I'm involved in Sitra's programme called "Elinvoima" and we recently visited Copenhagen, Denmark as a part of that. The Programme seeks to answer very important key questions in society like; what is "new work?" etc.
One of the interesting visits there was a Think Tank / Company called Monday Morning. They had some good fresh thoughts on how the welfare society in Denmark, and perhaps in Finland, could be developed towards something better. Here's a part of my take on that.
First off, they identified that a "new language" is needed in politics and in societal debate overall. They presented the following list:
10 IDEALS FOR POLITICAL COMMUNICATION
- Focus on the ball
- Respect disagreement
- Recognize change and development
- Be willing to explain and elaborate
- Separate what we know, what we believe, what we think
- Respect expert knowledge
- Put forward arguments
- Answer rebuttals and critical questions properly
- Present your point of view
- Engage the voters
(html formatting in this blog is crap, sorry about that)
In Finland we are pretty fraking far from these ideals in the level and quality of our political talk, as can be viewed here.
Focus on the ball: we just had parliamentary elections in Finland. Did anybody notice any of the parties really giving any detailed answers and plans on how we are going to create the required 200.000 entirely new jobs to support the current state services during the next 9 years? I didn't. Most of the focus went into vague political rhetoric about taxing "the rich" (who's that exactly in a country where the upper quadrant income is one of the most modest ones in the EU?) even more, and perhaps cutting way too little, way too late from government spending. And on speculation whether or not it would be beneficial for Finland to bail out Portugal (btw: to which my take is that there should not be government bailouts for anybody, for any reason, they distort more than they fix, and in this case it's about a transfer of income union from the producing countries to those that don't produce enough to cover what they spend).
Point number 5 is brilliant: separating what we know (for an objective fact), what we believe (our interpretation of reality), and what we think (our conclusions and projections of these facts and interpretations) would indeed be extremely useful. This is brilliant stuff. Similar communication is very useful if you are an executive, a startup CEO, scrum master, or anybody at all who needs to communicate between groups and teams of people who don't always observe the same facts and entirely agree on everything. This kind of 3 level separation gets people thinking more - and more than that, it gets them to commit to action more. It also facilitates learning.
For example: if a team of startup software engineers have just today somehow broken a product built that's due to ship tomorrow morning - what do you do as the manager? You can always go talk to them an offer your own conclusion right away, without explaining or separating any of your communication. Going there and ordering "you two, fix the broken build now!" will probably lead to some action; but how much did the team like this order? How much did they commit to that solution which was in fact your conclusion of the events and not theirs? Instead you could walk over and start with: "hi guys, my monitoring system there is telling me for a fact that the build is broken" and just pause. That might be the only thing you need to say: people with initiative will take it onwards from there and take care of it. They may even reply right away "yeah we know, it is already being fixed by Alberto there, while the rest of us figure out how we didn't catch that glitch in our tests". If the team waits for you to solve the issue for them, you can always challenge them a little more and continue with "I believe this is quite bad for us, as we are about to ship tomorrow morning. What are you planning to do about it?" and still at this point you have not offered your own conclusion to the team; they still get to form the conclusion and commit to resolving the issue themselves. You don't need to go as far as saying "I think you, Jenna, need to fix the build, while Alberto there gets me a cup of coffee", which would be you being a daft prick.
We see bad communication all the time in politics and certainly encounter it in management. Startup CEO's are no better; many of them are clueless on leadership and how to resolve team issues.
Monday Morning's 10 ideals in communication might as well be startup ideals in communication with the word "voters" replaced with "customers".
Another good sound bite from their list are numbers 7, 8 and 9; arguments and properly presented answers to critique.
I urge you very much to read through this list:
It's an excellent list with 30 flaws in argumentation. Flaws like: error of fact, contradiction, deliberate distortion (or omission), irrelevant data, failure to specify, accepting hearsay as fact, wild speculation, non sequitur, argumentum ad hominem, appeal to widespread belief (non-fact), argument by analogy, appeal to authority etc..
