The Connector Unit

The Connector Unit

Pont Laviolette

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,  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.




5 Replies to “The Connector Unit”

  1. Love it. I share your hunch. Not in government. This is a federation model not a central one. And the beautiful thing about connecting (especially the way you do it) is it is voluntary, open and not over directed. Three things governments don’t excel at. I’d say the government actually needs to BE connected (to civic society, youth, NGO sector) rather than connector.

    When we get to actually connecting let me tell you about the work I am doing to create highly connective experiences that are bringing unusual groups together – for rethinking banking, town planning, workplace, healthcare. It just seems to be happening. The moose is loose!

  2. Interesting idea.
    You’ve seen the stuff that Robyn and Hamish did at
    Be worth picking their brains.

    Agree about being external to government.

    Worth thinking about how you’d measure the value and who might actually pay. My suspicion is this is harder than it first appears

  3. Oli, great content as always and I LOVE Nudge, the example you gave is a good one, I also like the one used in Schipol Airport in the gents loos where they placed an image f a fly for men to aim at and cut their leaning costs down so much – you chaps are so easily led!!!

    Nudge is such a gentle concept, you get it, I get it, but many of the more aggressive, impatient and less long term focused people almost can’t get it

    Government, well, I know Mr Cameron is a fan of Nudge, but not sure where it is being implemented, it requires a really deep passion to make change and never sure if any Politician has that time

    Love and hugs and thank you for sharing

  4. @pennypower said you needed a little feedback…

    Back in the day her & Thomas led the way with Ecademy… now LinkedIn has the “Power” and for a healthy fee you get to see how your whole team connects to the world and how best to access… one big map 😉

    @imoyse has used LinkedIn & other social channels to great effect in leading his latest award winning CRM business to greater recognition by the day…

    Bottom line on all this is however huge something appears… when you drill down there are like 3 people in a town connected… so the reality is the local density isn’t there… you need to create that by town, topic or whatever criteria you decide… a focused hub…

    Forget civil servants… they are either playing safe and thinking I get a pension after I’ve given my life to this… or they have black spots on their souls and do you really want to hang with them?

    I’ve worked out my own model with some numbers attached to keep Henry happy… plagiarise as you feel fit… I only have energy for 1 great piece of art 😉

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