April 30, 2013

How (Not) to Get Picked

Seth Godin has had a good couple of posts about getting picked, or the alternative of picking yourself.

It reminds me a bit of one of the "strategies" in getting on with stuff that I'm fond of quoting (and mis-quoting). It's based on the view that "the Internet views censorship as damage and routes round it", and I tend to reappropriate it as applying "Internet thinking" to problems - see them as damage and route around them.

Lots of the societal issues seem deeply entrenched and hard to fix, yet rather than pour all our efforts into challenging the status quo, it's better to find ways round it that will (hopefully) in time create a new status quo where the established players find themselves irrelevant - at least with respect to the issue you were trying to solve.

It's not about them losing, it's about you creating something new. Focusing on being for that, rather than against the roadblocks has the handy side-effect of a more optimistic outlook, which feels more likely to succeed. It's more enjoyable along the way at least!

The other strategy to help you pick yourself is to follow what's interesting. Russell wrote about how to be interesting ages ago, and lots of it proves true.

Five years ago when I built Bubblino I was just following what interested me. Last week we had the prime location at the Internet World conference showing off Bubblino and a collection of other things.

When you do interesting things, people want to put you in interesting places.

Posted by Adrian at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2013

Making the Civil Service More Technical

Russell has written an interesting blog post where he explains a bit about the team at GDS: the new, fashionable startup in London that just happens to actually be a part of the civil service - i.e. the Government.

In it he says:

"This is not about a bunch of private sector digital experts parachuting in to save the day."

From my perspective, a few steps removed (i.e. although I know quite a few people working at GDS, I've not had a conversation with any of them about any of this), this is just what happens when you get some people who are both passionate about what they're doing and who have the technical abilities to implement or understand it, and give them the authority to get on and build it.

It feels like this is us rediscovering what it's like to have people with good technical abilities in public service. As the existence of organisations like mySociety shows, there are plenty of geeks who aren't driven purely by a billion-dollar IPO, but the tendency towards outsourcing and private provision from big IT firms has meant that the scope for doing interesting and important technical work in the civil service (and in public service in general) no longer existed.

As a result, the civil service role had been reduced to a more managerial one, and you lose a lot of the practical knowledge. Couple that with a risk-averse environment, and you end up with the big - and by inference (though in practice size doesn't correlate with ability) safe - IT firms able to propose solutions which are skewed in their favour.

Hopefully the work at GDS will show that it's possible to have at least some of the technical team within the public sector walls, and with a more agile and responsive approach to building the services they can both be more flexible with working with private-sector teams and provide a better solution for less money.

I also wonder if this lesson maps onto other over-managerial parts of the public sector? Can we take this approach to free up the good, passionate teachers or the doctors and nurses who care about their patients above all else to do their best work?

Posted by Adrian at 04:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack