I’ve been involved in Open Data for a few years now, most recently as an observer, but always as an advocate of the power of the data and outcomes that it can help achieve.
Last night I was thinking about the biggest Open Data challenge. Things have moved on a long way in recent years, but what is it that’s necessary to happen to help make the next step change.
I thought maybe it was getting it Open, but I’m not sure that’s it. Was it getting it understood, I didn’t think so. And it can’t be getting it used can it because we know there are plenty of keen and capable users out there.
So what is it then I hope I hear you ask?
Well for me, I think it could be stopping using the d word (that’s data by the way) and turning the conversation and the influencing to talk about outcomes, deliverables (a better d word that more people understand) and benefits.
Shall we talk bananas or the health benefits of bananas to make more people eat bananas?
Tell a d word owner he / she needs to make their d open and he / she may not be immediately engaged. Whilst d is clearly an essential in the day job, is it exciting to talk about from their perspective, does it look to them like a meeting of real value and interest in their diary, can they immediately identify what's in it for them?
Say you want to talk to him / her about benefits, and what the d can do for them and their outcomes it can help deliver and the light bulb will be glowing bright and I reckon you'll get a much more engaged conversation.
It’s a bit like when the window salesman wants to sell you a window. Does he start off talking about all the stats and facts and figures, 7mm glass this, 20mm air gap that? Or does he tell you the benefits they will offer you and how it will help keep your kids warmer and safer and how your house value will increase (maybe) before getting onto what you need to do to realise those benefits.
You might need to know the stats and facts and figures, but I don’t think that’s a conversation starter (unless you really like stats).
If you were to talk to a community about preventing flooding you might be talking about a flood alleviation scheme. In your discussions you would help them understand the outcome produced and the associated benefits. Even if you didn’t know what the scheme might look like, and whether it’s going to be grass embankments or glass walls, you’d probably still talk benefits to help you sell the scheme to communities and partners to influence them why it's in their interest to engage.
Isn’t getting more Open d word out there similar? Aren’t we selling the benefits to owners of getting more d out, that’s easier to understand and use?
So as an idea if we want to move more quickly to more open, better understood and greater use, could we drop the d word, and make sure we always start our conversations by talking about benefits with those we are trying to influence?
Of course there's still a place for lots of detailed d word conversations within the OD community, but when we are engaging and selling an idea and influencing people do we always start with what's in it for them?
Culture needs to and is changing in a lot of organisations as a result of the great work done by the OD community.
But is the OD community also changing its culture quickly enough to get the most out of d word owners?
Do we sell? Do we influence and convince in the most effective way?
It’s just a thought. I'd be interested to know what you think. Is it something to concentrate efforts on?
I'm sure loads of people are great at doing this and I'd be really interested to hear examples, or thoughts on whether going benefits first would help?
Thanks for reading
Mr Paul Wyse