The Hidden Power
Where is the Power? With Ed Straw
This episode introduces the experience and current thinking of my co-presenter, Ed Straw.
We talk about his journey from being an engineering graduate to consulting at the heart of Westminster, how he encountered power and the confusion surrounding it.
Then we get into his current thinking - he’s now a research fellow at the Open University’s Applied Systems Thinking in Practice Group, and has found in Systems Thinking many effective responses to issues that have plagued governments down the decades.
The (full podcast!) story of General Motors' collaboration with Toyota is a great rehearsal of how systemic change can work, and the relevant challenges:
W. Edwards Demming, genius behind Japanese revolution in manufacturing:
and that revolution:
Relevance of Drawing the Boundary to Systems Thinking:
The Compassionate Frome Project:
DAD and EDD:
Ed's story, told in more length and depth on Survival of the Kindest:
Real world example in Australia:
View all episodes
New Podcast: The Hidden Power03:14New release date - Saturday October 10th - Episode 1, Ed Straw on the Hidden Power.We live in confusing times - and a lot of that confusion is about where power lies. With Ed Straw, former chair of Demos and consultant to government, & Philip Tottenham.In 2017 the UN, the WHO and the OECD all called for the use of Systems Thinking to deal with highly complex problems. But what does that mean?In Series 1 "Proof of Concept" we explore power - power in terms traditional ideas about it, and in terms of beneficial impact on the ground - and hear from people thinking and operating at the leading edge of where beneficial impact is taking place.
2. Progress in the Field of Child Protection with Eileen Munro17:28Professor Eileen Munro turned decades of inadequate child protection on its head with one simple question: are we helping or hindering the front line?In this episode, she reflects on the successes - and revealing failures - of her review into child protection. Eileen covers a lot of ground in a short space of time. It is fascinating.Talking points:Centralised processes can't protect children, and this centralisation is an unavoidable consequence of the current state of governanceHow child protection can work much better, when the system is re-aligned to its purposeKey role of feedback, service sampling, education, and the news media.In our commentary Ed and I pick up on these and other points, specifically the governmental conditions that allowed for success, and especially: leaders believing they have grasped the systemic nature of necessary change, when in reality they haven’t. What to do? Find out in this concentrated and stimulating episode.The Munro Review into Child Protection:https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175391/Munro-Review.pdfEileen Munro:LSEhttps://www.lse.ac.uk/social-policy/people/Emeritus-Visiting/Professor-Eileen-MunroThe Guardian:https://www.theguardian.com/profile/eileen-munroDetail on what child protection actually entails (podcast)(listener alert - not for the feint-hearted):https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07ffxtr
3. Authorising Change at Ground Level with Julian Corner27:10Where is the power? Julian Corner used a process of local ‘action enquiry' to bring about effective social change. This in places where, as he puts it, a system of ‘care' is effectively a system of oppression - siloed, systematised, and more focussed on privileging its own rules than on the value of human care. In this episode he talks about these challenges, and how this ‘action enquiry' model has allowed them to ask bigger, harder questions, or as he says "to navigate the uncertainty, to reveal what there is to be revealed, to adapt strategies - to connect new things together" - and, crucially, to create a community of fellow enquirers. Improvement flows from the enquiry: to learn is to change.As Ed points out in our discussion, we all have the opportunity, when the system of governance isn’t working for us, to set up alternatives. "These institutions are essentially inventions of the mind," he says, "and they always need to be refreshed... deconstructed, and reconstructed."About Julian Corner:https://lankellychase.org.uk/person/julian-corner/First person view of what “complex problems” actually amounts to - George the Poet - episode 1 is pretty inspiring, also the episode on the Grenfell Tower tragedy:https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07mk7cxRobert (Not John!) Peel’s Principles - No. 7: “To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”Full article:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peelian_principles#Sir_Robert_Peel's_principlesNaGeneral discussion of national service:https://www.europeanceo.com/finance/redrafting-national-service-policy/Reintroduction of national service in France:https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/france-is-bringing-back-national-service/
