We had a great session at Govcamp recently where Laura documented the discussion using a mind map. The question was : what it takes to develop a public engagement strategy. With the advent of social media enablers and the reticent policies of the Government this question defies a clear answer, or does it?
If I revert back to my Quality training, I view this as a problem solving challenge and this means that there is a process ( us engineers love process, not only does it mean that there is logic to follow but also it gets to the solution faster and more effectively – saves lots of time and money). If we adapt the quality based approach then we can use the tools and techniques to get to a solution.
The problem that is being faced is complex, has many facets and crosses many departments with potential for any number of viable solutions, some of which may be specific to only one group or applicable across many. As an outsider, many of the conversations I participated in or overheard, faced the same issues around the role social media can play in engaging the citizen in debate and contribution.
Rather than trying to answer the global question i.e. one answer fits all, the approach would be to start with a specific issue or problem, see how that can be addressed, and then apply the solution to a broader perspective. This process can happen in many different areas and can result in a multitude of viable solutions, but the critical part will be the sharing of these results across the communities. This becomes the challenge of the different groups to communicate. However this is not the purpose of this entry, what I will outline is the basic process that gets people working together to come up with a series of potential solutions.
The first step is of course after identifying the fact that a problem exists (Problem identification) what is the problem that needs to be resolved. The first adaptation is to start using the term “issue” versus “Problem” which has a negative connotation. The process remains the same.
In our Govcamp session the issue really came down to “What is the process” not how to solve the question of public engagement. Implementing the process that we came up with will ultimately address the question.
Context is always a critical element as it provides the anchor to the discussion. So each group that embarks on this process needs to establish context for their specific situation. For example if you are in the Public Health area, needing to establish public engagement on a specific issue such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), then this establishes the context for the problem definition.
Finally we get to the creative process and where the Mind Map methodology fits in. First a bit about the creativity tools – these “help people to visualize, organize and analyze new ideas that lead to solving problems, developing new products and improving processes” ( The Creativity Tools Memory Jogger). There are a lot of variations and uses for these tools, but the fundamentals hold true for all of them:
- Brainstorm the ideas, get as many as possible (Classic Brainstorming, knowledge Mapping)
- Group and identify common ideas ( Affinity Diagrams)
- Prioritize and assign a prime to the top prioritized items (Multi voting)
The rules for brainstorming are simple:
- Good ideas are not praised or endorsed. All judgment is suspended initially in preference to generating ideas.
- Thinking must be unconventional, imaginative, or even outrageous. Self criticism and self judgment are suspended
- To discourage analytical or critical thinking, team members are instructed to aim for a large number of new ideas in the shortest possible time.
- Team members should “hitchhike” on other ideas by expanding them, modifying them or producing new ones by association.
Brainstorming technique Juran Institute. Juran’s Quality Handbook by Joseph M. Juran
For the social media engagement issue, the statement needs to be restated in a more meaningful and manageable statement. The original statement is far too comprehensive an issue to realistically come to any conclusion other than it is overwhelming. There are several tools that can help in restating or refining the issue – Knowledge Mapping, Purpose Hierarchy and Problem Reformulation, Heuristic Redefinition.
As a start this is where the mind map approach can be used as it is easy to understand, doesn’t require a lot of structure and generates ideas fast. Mind mapping is a variation on a more formal method called Knowledge Mapping. Knowledge Mapping is a method that graphically breaks down a broad goal into increasing levels of detail to better understand the existing knowledge about it.
A mind map is a tool that helps people to show graphically what the brain does naturally. The brain structure and resulting thought patterns are tree like and the branches are the connecting ideas that help us make sense of the world. The ideas are recorded on lines around major ideas and linked to other ideas. Any idea expressed in any way is appropriate. The best art of this approach is that it can be used effectively in teams or by an individual to generate connecting ideas.
You need to apply the brainstorming rules to ensure that the ideas keep coming until they are exhausted. Then the next step starts – making sense of what came out. To be continued.
Peter de Gosztonyi is a quality practitioner and has led numerous groups through the idea generating process. He is an active member of the local American Society for Quality (ASQ) in Ottawa and has certifications as Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence, Quality Auditor, and Quality Engineer.
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