeval: ‘Well my mother had measles, I had measles, so why do I need to take the risk [of vaccinating my child]?’ What they are really saying is, ‘Can I live with myself if something went wrong?’ ”

Indeed – though one might also ponder here whether sometimes people simply seek a rationale to avoid the unpleasantness of having the jab?

And the messages are mixed even amongst those professionals who we expected understand the arguments. Apparently in the winter of 2009/10 around 40% of midwives advised pregnant women (known to be at high risk if not immunised) against having the swine flu vaccine; and – incredibly? – fewer than 1 in 7 front-line NHS staff themselves have the seasonal flu vaccine.

Prof Borysiewicz said that medicine had been caught flatfooted repeatedly by a failure to prepare for opposition to vaccination, from swine flu and MMR now, back as far as smallpox in the 1860s.

“With every vaccine story we go through, we act as if we are surprised that somebody is actually opposed to it….. You don’t address [concerns] by trying to rubbish the people who are coming up with these views. You have to try to understand them at an individual level and then be prepared to debate them at a wider group level.”

So here’s a compelling case for the million small conversations. Who then will the proposed ‘cadre of health professionals able to address at an individual level people’s concerns and fears’ be?
And how / by whom will they be trained, in what contexts and in what specific skills?

Can you 'host' a conversation? Participation or facilitation?

QIs it possible to be a partner in a conversation and also ‘host’ it? Or is facilitation very different for participation?

There is a website about hosting discussions which offers some thoughts about how to do this. To quote  The Art of Hosting:

Art of Hosting is a global community of practitioners using integrated participative change processes, methods, maps, and planning tools to engage groups and teams in meaningful conversation, deliberate collaboration, and group-supported action for the common good. Examples of these tools include Open Space Technology, World Cafe, Circle and Appreciative Inquiry.

The Art of Hosting is built on the assumption and experience that we need to find new solutions for the common good, whether in corporations, government, education, non-profits, social movements, communities or families. The time is now.

The Principles
High quality conversations arise when:

•People in a group are present and grounded, working with a common purpose.
•Conversation is hosted in a way that invites participation and self-organization.
•People engage in participatory leadership, not top-down leadership, making the group’s wisdom more available to itself.
•Groups working together over time take action and use feedback to continuously evolve and learn from their action.

Rather than working with a pre-determined set of tools, the “art” is approaching each conversation with a unique design perspective, crafting the best design for the context and the community.

This set of ideas offers some interesting ways forward; but is it for all deliberative situations?

Does hosting set one apart, or would it be helpful if everyone in a dialogue was aware of the potential of ‘hosting’ for better communication?

Politicking, or simply positioning?

Real-life examplesOne of the silliest comments I heard about the recent Budget was that the (Labour administration) Chancellor was indulging in ‘blatant politicking’.

Putting aside the obvious truth that the Chancellor is about to face a general election, and therefore unlikely to propose many ideas which will be universally unpopular (that would amount to crass unprofessionalism, in his calling), surely he would see his Budget proposals as simple positioning, to address the concerns of those who in his view need or would welcome his support?

Is it really ‘politicking’, say, to make proposals to enable middle-low income people more easily to buy their first home? Or, as I think, a straightforward statement of strategy to demonstrate that there is a way to resolve some of the problems which such people face?

Isn’t this strategy – identifying the issues which affect different people and then seeking to resolve them – how all decent managers (and other leaders) of organisations try to cope with the issues which they must address?

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