4. Governance and Cyberspace30:16John Naughton, tech columnist at The Observer Newspaper, talks about that great Wild West of our time - Cyberspace. From its roots in “permissionless innovation” to the staggering dominance of a very small number of companies over most aspects of our lives, he surveys the absence of governance, and how two effective sovereigns - Apple and Google - have appropriated powers normally associated with sovereign powers of territorial control.In our discussion Ed and I pick up on the de-globalisation of the internet, the digital divide and on surveillance capitalism - and while it turns out these problems are not new, the perennial importance of Truth to our Age of Enlightenment once again comes to the fore.Talking points:Weaknesses in our systems of governing are at the root of the souring of social media. Constitutions can and must have provisions to ensure governments, politicians and citizens deal in reality. The basics would be - independent feedback, deliberative democracy and measures to minimise the culture of lies and inflamation. Most of our main challenges are bewilderingly complex, and they will never be solved through adversarial two-line posts. But they might well be mitigated by inclusive, deliberative conversations.John Naughton:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_NaughtonJohn Naughton in the Guardian:https://www.theguardian.com/technology/series/networkerArticle we were discussing:https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/13/silicon-valley-has-admitted-facial-recognition-technology-is-toxic-about-timeGoogle’s dominance in search, as a graph that is well worth a view:https://www.visualcapitalist.com/this-chart-reveals-googles-true-dominance-over-the-web/Tech and truth - mainstream media turns out to be the biggest amplifier of White House disinformation:https://www-technologyreview-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.technologyreview.com/2020/10/07/1009642/mainstream-media-is-the-biggest-amplifier-of-white-house-disinformation/amp/These problems are not new (1984 interview):https://billmoyers.com/content/30-second-president/BILL MOYERS: What I see and hear deals more with the emotions than what I read.TONY SCHWARTZ: That’s right. We are in the business of using PR in a new manner, not in the old print terms of press relations. We are using PR as people’s reactions, personal retrieval of your feelings and associations. PR — people’s recall, of their experiences. PR — planning reactions. That’s our whole new business. It’s a PR business, planning reactions.BILL MOYERS: But isn’t it manipulating people to in effect tell them what they’re feeling instead of telling them what they need to know to vote?TONY SCHWARTZ: I use the word not manipulation, I say partipulation.BILL MOYERS: Partipulation?TONY SCHWARTZ: You have to participate in your own manipulation. In that, you’re bringing things to your manipulation. If you don’t want to participate in it, you could turn off the commercial. You could tune it out. But there are things that get into you. And that’s the participation.The global network of local internets is a step closer:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53686390Podcast - Facial recognition and racial profiling - cautionary tale: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-daily/id1200361736?i=1000486946788A spelling out of the substance and scope of surveillance capitalism (Alexander Nix/Cambridge Analytica):https://youtu.be/n8Dd5aVXLCcGoogle in China article (MIT):https://www.technologyreview.com/2018/12/19/138307/how-google-took-on-china-and-lost/China’s AI Surveillance State goes global:https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/09/china-ai-surveillance/614197/Podcast - More on Cyberspace and Governance - Preet Bharara (NY state prosecutor dismissed by Donald Trump after refusing to resign) talks to John Carlin, the US Justice Department’s former head of the National Security Division:https://omny.fm/shows/stay-tuned-with-preet/introducing-cyber-space-with-john-carlinThe world is awash with bullshit:https://www.callingbullshit.org/?utm_content=bufferfcd66&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=bufferFilm - The Social Dilemma:https://www.thesocialdilemma.comhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Social_Dilemma
5. The Sense of Powerlessness at the Heart of Leadership with Dr. Piret Toñurist35:31Dr Piret Toñurist, Systems Thinking lead at the OECD's Observatory for Public Sector Innovation talks about the sense of powerlessness at the heart of leadership. She discusses how the pandemic has offered an opportunity for change, and what transformation looks like. She characterises systems thinking as a neutral zone where the ideology of what has to be done doesn’t exist.Themed on this question of power, our discussion looks at what power is, really, when it comes to the granular detail.Talking Points- Connecting knowing and doing- The end-state fallacy, manifestos and political experiments- Politics as a rash- From where does innovation in schools come?Dr. Piret Tōnurist at the OECD’s Observatory for Public Sector Innovation:https://oecd-opsi.org/about-observatory-of-public-sector-innovation/Articles:https://oecd-opsi.org/author/piret/…at TalTach:https://old.taltech.ee/institutes/ragnar-nurkse-department-of-innovation-and-governance/department-11/academic-staff-5/piret-tonurist-3/“Wicked” Problems:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problemEnd-state fallacy:https://www.csis.org/analysis/end-state-fallacy-setting-wrong-goals-war-fightingToxteth Housing project: Welsh Streets, Liverpool:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_Streets,_Liverpool
