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- Craig C-E
- Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Winning isn't Everything; Accomplishment Is
If you believe in winning at all costs then you may have won the battle but have lost the war or the very purpose for what you have been fighting.
My favourite example - when you oppose a Political Party because of its divisive, petty and long-term detrimental approach, you cannot beat them using the same strategies and tactics that propelled them to victory. When that's your methodology, the best you can hope to do is replace them in perpetuating division and system erosion.
Moving forward together means leaving no one behind, period. And if it works out that one path simply doesn't allow for that objective to be realized, don't limit yourself.
There are, after all, many paths to the top of the mountain.
- Henry Ford
This was interesting as my views on a lot of aspects of leadership have changed over the years and hopefully I'm more of an authentic leader than I was when I was younger.
I can easily rhyme off dozens of people in positions of leadership who've gotten less authentic the further up the ladder they go. They do this for expedience; it's assumed people are motivated by the right messages delivered in the right way, so these message-leaders will say what it takes to get the results they want.
Look at folks like Rob Ford or Pierre Poilievre for some of the most egregious examples out there. Do they believe what they say? Does belief even matter to them?
If these sorts of bosses make you angry enough, you might be stirred to momentary action, but as with any tantrum, there's inevitably an embarrassed headache that follows.
Which Political Party or leader has faked it successfully without losing their integrity? What is it the people are craving most right now?
It comes down to this - to thine own self be true. If you stay authentic, practice patience and seek to build understanding, you may never be famous, but you will be a leader.
A Kingdom of Consciousness
Dives didn't go to hell because he was rich; Dives didn't realize that his wealth was his opportunity. It was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and never really saw him.
Language, by its nature, is metaphorical and infused with cultural meaning mapped onto the thing we describe itself.
Hell is a place to us, not a representation of the consumptive nature of dopamine addiction.
The Garden of Eden, blocked from us by a flaming sword (a metaphor for knowledge found across world myths with varying positive or negative connotations) is a paradise lost, not the catalyization of consciousness emergent.
There's no romance in connecting a concept like "God is love" with the behavioural influences of oxytocin any more than there is mystery in suggesting that it's understanding, not dominance, that makes us whole.
Conscience, I would argue, doesn't make us cowards - but it does make us mindful. Mindfulness, in addition to helping us emerge from cognitive darkness, provides a sense of fulfillment that's not dependent on hoarding resources, but is amplified as one contributes to the growth and resilience of their whole community.
It's when we see that piece of ourselves reflected in our neighbour and they through us that the underlying current of all these metaphors and parables becomes clear.
Friday, 4 April 2014
2014: The Year of Open Data and Responsible Citizens
The Toronto Star declared 2014 the "Year of the Idea." But we can't keep turning to the same sources for innovation. We can't keep having the same debates about the same questions. It's time to think outside the box and turn to unexpected sources for new ideas.
Which Political Leader is the only one who can beat the other guy and single-handedly heal our community? Exactly - but that's how we're sold our politicians, isn't it? More and more resources are being spent in promoting people at the top of a given silo while at the same time, competing organizations keep taking pot-shots at each other's foundations. Meanwhile, closed internal cultures are coming into conflict with social media and the emergence of Open Data and a newfound appetite for real accountability.
The Star's idea isn't new. Versions of it have already manifested with Samara's Everyday political citizen project; from a different angle, organizations like Maytree with their non-partisan GOTV training and civic engagement groups like Why Should I Care are seeking to open up information, access and the confidence to reach out and lead from the front within non-traditional political/policy actors.
In other words, empowering everyday citizens to become hidden experts.
These are exactly the sorts of people the catalysts of the Open Government/Open Data movement are looking to partner with and co-design processes and platforms with, using techniques and methodologies like those of Swerhun and Exhibit Change.
Open Data for a Responsible Society consisting of engaged citizens. There isn't anything revolutionary about this idea, but it is good to hear it coming around again.
Democratic Reform? Nothing To See Here...
Every close race will be subjected to charges of a tilted playing field or disenfranchised voters. The process itself is sure to become an election issue and, while results may stand, the only sure thing is a further erosion in Canadians' already tenuous trust in our electoral system.
