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The Future of Intelligence

Transformational Intelligence

We’ve been calling it ‘transformational’ since we started changing what we do. Transformational: the most mis- and over-used term ever. Right?

‘Transformational’ should mean a move to a different way of working.

It should not mean incrementally improve what we are doing — even if it’s a big incremental improvement!

Our previous DPH, specifically hired me to ‘make our intelligence function fit for the future role of Public Health’. What a great invitation — it’s been challenging and rewarding.

His view was that the future of public health delivery was in strategic support activities for colleagues across local government in their efforts to continuously improve health and well-being. This would be our value-add to the system. Helping our organisations solve problems.

To achieve this, we need ‘transformational change’, not just in intelligence, but across the entire organisation.

I’ve talked about this in previous blogs (Year of Promise, What are we delivering?, The Future is Here), but central to this for analysts was to move away from being spreadsheet-warriors who fling data about the place — upwards of 90% of our analyst time in 2016.

Cleaning data. Processing data. Feeding the beast. Leaping head-first into every single request for data.

That left only 10% of our time to help our organisations problem-solve. Doling out data was not helping solve organisational problems, if anything it muddies the waters of decision-making.

Our future is in helping our local organisations solve problems

So with the support of colleagues we transformed.

Our focus is now squarely onto developing three types of insights to support problem-solving across our system:

  1. Strategic Insights — understanding and shaping our future.
  2. System Insights — understanding how our communities and organisation function so that we can make better decisions and more impactful interventions.
  3. People Insights — understanding what our public-facing workforce see at the coal-face, so that we can more effectively use this knowledge when making decisions.

We have delivered ‘transformational intelligence’. What our analysts deliver now is not what they delivered before.

Transformational.

Transformative Intelligence

Transformative intelligence is the natural follow-on from transformational intelligence.

Transformative intelligence changes the way organisations problem solve.

We are starting to have some impact:

  • Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA): We are co-working with colleagues across the system to develop ‘Insights’ instead of deliver data. Culture change for organisational problem solving is on the way. Change is not smooth, it doesn’t happen over night, it’s not unidirectional, but it is happening. We can feel the momentum for this change building.
  • Programme Evaluation: We have lifted our game significantly in this area and we are sharing our knowledge and capability development with the wider system. Using both systems and people insights, we are creating credible evaluations that cut to the heart of what everyone wants to know when we spend public money — are we making a difference?
  • New Thinking: When you don’t spend all your time mucking about with data, you can gain a bit of head space to work with colleagues to develop new ways of thinking, including
    • quantifying the accessibility of our population to green space
    • understanding what microbiome science might tell us about the quality of Bournemouth’s parks
    • examining the cost-benefit of public health commissioned services
    • developing a longer-term view of the impact of local air quality on our population
    • co-working across the ICS to develop system-wide data science capability to support population health management activities in the future through linked data systems and the use of advanced analytical techniques to extract much more value from the data we collect across the system

Collective Intelligence

I have been rather fortunate to have begun working with a very innovative group, Resilience Frontiers, this year. They are within the Secretariat for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This relationship has already paid dividends in the area of our recent thinking in the area of climate change adaptation, but behind the thinking on climate change adaptation there is a more subversive idea…

The idea is that ‘collective intelligence’ is in and of itself the transformation approach to the development of ‘intelligence’. On that may be required to solve our climate mitigation and adaptation challenges.

Let’s face it, not much is working in terms of getting humanity to leap into action!

It’s a brave departure from traditional decision-support.

Why brave?

Decision-support (or Organisational Intelligence) professionals like their silos — especially, but not exclusively, climate scientists. They even have silos within silos that provide intelligence meant to support the effort to mitigate climate change and also help us adapt to living on hotter more turbulent planet.

Resilience Frontiers is trying to push forward with a completely different approach to decision-support.

  • It uses strategic insight methods to focus on the future.
  • It intentionally breaks down silos, bringing people with different backgrounds together.
  • It generates insights about probable futures, desirable futures, strange futures.
  • It encourages odd ideas that no ‘self respecting scientist’ would publish (if they valued their career).
  • It definitely meets the definition of ‘transformational’.

But can this approach meet the test of Transformative? Well the group that I worked with (climate scientist, sustainability lead for an international manufacturing and retail firm, GP, architect, digital entrepreneur, an artist, business standards programme manager, a futurist) certainly thought so. Everyone of us, especially the more scientific members of the group, including me, were very skeptical on day 1. I think everyone was a convert by day 5 of the workshop — and work we did!

There were so many new ideas. New discussions. Our group is still in touch, still trying to process those five days.

Collective Intelligence.

So much more than collaboration or co-working. A transformational new idea about how to generate insights and problem solve.

This futures blog

This blog series is about how we create ‘healthy places’ and what our possible ‘futures’ could be given current trends and momentum within society, the economic and political systems, and the environment. I use the plural ‘futures’ intentionally, because our future is not predetermined (I hope), we can and should work towards the future we want. This blog aims to generate discussion (maybe even some debate) around ‘Healthy places futures’ in the hope that if we all put our minds to it, a collective vision may emerge to inform any strategy we might put in place to get us to our preferred future. We’ll be leaning heavily on futuring tools found on our Shaping Tomorrow hosted website: phd.shapingtomorrow.com.

The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed (William Gibson 1993).re

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