What I Now Know About Lighting Fires

The Fire Starter Festival 2017 drew to a close last month after 35 events which attracted around 1500 participants. Over the coming months we’ll reflect on the evaluations, and have many conversations about what went well, what could have been better, what inspired people, and what actions have been taken to light some small fires of change.  As the inspiration for the festival came from the Seven Steps for Lighting Small Fires of Change, I thought I would share seven things I now know about lighting fires and what it takes to light a Fire Starter Festival.

Performance Bonfire

“Performance management feels like something that is done to us – with no benefit for us”

We need the courage to create, permission to innovate and feel like it is ok to fail – above all reward curiosity.”

Chris Bruce, from the Joint Improvement Team, blogs for us about our the first event of the Fire Starter Festival, a ‘Performance Bonfire’, which arose out of a feeling that we need to show what could work as a ‘Scottish Approach to ‘performance’.

Danger Café

Last week as part of our Fire Starter Festival we convened a ‘danger café’.

What was our intention?

To convene a conversation about the need for dangerous ideas to transform public services.

Who came along?

A really good mix of people from Scottish Government, local authorities, third sector organisations and others. It was a self selecting group, so made for interesting conversations.

How did we start the discussion?

The aim of the Fire Starter Festival has been to ignite and share innovative ways of doing things in public services. How might we look at something from a new perspective? How can we become comfortable with uncertainty? How might we navigate complexity?

What happened next?

Dangerous Ideas and Starting fires…

‘Days of Danger’ have come to Scottish Government!

I’m sure every day, is a day of danger for someone in Government but these particular days were created to stimulate and identify ideas that could challenge our thinking and orthodoxies of working in a large organisation, such as the Scottish Government. We asked “What is your dangerous idea for the Government as an organisation that we work in?”

Why a Day of Danger? What is a Dangerous idea?

Play: a serious role in organisational transformation?

The role of creativity has long been established as pivotal to individual, organisational and business development. Scotland’s national learning creativity plan highlights that creativity is needed to see things differently, find new approaches to the challenges we all face, and understand how it can shape our future.

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What about the role of play? Is it the same as creativity? Does it have a role in organisational change? I’ve been pondering this for some time, particularly in relation to the challenge of how we move from what is already known (and which we know doesn’t work) to finding new solutions. We recognise that we need to change, but how do we leave the old ways behind and explore the borderlands to something new: the unknown? We need to be more creative – but how?

Getting involved in the ‘U Lab’ – massive online global course on transforming self, society and business

Following promotion by the Scottish Government and others from across Scotland who tried – and liked – their experience of a ‘U Lab’ earlier this year, many hundreds of people from Scotland have signed up to participate in the next course, which begins on September 10th.

In my role as part of a new team within Scottish Government tasked with enabling and supporting transformative change across public services and government I’ve been supporting some warm-up events. This blog gives my take on what U Lab is about, and how a wider group is now coming together to host the third and final ‘warm up’ event on 1st September in Edinburgh.

Beginnings of a book group: first session on Frederic Laloux’ Reinventing Organisations


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Last Thursday, nine of us – a mix of folk from across the third, private and public service sector – met to talk about Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organisations (see www.reinventingorganisations.org).

This was the next in a few ‘ideas’ events we’ve had as part of the Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens initiative of Scottish Leaders’ Forum. I hosted the session in Victoria Quay (Edinburgh) – hoping that some of my new colleagues from Scottish Government might be able to join (and many thanks to those who found the time…).