Much has been made in the press of Dominic Cummings and his desire to appoint ‘weirdos’ to all parts of the Civil Service. I have a couple of articles written a while ago about being a rebel and also appointing them. If you are interested read Harnessing The Power Of Rebels and Become A Rebel And Boost Your Career.
Dominic Cummings ‘vision will never happen for a number of reasons.
First of all Whitehall moves more slowly than an oil tanker, and to force it to do so would not just dismantle the machinery that keeps the UK running, it would put a giant bomb underneath it.
Secondly, and more importantly, creativity cannot be left to work on its own, unless of course, you live in a commune. All creative environments have very carefully crafted ‘containers’ to nurture the creativity and also extract the output of the creative processes. In an organisation this can be hard, but in Whitehall?
Finally, what is his strategy for doing this? Will he have a large sports hall full of weirdos all throwing in their ideas or will he replace many of the people in the Whitehall machinery with his alternative thinking recruits? Too many weirdos and he risks replacing one ‘establishment’ with another.
True creativity comes from a tension (think straight vs funny in comedy) and making use of that requires people with a true understanding of the problem, not just a love of sound bites.
I cannot deny that Whitehall does deserve a bit of a shakeup but there needs to be an end goal. Whitehall is a machine that does things (like run the country) it is not a playground or a think tank. The job in hand is not unlike trying to tune a racing car whilst it is being driven around a race track.
Maybe a good plan is to start small by picking a government department that is small and possibly relatively new. Try moulding that, by introducing new ways of working and create a pilot (or prototype as some innovators might say). Then play some more.
To be truly creative the Whitehall structures would need to be fluid and I’m not sure that government is ready for that just yet.
Lastly, I have one further thought. Exactly how is this to be done? Scope it, put it out to procurement and you will simply get a spec for a very large and expensive change program which will see the big consultancy boys in lunches for a long time and will be no different from what has gone before. After all, they probably ran the last change program!!
Readers will be thinking that although I promote Creativity and Innovation I am simply rubbishing the ideas of Dominic Cummings. The civil service requires reform, it does not require complete anarchy.
I remain both hopeful and sceptical that something at least a little weird will happen.