A few months ago, I went to an event hosted by the Behavioural Insights Team, also known as the Nudge Unit. They are in the business of trying to “apply behavioural insights in support of social purpose goals”. A practical example would be by prompting people to join the Organ Donor Register using reciprocity messages (‘if you needed an organ, would you take one?’), which added 100,000 people to the register in one year. Clever stuff.
The group was celebrating its new home, and successful transition from being part of Government to being a limited company, housed within Nesta.
The team talked a little about the origins of the unit, and made reference to a recommendation by one of its founders, David Halpern, that a future Government should set up such an organisation.
My mind began to wander as I wondered what sort of unit might be needed today…
I think I know…
It strikes me that the single most powerful thing you can do to solve a problem is to introduce two people.
Some people excel at this – we call them connectors.
We need a Connector Unit.
This Connector Unit would do a series of useful things;
1) Map. Who is already connected and to whom? It would do this using a range of tools, including Twitter and LinkedIn. Why? Partly to understand who the super-connectors are within a sector or industry and cultivate those relationships. Mostly to understand who isn’t connected, and, where useful, to do something about it. My strong hunch is that Government is not currently doing this in any sophisticated way.
2) Make introductions. Day by day, pair by pair, the unit would identify, and connect. All introductions would be tracked over time, using a tool like Intros.to, and would come with the appropriate health warnings – by making a connection, the unit would not be guaranteeing that all due diligence on both parties had been carried out.
3) Ask Questions. What problems are people facing and who would they like to meet? By more clearly understanding the challenges people face, we can be better connectors.
We know that creative breakthroughs occur when people from different worlds connect. We know that connectors are valuable. And yet we put up with the ongoing complaints that “things just aren’t joined up”, “people don’t talk to each other” and “everything happens in silos”.
The process of connecting is too fundamental and game-changing to be left to a few generous souls. It needs a dedicated unit. In time, all civil servants will receive tips on making useful introductions.
Where in Government could you start such a thing?
Might this be a future spin out?
I’d welcome your thoughts on this.
My own hunch is that you wouldn’t start it within Government at all.
You’d start outside, independent and entrepreneurial.
You’d prove your worth, show value and build trust.
Then you’d spin it in.