Mindworks’ Weblog

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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Cometh the hour

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 29, 2008

An imaginary President

An imaginary President

I’ve just been watching Obama addressing a crowd live in the US following the House of Representatives’ rejection of Bush’s Wall Street bail-out plan. 

He was doing a good job, but he could have done better. He persists in using long words like ‘philosophy’ which, to my mind, is a bad idea when you’re addressing people in the Flyover States whose votes you need. He must have said it five times.

Jed Bartlet would never make that mistake. If only Jed, Josh, Toby, CJ and the rest were actually in the White House. Bartlet was a Nobel laureate in economics, no less.  He would have known exactly what to do. And he also had the common touch. He knew that when the President addressed the nation he needed to imagine that he was sitting in a bar with Homer Simpson and his chums, explaining how to put the world to rights.

A typical American voter

A typical American voter

Obama also needs to tell some stories and to use analogies that people will understand. My infants/teacher/delicious sweets story, for example (see below) to illustrate how the current US administration left Wall Street to regulate itself.  

So, stories and simple words.  Verbs optional.  Varied sentence length.  And, usually, one idea per sentence.  Plus idioms: words they use, not words you use.  ‘Big Idea’ not ‘philosophy’: ‘Bush’s big idea was to let Wall Street run itself.  That was it. That was his big idea.’

Words are powerful, but the gaps in between and pacing are just as important.  Long gaps, sometimes.  Listen to Churchill who not only used pauses to great effect but also used some very long sentences, almost stories in themselves, broken up by dramatic pauses.  The gaps are needed to let it sink in and, vitally, to let them complete your thoughts for you.  It’s in their heads that this is lost or won, not yours.  Everything Is Psychology.

He knows all this really, but in the heat of the moment he forgets it.  So if Senator Obama would like to hire me to join his team I’m available at very reasonable rates. Certainly less than the $2,000,000 that McCain’s top advisor was paid to ‘help financial giants avoid regulations‘. Contact details are in the left side bar when you’re ready, Senator.

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Time, please

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 4, 2008

A hostage taker

A hostage taker

I’d really like to post about two TLAs: CBT and NLP.  Regular readers will know what TLA and CBT stand for.  NLP is Neuro Linguistic Programming.  I’m not a fan of NLP (someone once tried to sell me something using some crude NLP techniques: nothing has ever made me angrier!) but many people are, and I’d like to compare and contrast the two approaches.  When I’ve completed my retail product – just one final push needed – I’ll get back to that.

Meanwhile, I see that the Whitehall Innovation Hub’s Google listing has finally overtaken mine.  Simon Dickson’s post is still one place ahead of them, and Google currently shows an extract of my comment on Simon’s post ‘not entirely sure why it’s a ‘Whitehall’ innovation ‘hub’ etc.’

Let’s hope they start innovating very soon.  The Chancellor’s attempt to drive the economy into recession even faster than it was already heading in that direction can’t have made him very popular with his next door neigbour, IMO.

Do you think, incidentally, that Darling might have been a victim of Stockholm syndrome, when he made those remarks?  Snuggled up around a peat fire with the lovely Decca Aitkenhead (see photo), perhaps sipping on a dram or two of a fine single malt (make mine a Laphroaig, if you’re buying), he’d not only been taken hostage by the enemy (as his former boss, T Blair, clearly saw journalists) but had begun to show signs of, er, loyalty to the hostage taker.

No doubt it’ll all come out in his memoirs, which he should be able to start writing fairly soon.  As Charles Clarke has pointed out, many Labour politicians are going to have a lot of spare time on their hands in the not too distant future.

If I had any confidence in any of the alternatives to New Labour I’d be happier, but – as I’ve pointed out before – it’s not the people who are at fault: the system is broken.  As the late, great, Douglas Adams almost said, the last people who should be put in positions of power are those who ask to be there.  We need a system that puts people who at least have some of the leadership qualities needed by those at the top of government.  Darling, Brown and – increasingly, I feel – Milliband ain’t got ’em.

There aren’t political points. I’m a management consultant.  I hate seeing things badly managed, whether it’s Dell’s online ordering system (of which more anon), hotels or the country.  If the UK were a major corporation shareholders would be calling, very urgently, for its board to be replaced.  As it is, the current crowd are going to stagger on for as long as they possibly can, as they system allows them to do, like a group of wounded wildebeest hunted by some very hungry lions.   And, as I say, the method we have for replacing the current board doesn’t guarantee that we’ll get a better team next time around.

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Power to the people?

Posted by Andrew Cooper on July 30, 2008

See if you can find anything wrong with this idea.

Careful, now...

Careful now: no premature evaluation please.