The only way around a discredited outcome and Florida- or Ohio-style charges and countercharges is a government that will finally agree to major and substantial amendments to the legislation.
Don't worry about any of this, boys in short pants - you know that the people are sheeple and, empire-like as you are, you create Canada's political reality as you go.
Pay no attention to the folk behind the curtain - process doesn't interest you, anyway.
If You Think This Ends Well, You Haven't Been Paying Attention
The first two weeks of the writ, in particular, will be a fight to determine the ballot question, and he warned organizers to brace for opposition attacks over the government's past scandals. In some cases, he said, the Liberals will simply have to concede they have made mistakes while in office and try to change the focus of the campaign.
Just wow. But it gets even better:
The Liberals will fight them on that front with such new tools as "poll-by-poll ID reports," Ms. Sorbara told the briefing. The ID reports are a database that ranks polls within each riding based on the number of previously identified Liberal supporters in them.
So, the master plan is this - diminish the opposition, accept past mistakes but change the channel away from them and focus on micro-targeting likely voters and putting heavy pressure on front-line volunteers to get out there and drag them to the polling booths.
I can just imagine how much fun that campaign would be to work on. Especially given how much disgruntlement there is at the ground level, particularly outside the GTA, the reverse question the central people assigned to individual regions are going to find hearing back is "you weren't there when I asked for your support, so why should I take any shit from you instead of just waiting for you to lose your job post-loss and then see if your replacement is any better?"
See, most Riding Association members aren't as ardently supportive of the Institution as the kids in TO are - they're believers in the Party's values, which used to be summed up with the phrase "move forward together."
I'm sure the organizers in place know far better than someone like me how to win tough political fights, so they've no need to listen to any advice from my end.
But if they did, I might suggest something along these lines:
- don't deflect from cultural challenges that are bigger than the Party - show how you are actively going to fix them. Open By Default provides a great plan for how to do that structurally at the governance level.
- show that you've learned and are acting on what you've learned. Reform the OPS, but for God's sake, fix the Party structure, too. A little bit of training and some communication will go a long way.
- stand for something that all Ontarians can relate to. I'm sorry, but the transit conversation is all about the GTA. Ask anyone outside the GTA, and they'll tell you that. It's been poorly framed, but the constant bickering over subways hasn't helped any.
Instead, take on something that all Parties stand for and all Ontarians relate to, like mental health. Which is also about engagement, as is Open Data - which is what leadership is about. Which leads back to Open Government.
Or, you know, isolate your voters through micro-targeting, focus on individualizing their interests instead of promoting conversation and big-picture thinking and put increased pressure on the people who owe you nothing by implying they owe you everything and demand they perform miracles from which they will gain no benefit.
It's worked wonders for Harper, right?
A Problem with Political Culture
"At no time were the details of any of the allegations made by David MacNaughton shared with me, nor was I provided any opportunity to respond."
This whole article is worth a read for the insight it gives into the political sausage-making process that we're constantly told not to be interested in. The fact is, bullying has always been a big part of this process; we see it every day in Question Period or on campaign trails, but it persists within Parties and Members offices as well in both active and passive-aggressive ways.
In theory, any Member of a Legislative Assembly (MLA) including Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) is elected by constituents to represent their interests in Parliament. The role of Parliament is to hold government to account on behalf of constituents. So, MPs and MPPs are supposed to ask questions and raise issues related to the interests of the people of the community they represent - which kinda implies they have to be from there.
This is a bit trickier when you get into larger urban centres like Toronto, where the ridings are smaller and the issues aren't as limited by borders. Whereas the residents of a riding like the one I'm from (currently called Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry) will be pretty demanding that their representative be a permanent resident, there's generally more flexibility in places like Toronto. So long as a candidate can demonstrate a commitment to/knowledge of a given riding and its issues, the people tend to be content to let them stand.
Ours being a representative democracy and all, we don't just elect individuals to carry forward our message - we're electing their judgement as well. This is no different from most professions - we expect our lawyers, accountants, teachers and doctors to all have experiential knowledge and insight into their craft that we don't have to learn. Of course, there's no formal training required to be a politician, so it really boils down to track-records, intuition and how well a given candidate can sell themselves.