6. Post-Crash Analysis and Preflight Checklist25:05For this final episode of series 1, I wanted to build on Buckminster Fuller's idea of our planet - our habitat and life-support system - as being like a spaceship - Spaceship Earth, as he calls it - and building on this idea to use two related models for our discussion: the post-crash analysis and the preflight checklistFirst we look at the globally used post-crash analysis as a model for investigating governance - "It's important that they are not looking to blame someone," Ed says.Then we get onto Ed's Preflight checklist - essentially a renewal of our global social contracts, or constitutions, as they are known, that would take into account the conditions necessary for our survival.Finally we hear from Gerald Midgley, philosopher on human systems and founding father of systems thinking as an intentional discipline, spelling out with some excitement the impact of what in many respects has been his life's work.Gerald Midgley:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Midgleyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_systems_thinkingEd’s preflight checklist for planet Earth:https://www.edstraw.com/principles-for-systemic-governing/Eileen Munro (Episode 2 Contributor) advocating post crash analysis model to address culture of blame in child protection:https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/nov/03/serious-case-review-child-protectionOn checklists - great article overall, if you want to cut straight to flying fortress story go about 1/4 of the way in, paragraph opening “On October 30, 1935, at Wright Air Field in Dayton, Ohio…” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/12/10/the-checklistOn October 30, 1935, at Wright Air Field in Dayton, Ohio, the U.S. Army Air Corps held a flight competition for airplane manufacturers vying to build its next-generation long-range bomber. It wasn’t supposed to be much of a competition. In early evaluations, the Boeing Corporation’s gleaming aluminum-alloy Model 299 had trounced the designs of Martin and Douglas. Boeing’s plane could carry five times as many bombs as the Army had requested; it could fly faster than previous bombers, and almost twice as far. A Seattle newspaperman who had glimpsed the plane called it the “flying fortress,” and the name stuck. The flight “competition,” according to the military historian Phillip Meilinger, was regarded as a mere formality. The Army planned to order at least sixty-five of the aircraft.On the Psychology of Military Incompetencehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Psychology_of_Military_Incompetence9 Lessons from the Blue Zones:https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/changing-the-way-america-eats-moves-and-connects-one-town-at-a-time/Thoughts on Purpose:Listen to Why Cornel West is hopeful (but not optimistic) from Future Perfect on Apple Podcasts. https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/future-perfect/id1438157174?i=1000486452652Welcome to the Anthropocene: https://vimeo.com/anthropocene/shortfilmPerspective, via some very interesting maps:https://earthtime.org
Special Episode: The Doomed Career of Dominic28:34Special episode on the Doomed Career of Dominic Cummings.Dominic Cummings has been seen as a controversial and divisive figure, but as with so many people at the political extremes, significant parts of his analysis can be agreed upon by disparate factions across the political spectrum.In this special episode we unpick the good and the less good from this lauded and demonised character, assess the reality he found himself confronted with and also assess where he went wrong. His intent to improve significantly the capacity of central government to produce meaningful change throughout Britain has been felt by many past radicals in and around no 10.And we have the unexpected good fortune to have a co-presenter - Ed Straw - who has been deeply involved in an attempt to achieve the same aims as Dominic Cummings - civil service reform. And who can spell out in clear terms why, regardless of his wit, intelligence and muscle, he was never going to succeed in reforming the government machine.Why does the Civil Service need reform? What might be the best way to achieve it? Why was Cummings’ attempt more on less doomed from the outset? Indeed, why have all 5 attempts, over 5 decades, at civil service reform - failed? Is this a symptom of something else?Find out in this hastily assembled episode, dense with anecdote, comparison and analysis.Links:The actual control room - Chile 1973: “Cybersyn", no doubt an inspiration for James Bond films.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_CybersynStafford Beer “The Godfather of systems thinking”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stafford_BeerSalvador Allende, Communist president of Chilehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidency_of_Salvador_AllendeArticle by Ed as accompaniment to this podcasthttps://www.edstraw.com/four-lessons-of-civil-service-reform/The Economist is on side:https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/11/19/remaking-the-british-stateEd’s 2004 report, adopted by Tony Blair - The Dead Generalist:https://www.demos.co.uk/files/TheDeadGeneralist.pdfPeter Hennessy, leading constitutional historianhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_HennessyThe Thick of It - Available on Netflix, or here are some "deleted scenes”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im_KryFuPegYes Prime Minister - also on Netflix, I think - On The State of Education:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeF_o1Ss1NQ
1. Series 2 Preflight Checklist - Introduction21:53Welcome to The Hidden Power Podcast, Series 2 - Pre-flight Checklist, where we - Ed Straw, and Philip Tottenham - examine conditions necessary for a comfortable and flourishing life on Spaceship Earth, on the far side of the current climate emergency.In this nice, concise episode we revisit and draw some of the connections from series one - governance, systems thinking - and explore how, through this medium of a constitution, or "preflight checklist," as we frame it, we can alleviate some of of the pressures we face, and enhance the joys of the apparently unique paradise we find ourselves living on.Listeners have expressed how much they enjoyed series 1, but still were not clear about what we mean when we talk about systems thinking - so we also try to frame this complex but powerful subject in simple terms.Any questions or comments? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org