I have, for some time, felt that the machinery of government in the UK isn’t in the best possible shape.  It isn’t ‘fit for purpose’, to use a phrase currently favoured by politicians.

Here’s my proposed and, I think you’ll agree, flawless solution.

First of all we, reader, start a new political party.  Let’s call it the Systems Party until we can think of something better.  We only make one promise in our manifesto: if we are elected we will abolish the current system of representative democracy and replace it with what I suggest we call the ‘It Could be You!’ system.  We’ll need to provide a short explanation of what we mean, obviously.  Something like this, perhaps:

“When you elect us, we will pass a law that does away with elections and replaces them with a means of selecting MPs that is much like the jury system that has served us so well for hundreds of years.  The MPs who have been elected by conventional means will – by law – have to stand down and new MPs will be selected randomly from the population.  They will be asked to serve for a year or two (we’ll fill in the fine details during our first – and last – debate as conventionally elected MPs).  Each MP selected under the new system will be paid, let’s say, £100,000 a year and will receive the same whopping expenses and pensions that our current MPs have so selflessly awarded themselves.  Just think: that new kitchen or plasma screen TV you’ve been wishing for could at last be a reality! And there’d be no problem if you wanted to employ your relatives as assistants!

Your job, if you have one, will be held open by law and the state will provide home-helps and child care for those who need them.  Plus you get a car, but you won’t really need it because most of the business of government (debates, voting, committees etc.) will be done online so that you can work from wherever you like.  During Parliamentary recesses you will, like existing MPs, have extensive opportunities for foreign travel on what we will call ‘study tours’ and ‘fact finding missions’ but which are, in fact, nice holidays. Vote SP! It Could Be You!”

I have discussed this idea in numerous pubs and haven’t found a single objection which can’t be rebutted very easily.  The most common difficulty people have is along the lines that ‘most people are pretty stupid and you wouldn’t want to put them in charge with anything”.  I profoundly disagree with that sentiment,  As I’ve mentioned a number of times here, we all have 100 billion neuron brains, give or take, and if some people have been convinced that they are stupid, a little CBT should fix that (“I am stupid” really is a toxic thought and needs to be replaced with “I am just as capable as anyone else if I put my mind to it”.)  Some of the cleverest people I’ve met have done very mundane jobs.  I think it’s because they get a lot of time to think and don’t have their minds cluttered with things like staff appraisals, going to meetings, attending management workshops or reading and receiving emails.  There’s also firm evidence that we can all be really good if we want.

My single biggest problem with the existing system, to be mildly serious for a moment, is that it’s destructive.  The whole basis of adversarial debate is premature evaluation.  Whatever the other party says is, by definition, worthless and its people are incompetent good-for-nothings who you wouldn’t trust to make a decent cup of tea.  If businesses were run like this they’d fall apart immediately.  Much of government should be about creating:  developing new ideas, working out how to solve problems, getting people excited about possibilities and persuading them to work together to achieve them.  The rest should be about enabling what’s in place tpp work as well as possible, rather than tinkering the whole time as politicians, partly due to my Law of Infinite Complexity, are inclined to do.

All political parties (see this, this and this) say that they are in favour of involving ordinary people in the business of government: giving them more say in and influence over the things that affect their wellbeing.  But our highly centralised system, which is still dominated by the Treasury, doesn’t allow real power (i.e. power over resource allocation) to be devolved away from the centre.

Of course there are countries which are run on lines which are not entirely dissimilar to this.  Sweden and Switzerland are examples, of course, in spite of the fact that they appear to have political parties.

During the course of the aforementioned in-pub discussions I’ve developed numerous glosses on the idea of the Systems Party: ways in which the system would be organised and structured to ensure that problems and policies were properly discussed and thought about.  And, once again, technology could really help here; see this, for example.

At the very least, people would vote for the SP because they’d think it would be worth a try: surely (in spite of Winston Churchill’s sentiments to the contrary) it couldn’t be any worse.  Plus they’d get a chance to win an excellent remuneration package and, as a free bonus, there would be no more interviews with politicians in the media.

I’m only thinking of introducing this in England, of course.  People in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would have to decide whether they wanted their own Systems Parties.  But, like most English people I know, I think that full independence has to be a good thing, particularly once we’ve worked out how to collaborate on issues like defence and transport.

I’m actually a bit busy right now, reader, so if you would like to have a go at setting this up I will give you my full backing.  I suggest the first step should be for you to hire a really popular and charismatic actor to be the party’s figurehead: an approach which has been shown to work well in the USA.  They’d only have to do the job until the new system is voted through, so it shouldn’t be too expensive.  I don’t  think we could go with Clint, fun though that might be, but Dawn French and/or David Tennant, perhaps? Or maybe Patrick Stuart reprising his Jean-Luc Picard..  Now, there was a real leader.

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