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Dave Snowden

Participatory or paternalistic? p2

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blacksheep.jpg The essence of my post yesterday was to suggest that much of Nudge Theory involves a form of reverse linear thinking. In the UK at the moment consideration is being given to printing the price of a prescription on the packet which seems a rather perverse variation of Smoking Kills; I’m not totally sure what that is about but there is an emerging social media consensus that it is some form of political statement. There are other examples but the basic principles is top down determination of some objective then the creation of initiatives designed to nudge people towards said objective.

Now I am not trying to condemn that here, its a lot better than vast social engineering efforts. However I think it runs the danger of covert purpose, manipulation and paternalism. My real criticism is the danger of missing opportunities to engage the population in the process of designing nudges and the danger of missing the outlier possibilities for change that may not relate to current objectives. I gave some indication of this yesterday, but I want to briefly look at that again in the context of organisational change. The landscape map I showed yesterday is a possible additional report from our Culture Scan and can be deployed for real time monitoring. What it shows is the clusters are the cultural dispositions of the system. Critically it also shows outlier patterns. So in a cultural change exercise we start with the map before we make any decisions about destination. Then we look at the patterns and use the underlying stories to grasp the deeper context. We can then engage the wider community to ask what sort of things they can think of doing differently that would nudge the cluster to a better place, or retain it where it is. We can also look at outlier events and see if they offer new opportunities we were not aware of.

If we start with a destination, we may well miss the opportunities for change in the present.

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