There's something prestigious about being an elected official - it provides validation, a budget, access to the levers of power and no small degree of local influence. As politicians vote on matters of significance beyond just their ridings, the act of holding political office also leads our elected officials to be exposed to a bigger world of stakeholders, influence-peddlers and of course, partisans.
The best politicians take all this in stride but never lose sight of what they're in office for - to represent their people. There are some, obviously, who go into politics for the title more than the function, just are there are good people who lose their way as the carrots and sticks of partisan brinkmanship and access to influence weigh upon them.
Anyone who works in politics can rhyme off names of micro-managing, bullying politicians who treat their ridings like personal fiefdoms and their staff like indentured servants. In fact, these aggressive types are often targeted for greater positions of influence, like Cabinet posts, because it's assumed they can apply this bullying attitude to force action within one Ministry or another. The actual human impact of their demeanour gets ignored as often as possible because, you know, it's timely results that matter, not human resources.
This is before you get to Political Parties. While our Parliamentary system can function without Political Parties, partisanship has been ingrained into our system. Originally conceived of as groups of like-minded individuals banding together to collectively promote issues of shared importance, the introduction of Parliamentarians to Cabinet fundamentally changed this process. Now, the priority of Political Parties isn't to unite a caucus of elected officials to promote certain issues so much as it is to get enough seats in the House to form government.
Power is the objective, because with power you don't need to advocate for causes, you can act on them.
The trick is, you need enough elected partisan bums in seats to form government and carry votes and to get them, you need to have broader coalitions of support. This is why it's become so easy for Political Parties to sway back and forth on the political pendulum, adjusting their positions and policies to meet what they think are the demands of enough voters to give them a majority.
Within Parties and occasionally, between Parties, there are still smaller caucuses that do what Parties were originally intended to do - raise and debate niche issues like rural, women, Northern, New Canadian, poverty and so on.
For unelected partisan operatives, however, the only thing that matters is getting and retaining seats; you can't form government without them. At their most cynical, these political planners don't care about who represents where, what issues actually matter to the people or whether overall policy focus is balanced. They will aim for the win at all costs.
Issues like whether a hospital should be built are determined not on local need, but partisan advantage.
Nominations are determined less on what the local folk want, but which representative will work to the Party's advantage on a broader scale (fundraising, effective talking head on the news or in the House, etc.). Good people that don't suit the Party's interest will be discarded while ineffective Parliamentarians or terrible bosses will be supported if it's believe they will win seats or sell Memberships.
There are good people at both the elected official and partisan staff level, but there are also a lot of conniving manipulators who could give a rat's ass about the well-being of the commons beyond the narrow pieces they feel serves their interests.
These folk are predominantly alphas; aggressive, calculating, dismissive and quite frankly, bullies in either a direct or passive aggressive way. They don't listen, they message. They don't consider opinions, they shoot them down. They also don't empower - they demand and threaten if they don't get what they want, no matter how poorly conceived their vision is or how inarticulately they've conveyed it.
Such militant partisans are the ones who have shaped the overall culture of our politics at present, which is why there is a such a disconnect now between Parties, elected officials and constituents, and staff.
This last one is a point I keep hammering home and have been slapped down more than once for doing so, which is unfortunate because I keep being proved right on this front.
There's this strange, unfortunate thing where an MP or MPPs' staff are paid for out of the taxpayer's pocket but theoretically answerable to a Political Party. When a local issue comes into conflict with the Grand Plan of the Party, who are staff supposed to be answerable to? Politicians can write letters of recommendation, but particularly when their home ridings are far away, it's the Party who has the most influence over a young staffer's future career options. Good standing with a Party can open doors just as quickly as bad blood can close them, even if over issues that matter to the actual boss' constituents.
What emerges is the exact same problem that has been identified within our government bureaucracies; we end up with a message-heavy, top-down culture from Party to Member to Staff that reduces individual agency and ability to actively participate the further down you get.
As entitlement and a sense of corporate ownership settles in with the partisans at the top (and gets passed on to successive partisan staff who may have less connectivity and experience than their predecessors), collaboration and communication with (as opposed to messaging to) the front line occurs. Power and position become the defining factors of influence rather than actual skill or competency.