Some of the names of flaws in argumentation are in latin; because the ancient Romans already in the days of Senatus Populusque Romanus taught argumentation in their highest educational level: the rhetoric school. One of the ancient leaders of this skill was Marcus Tullius Cicero. This art has been going downhill ever since; and is no longer taught in the Finnish school system at all. And thus we can observe the results of an entire nation who no longer knows how to form proper arguments..
How many of those flaws did you notice during the last electorial debate? I noticed all the ones I listed up there, many of them over and over again several times.
Why is it then that we are stuck with a shit-level of debate and populistic bullshit one-liners instead of actual intelligent political communication?
The answer might have something
to do with this. If people are so ignorant or fraked up in their brains that 69% of them can't even name the political parties in the cabinet correctly then you might think that perhaps we deserve this?
What about us other 31% that can name them, and actually have a clue about the surrounding reality then? Is it justified to lock us in here with folks to whom every day is a miracle as they somehow manage to survive it without accidentally suffocating on their own tongue?
Nah, people have the full right to be stupid and ignorant. We have to take responsibility in our actions as individuals ourselves; and if we are not happy with the situation we must work to change it. Being stupid, or being ignorant, is no reason to limit anybody's liberties and individual freedoms. Even if the person is so extremely stupid that he's a danger to himself. Not even then.
We can work towards these communication ideals. Let's hope they could someday shadow the real state of Finnish public debate.
Another suggestion by Monday Morning was;
We need a new mindset in society.
|Tax financed welfare
|PUBLIC WELFARE CULTURE
||FLEXIBLE INNOVATION CULTURE
(this blog doesn't allow me to format a table with full html, sorry for the crappy looks of it).
Now some of this proposal is a bit too statist in my view.
Many of the most successful public-private partnerships have been the kind where the public (the state) understands to stay out of the way and let the private side and market mechanisms solve the common problem for us all. A public solution is often enough no solution at all. Government is monopoly by design and by fact; and is equally bad in serving its clients than any total monopoly is. This also applies to public-private partnerships.
At the current rate there's no change Finland could afford to maintain such massive welfare state services. Some people consider it to be "solidarity" to use force against other people and make them, whether they want to or not, by force, to help others. Using violence on others to force them to do charity against their will is not my idea of solidarity. The state should exists primarily for ensuring and guaranteeing individual liberties - which means guaranteeing very specifically that violence isn't used against anybody. A pacifistic world where the state guards its citizens against violence (even from the state itself, or from other states via defense forces) would be a much nicer place to live in than our current society, where too often people's rights and liberties are being trampled upon - often enough by the governments.
I often advocate personal responsibility in place of a forced non-optional collective responsibility (those kind often in fact become non-responsibilities as everybody resigns them; as in "I don't need to help the homeless, because the government does.. don't they have programs for that and shit?"). In Monday Morning's model this is perhaps the best part: championing for personal leadership, individual responsibility, and quite simply for being human. If you force people to do charity against their will; they are quite angry about it all the time. If they do the very same thing voluntarily they probably experience a great deal of personal reward, bliss and happiness from it. By forcing them, you take out the joy in giving. Think about that.
One of the central things on MM's model is flexibility: they have quite keenly realized that the world, day and age we live in can't continue in a happy state with the old slow moving non-flexible models. We need to be more like agile startups as a society: experimenting, failing fast, building models and structures that make us quick to adapt to change. Quick to reinvent and change ourselves, like Proteus of legend. Laying the foundations that allows us to weather an occasional tempest and stay firm in the mids of chaos and conflict.
Sense Amid Madness, Wit Amidst Folly.
Perhaps it would be time to abandon a lot of the old thinking and thought models in Finland as well? Perhaps take a few lessons from our Dane neighbors and see what as responsible individuals we could get done about the whole enchilada?
Or perhaps a better way to go about this entire thing would be to form a startup coutnry: www.seasteading.org is your answer there. The world needs startup nations and societies as much as it needs startup companies. Governments are monopolies, and the business of government is an entire industry with very little innovation and competition. We need Seasteads to offer us alternatives and come up with new models. That starts to have a great deal of appeal when you consider the alternative route of compromise upon compromise and slow incremental change.. doesn't it?