Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cuts this deep require model change - and a platform approach

There is much talk within UK Government of using digital means to reduce costs. Reducing costs is what this government does. Or at least attempts to.

When the discussion is about the use of digital means the focus is usually on delivery of existing (or reduced) services or benefits - providing a replacement, lower cost customer interface when compared with bricks and mortar offices. (Image courtesy sjsharktank)

Essentially what they are seeking to do is deliver the same old same old at a lower cost. Efficiencies. Hopefully.

But as those with long expertise and experience in business will tell you, the kind of cuts, the kind of savings our current Government is trying to make don't happen without a significant change to the model, too.

So it's time they stopped looking at driving people online to do what they used to do in offices and instead use the advantages of online to develop new models in keeping with the network.

A great example. Fellow Twitter user @siliconglen and I were discussing 'the cuts' this morning when he suggested there should be some kind of site where the 500,000 public sector people who will be put out of work by these cuts could be helped - where they could pool resources and skills.

This is a very different kind of digital thinking than applied by the Government in its channel management focus. This is platform thinking.

Imagine a site where users register their all important meta data - ie their skills, their interests, their location, their resources - where users pitch ideas to each other, aggregating support, pulling together teams with the right key sets and who, thanks to redundancy payments, may even be able to provide seed funding for the idea. Augtomated cross matching could bring together new groups focused around their shared purpose.

Self-organised, self-starting, highly-motivated businesses launched from the ashes of job cuts - perhaps supported with matching funds by the Government for those ideas reaching a critical level of support. People building things they believe in - and which others believe in, too.

Yes, I appreciate there are elements of this model distributed here and there throughout the web. Places where seed investors are matched with entrepreneurs. Places where ideas are pitched and communities vote. Places where people log their interests and skills. Places where their assets are listed.

What may be necessary is a selection of the essential elements and a distillation into one functioning whole. Hell, some of those cast aside in the spending review could probably do the build. People could share skills and retrain each other through it, too.

With a relatively small investment and a grip on the realities of our self-forming future, the Government could inspire a new self-organising style of entrepreneurial business - contributing to the economy, creating new things and new value - matching real needs. Instead of standing by and keeping fingers crossed that the existing private sector will take up the slack - or even watching helplessly as the unemployed become a long term cost.

Of course this would become valuable not just to the 500,000 public sector folk at risk - but also to all those whose jobs may tumble in the cascade around those public services. In fact, any one could join.

That's Big Society, Dave. Writ large
As I've often said, the future isn't digital - it is self-organised.

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  1. Wow! Lets build it.. Sounds like a really good, fun, project. Appeals to my sense of decency and progress. I'm gonna RT this - it's a great idea!

  2. Thanks for the support and enthusiasm. Let's see if we can't find some more :-)

  3. Hi David - Alun Baker (@alunbaker) has spent the past two years building a platform that aims to do much of what you suggest. His team is launching it publicly this week - Your thoughts on WYGU would be most welcome.

  4. Hi Tim, I have to say that doesn't really look like what I have in mind at all. It's very focused on the individual career rather than creating new businesses from individuals with great skills and resources. No?

  5. David,

    I think you have two overlapping good ideas here rather than one as I feel that the 50,000 will split very unevenly into those who just want to get back into satifying work and those with a passion for delivering specific public services.

    The former would be looking for ways to re-skill and get back to any suitable satisfying work. The latter would be looking for ways to exploit their knowledge and networks to work in the same space but in a very different way.

    There is also the 'dead cat bounce' effect in that the cuts will undoubtedly get rid of too many of the high value people and there will be a need to buy back their time in some way.

  6. Hi Gerald, I think there may be many use cases - those who want to get back into satisfying work; those who want to find others to deliver public services with passion, and those who want to create something new with the skills they have.
    The first group may find they become the second but they would also in a very good place to learn about the skills they need and to identify what 'satisfying' means to them.

  7. Great idea, but none of this brave new world will happen if we don't get rid of the legacy phone network and the copper cabal which is preventing decent access to a third of the population and over half of the uk land mass. People won't go online if all they see is timeouts, and many are still on dial up, with no mobile coverage either. Yes. In this day and age!. Despite what the telcos say and the useless quango called OFCOM.
    Many can't get online...
    Just sayin.
    chris ;)


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?