This is why we get to a place where new, untrained and inexperienced front-line staff are considered "dumb" and "useless" by political operatives who've worked their way up the chain largely because of their willingness to do what it takes to grow their personal brand within partisan infrastructure. These people assume they need to take more control and be even tougher on the people at the bottom, while simultaneously having zero time to engage with them - they're too busy and too important for that sort of thing.
What happens when you have a system that, from the top down consists of people who feel entitled and expect to be obeyed rather than collaborated with? You end up with a dysfunctional culture where ideas that aren't relevant to the grassroots or realistic in their ability to be implemented are punted down the ladder, good ideas and real-world situational awareness from the ground up is ignored and people all the way down the food chain feel disenfranchised, unappreciated and disinterested in doing anything more than the absolute basics.
This is why political parties continuously fall around the ten-year mark; it's at this stage that the top-down culture has become so entrenched and that it simply ceases to function.
It's beyond tragic that, in a day and age where successful organizational models ranging from firms like Amazon to Environics are available, our Political Parties (and far too many Members, Candidates and riding associations) still think that a feudal, authoritarian model is the best way to get results. It clearly isn't, nor is it sustainable.
I have pitched the idea of staff empowerment and training, MP organizational and appropriate HR training and even the idea of legislation to better clarify the organizational accountability between staff, Members, the Party and the Legislature to political operatives more than once.
It's a damned shame they're too busy and too important to listen.
Thursday, 3 April 2014
Why Government Can't Function Like a Business, Continued
When we compare that with the current process, Canadians are essentially being called upon to convince the minister, Pierre Poilievre, to change his mind when it is already made up - an exercise that is pointless and fruitless.
Not every solution involves a hammer, but the Intelligencer hit the nail on the head here.
Laissez-faire capitalism relies on everyone serving their own selfish interests. That means those without power, wealth or access tot he levers of government have to push even harder to raise their concerns with those who hold actual clout.
That would be fine if everyone was a sales-oriented predator, but they're not. Society couldn't function if everyone was an alpha - if we're all selfishly taking and selling, who's providing and developing?
Rob Ford wants two-stop subways and an island airport expansion, full stop. He doesn't care about facts that challenge his positions and sees everyone who points out the flaws and gaps of his logic as an opponent. Push to get ahead, step on those in your way - that's how business works, right?
The same is true from the opposite direction in the case of John Tory's golf gaffe. As a boss, Tory expects the people working for him to dedicate some of their precious, paid-for work time pushing him for raises and spending even more scarce personal time sucking up to him on the golf course.
Instead of, you know, actually visiting them from time to time and seeing what and how they're doing himself.
Tory's version is how our system works, which is why that system is failing.
Leadership isn't about sitting at the top of the hill and fighting off all challengers until someone beats you; it's about building a platform that raises everyone to their maximum potential in a coordinated, efficient way.
Evolution isn't and never has been about survival of the strongest - that's a myth society's aggressive people feel is true and clearly have a stake in perpetuating. Missing from their equation is the concept of symbiosis - a pretty important feature of any ecosystem that you can miss if you keep your blinders on.
In an ever-changing world, it's that which is best able to adapt (and integrate) which survives. Where does adaptation come from? From diversity, including of skills, abilities and perspectives.
Society doesn't and can't work if everyone is competing with each other all the time. That's why the larger any society grows, the more specialized and collaborative it's people become.
Can the functionally fixed pseudo tough-guys like Rob Ford or Pierre Poilievre get that notion into their beans? Probably not - they don't appear to be cognitively flexible enough to change their views.
Which is why they will ultimately be left behind.
It's a social evolutionary thing.
Disney Bold and Open: Something to Marvel At
"It's almost like we have a built-in GPS system for storytelling," Disney exec Bob Iger said, adding: "They live and breathe Marvel full time just like the Pixar folks live and breathe Pixar full time."
Do I fully believe that Marvel has a mapped-out plan for movie into 2028? Absolutely. Do I think it's fully populated with detailed content down to the characters to be highlighted and Easter Eggs to be embedded? Not in the slightest.
