Applying digital to everything

Janet Hughes

The internet is a rich complex system. One of the side effects of that is that good things bubble to the surface of the information soup with apparent randomness, to be seized on before they sink back down again.

This video presentation from 2019 is just such a good thing. It is a bravura exposition of the power of user-centred design in a policy-dominated culture and environment. Its strength is not so much in the individual thoughts, powerful though those are, as in their weaving together into something which is both a rich picture and a powerful manifesto for change.

The original audience were clearly digital people who needed to understand that policy people were not weird, incompetent or malevolent, but this is perhaps even more powerful in explaining to policy people  why user-centred design should be seen as a powerful and empowering way of doing things, rather than as an incomprehensible threat from uncomprehending digital people.

The whole thing is 30 minutes and well worth watching, but there are two gems which are worth pulling out. One is the best one liner from a presentation which isn’t short of them:

The medium of choice for communicating between policy people and delivery people is the hand grenade.

A triangle labelled on its corners and sides: 'rules' on the side from 'now' to 'everywhere', 'discussions' on the side from 'everywhere' to 'by agreement' and 'experiments' on the side from 'by agreement' to 'now'The other is a triangle, originally by Chris Yapp, about the implementation of change. We would all like change to happen now, everywhere and by agreement – but that’s not possible. Choices have to be made about which of those to prioritise, and those choices constrain (and are constrained by) choices about the means to use. It’s a lovely example of a very simple picture being a distillation of a very rich thought.

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