I know a guy that has moved his family to Italy, so his children would grow up with a bit of culture in them. The driver was his increasing belief that his kids were evolving into something he’d like to shoo off his lawn. And no, he’s not of Italian descent and neither’s his wife. He just thought that spending a couple of years in Europe would do the family the world of good. He occasionally posts on line to Tumlbr, with a blog called “Shit I Learned – things you pick up on the way” I like the title, because it reflects how I feel about my journey.
Anyway, one of the things I reckon I have learnt along the way – is that the closer a solution maps to real life, the less problems you find you have. I use this as a guide for when coming up with solutions. Whenever a process or proposed solution starts to feel a bit too abstract or too complex or too removed from people’s actual motivations – I ask myself what’s really happening here? Is this how real life works? Are the general steps the same, and the motivations and goals aligned?
For instance, in one of Flinders Pacific projects, we get bonuses paid on our assessment of what is the likely outcome of our marketing efforts, at both one and three years in the future. The bonus gets paid today, but the auditing of our performance won’t happen for several years – by which time we are likely to be long gone. This arrangement doesn’t particularly well “map to real life”. Although unsurprisingly, I don’t complain.
However this belief in arrangements being more effective and robust when they “map to real life” made me excited when I heard about some arrangements in the innovation area in Finland. Göran Roos, who’s currently in Australia, is the chair of the VTT which a bit like Finland’s version of the CSIRO. It employs around 3,000 researchers to come up with cool ideas in a variety of domains. The VTT’s underlying purpose is one that I find highly attractive. Its objective is to come up with technical innovations to improve the competitive performance of Finnish industry.
But the bit I love, the bit that maps to real life so much better than our arrangements, is that is performance is not judged by itself, Government Ministers or their staff – its performance is actually judged by Finnish industry, its customers! Who better to assess your performance than the customer.
Despite the fact that we consider ourselves to be a clever country, it kinds of makes me wish that our government had learnt this along the way. CSIRO, NICTA, the CRC’s and in fact any government funded research agency would surely benefit by being judged by their customers.