But that isn't the point - that's no the genius of this announcement. By creating even a framework that lets them credibly encourage fans to imagine a temporal journey into an expanding universe with them, Marvel has given them cause to voice their thoughts on who and what they'd like to see on the big screen.
This, folks, is what's known as co-designing. It's a bit like parenting - do parents ever get bored of watching their kids grow up? Nope. When you invest so much of your time and energy into a product, a brand or an individual, it becomes an extension of you - literally, you live through it.
I've been watching Disney with a suspicious eye ever since they cancelled The Clone Wars, but as it is emerging that they've thought their actions through, taken into account various fan bases and are really interested in sustained profit through an ongoing relationship instead of a series of bombastic one-offs, they're starting to win my trust.
Bob Iger was wise to reference Pixar, because that's a firm audiences have come to trust, too. We know the folk at Pixar are as invested in their creations as we are, meaning they will always, always focus on the little value-added pieces that turn products into experiences.
Disney has Star Wars, too - and is bringing it back to life in a massive, carefully-orchestrated way.
Marvel and Star Wars? Frozen and Pixar?
Theme parks, toys, teacher resources, Corporate Social Responsibility?
Re-read that last one. Disney, along with firms like Microsoft, is a world-leader in social support and sustainability.
Disney is providing massive amounts of content through various platforms, each honest to their own unique brand and loyal to their own customer bases, yet integrated into one seamless, efficient, powerful whole. It's like a random bunch of blocks put together through collaboration to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Their partners trust them. Partners who produce content that countless fans around the world love and believe in. By empowering their team members, Disney is giving their new end-users cause to trust them, too. It's funny how that happens.
Just imagine that government worked that way. Heck, Disney could even help support the movement that will get us there.
"You've become part of a bigger universe, you just don't know it yet."
Fair Elections Act, Fair Game: Reap What You Sow
"And if that independence from government is attacked or is viewed as not being there, I really think those institutions lose the credibility and the respect that they have from the public. And then if people start to doubt about the elections process, where does that leave us in this country?
"In this era when everybody's talking about increased transparency and accountability, why would they not be subject to some kind of audit?"
Is the Fair Elections Act a sneaky, not-so-subtle ploy to rejig the way our electoral system works in their favour? Or is it a misguided attempt to fix problems the Tories feel exists within our system and they're simply too stubborn to realize they're wrong?
Probably a bit of both, with heavy leanings on the former. Remember - this is the Conservative Government whose leader misrepresent an opposition coalition as illegal and whose House Leader threatened to ignore the Constitutional process by "going over the heads of" Parliament, to whom Government is legally accountable.
Which is the underlying story in this. Folk like Vic Toews, Dean del Mastro and Pierre Poilievre have a certain mindset which has made them valuable attack-dogs for Stephen Harper. They all believe that strength and superiority are the only virtues that matter. They could care less about Harper's former vision of a Conservative Canada with greater independence for all - they're all about Empire and the entitlement that comes with it.
All else is justification.
The biggest failing of their perspective is that they've made the assumptions that all the Canadians who matter feel the same way as they do. Del Mastro felt violated by Elections Canada because he got caught breaking the rules in the same way Rob Ford feels violated for the press exploring his law-breaking ways. Poilievre has taken extreme relish in the message-focused, fact-ignoring riposte of Question Period and Press Scrums, assuming that the Canadians who matter like the fact that he's hard-nosed and admire him for it.
This is a Party that has fallen from grace. It's strayed far from the path Preston Manning laid out not that long ago.
The newer faces in the crowd, however, don't care. They're no longer interested in shrinking government; they're focused on consolidating power and control.
Should we be concerned about this alarming trend? Yes and no.
Yes, in that all the critics are right; the Fair Elections Act, like closed committee meetings, withheld information, increased micro-management by government of the agencies meant to provide transparency and technical oversight of political decisions before it, are damaging to the well-being of our democracy and the sustainability of our country.
But this is a trend that started before the Harper Tories took power and looks likely to continue after they're gone, too. That's part of the structural problem no Political Party has yet addressed, because they have become the problem. Parliament and Government are Church and State - they're meant to be separate entities. How can Parliament hold Government to account when Government is dominated by Parliamentarians? It can't work.
Which is why there is long-term promise in the way the Poilievres of the world are undermining the system we have. They don't see it - they're not practicing the lessons of Sun-tzu - but they are actually helping to catalyze the replacement of this system with something else.
By making it harder for the average Canadian to even pretend they have a system that represent their best interests, the likes of Poilievre are simply encouraging more Canadians to decide the only way to protect their interests is to go over the heads of Parliament and Government itself.
Occupy was a lot of noise without action, but it rattled cages. Idle No More had (has) some teeth. Despite the fact it has been infiltrated by government agencies like the FBI, Anonymous is still keeping a watchful eye on miscarriages of justice. And the Open Data movement is looking to open government from the inside out.
If control, dominance and fire superiority (costly attack ads) are the Conservative Government's priorities, they're going to find themselves stamping down harder on a growing number of foes, which is a slippery slope for any government to walk. But the same will hold true for any other Party looking to wrest the reigns of power from the Tories.
If you're paying attention, things are looking worrisome right now as far as the health of our democracy goes. They'll get downright frightening before enough people are motivated enough to do something about it. When that happens, though, there is already a legitimate, democratic movement underway to replace our ancient system.
Not everyone will want to take the slow road of structural change, though. Some will just want to make someone pay for the injustices they feel.
At that point, Government and Parliament both will have a choice - lump all the change-seekers together in one group and declare war on all of them (which would be a big mistake) or opt to work with those actually trying to help them.
You reap what you sow. Right now, the Conservatives are clear-cutting democracy; fortunately, there are others who have already planted the seeds of a responsible society.
Spring is coming to Canada, and it's about time.
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Civic Engagement Game Theory
It's even possible, he suggests, to make civic involvement look more like "Farmville" or an online game - the "Citizenville" of the title. While he positions this idea as more of a metaphor than something that should be pushed into reality, he repeatedly suggests that a "mashup of gaming and civic engagement," powered by "real physical rewards," could get people to interact more fully with their communities.
I'd agree with that.
In fact, I've been promoting such a hub world for a while now. I may even have a slide deck or two lying around with visualizations of how such a platform could look, what forms the rewards could take and why this platform would generate traffic and facilitate collaboration.
As for how to address the clay-layer in the bureaucracy and win-focus of the political class, I may have suggested plans for that, too.
Autism Speaks For All
An estimated one in 88 Ontarians is on the autism spectrum, a developmental disorder that affects communication and social interaction. They can have a range of abilities and needs, including extreme anxiety, narrow but intense interests, and repetitive or disturbing behaviours such as self-harm.
"For years we have been hearing from families about the gap around mental health services, meaningful vocation, housing and daily activities," said Marg Spolestra of Autism Ontario, the province's largest parent advocacy organization. "All of it needs to be addressed. And now we have clear evidence to back up those concerns."
Meet Jacob Barnett. Jacob is a 16 year-old genius touted as a successor to the likes of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Jacob is also a disruptive leader, challenging our educational model (and he's hardly the only one). Plus, he's the star of a popular Ted Talk and has been on the Glenn Beck show.
Oh, yeah - and he's autistic. Didn't learn to speak for ages, but when he did, spoke in multiple languages, including physics.
If Jacob had been forced to learn in a traditional manner, apply for jobs in a traditional manner and compete with more "normal" communicators for those positions, he'd likely be a failure, costing the healthcare system and/or impeding his family from their own economic contribution. Whole families have been brought down this way.
But because his mom, Kristine Barnett, paid attention to the cues she got from her son and worked to support his growth and development in a way that worked for him, Jacob is now poised to change the world.
There's a lesson in here about how we identify and manage "mental illness" and "developmental disorders" that we are painfully slow in learning.
Where it comes to all things cognition, we're still tying left hands behind backs and trying to force people to right strictly with their right.
We want people to think and act in one way - laissez-faire, competitive, sales-oriented and succeed through one frame. We expect outliers to sell themselves to us without any effort on our part.
It doesn't work.
Right now, there are cognitive outliers out there working in mail rooms or living on the street, struggling to come to terms with a cognitive gift they can't see as anything other than a curse as work opportunities and relationships pass them by. Some of these people, given the right tools and support, could cure cancer, remodel government or develop an eco-friendly, completely sustainable energy source. Who knows? We never will, because we're not prepared to listen to them.
At the same time, we have "normal" people becoming less productive, less social and more likely to suffer from illness because we're designing work and work places wrong. A bit of design thinking could fix all this, but that's too much like committing sociology, isn't it?
There's nothing more frustrating than watching people flail in the dark when there's light available.
But try explaining that to the overconfident people in The Cave.
Do The Right Thing: Solving The Wrong Problem
If that spring campaign fails to produce a clear winner with a majority of seats, Ontario could be plunged into a contentious post-election scenario as rival party leaders vie to form the next government. Against that backdrop of increasing uncertainty, Prime minister Stephen Harper's plans to replace Lieutenant-Governor David Onley have been placed on hold.
There are so many smart, competent people on all sides of the political divide right now. Most of them have no training to do the jobs they're technically tasked with doing (and receiving partisan pressure to do a different job besides) but the latent potential is staggering.
Add to this an Ontario Public Service on the early edge of transformational change, with many of the functionally fixed players weaned on the ways of government during the tail end of the Industrial Age retiring and making way for a new generation that's grown up with social media and a whole new way of engaging.
Yet it all goes squirrely when it political sales and power comes into the question.
We have budgets designed as campaign platforms being released in advance by political aides through one-off announcements, yet preemptively being leaked by disgruntled bureaucrats sending not-so-subtle signals that they're not willing to be treated like trained seals, as they have been under successive governments for decades.
I keep hearing from the smart people at the top of the political ladder "you have to identify the right problem if you want to find the correct solution," yet they keep ignoring their own advice.
Look, I get it - politics is about winning, power, the corner office, so on and so forth. Yay, power.
But the people in those corner offices have at least some inkling to how influenced they are by the people who put them in power - political organizers and funders in the private sector with their own agendas at play. So, being in power isn't the be-all and end-all because you're still beholden to someone else.
And it's even messier - Parties are beholden to stakeholders, MPPs are beholden to Parties, but also constituents. Often these interests don't add up. When you have a Member (or candidate) forced to choose sides between Party platform (and Party support) or constituent concerns (and actual votes) you can't but end up with at least a partial analysis paralysis.
Look at the budget documents and platforms we're getting. They are all check-lists of one-off projects or funding designed to appease a given stakeholder group. There are no carefully-research structural reforms, cross-Ministerial service studies or revisions to internal operation with an eye towards making what exists now work better.
Political Parties are throwing starfish back in the ocean one at a time while tens of thousands of others are left to bake in the sun.
We have completely forgotten the whole point of Political Parties in the Legislature - it's not so that they can fight for power and dominate the agenda with one perspective or the other, it's so that they can find balanced solutions that represent the best interests of varied constituencies.
That's been lost. It's been lost largely because our system was never designed to have Parliamentarians in Cabinet in the first place.
We can keep at this merry-go-round of political-pendulum swinging, but the people are starting to get motion sick and want off the ride. That includes the politicians themselves.
The problem we face isn't that one Party is more corrupt than the other, more beholden than the other. It's that our entire system is antiquated and inadequate to meet the demands of today, from the political operation all the way down to how the front line of public service is supported.
Potential solutions exist. Whole new processes are available. Inside and outside government, there are good people who aren't entrenched in the system who are ready, willing and able to work with whoever to fix the real, structural problems that are gumming up our provincial works.
But they need people on the other side willing to work with them. And that means recognizing that being in power isn't the solution - empowering the people is.
Not by handing them fish, not by throwing them in the deep-end, but by building trust, sharing information and re-designing the process with their input, every step of the way.
We've lost our responsible government. It's time for a peaceful revolution paving the way for an Open Government serving as a social synapse for a responsible society.
Political Parties can continue to position each other as the problem, or they can collaborate with the rest of us on the solution.
That's their ballot question to consider. And they will be held to account for their choices.
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