It’s about listening
At the beginning of this year, I was deep into engagement around creating Canada’s next plan for open government.
As part of this process, I was promoting events on the twitter and one of my tweets caught the attention of someone up the chain. Apparently, there was some concern that I insulting people in Cattle country, as we had recently returned from workshops in Regina and Edmonton. I don’t know the details or the thinking behind it, all of this happened above my pay grade and my management had the good sense not to bring it to me at the time. I only heard about it because apparently, it came up in one of Alex Benay’s regular “Ask Me Anything” events and someone related it to me. I believe this is the tweet in question.
I view engagement as an exercise in institutional listening and the cow is an important part of that. Those of you that have been to one of my workshops have probably met Moo the interrupting cow. Moo is a facilitation device that introduces some humour to help participants be heard. I use it, along with some dog slides to set the stage for group discussion.
It goes something like this. I would like to introduce you to Moo, the interpreting cow. Moo is the result of a knock, knock joke my kids told me years ago…sometimes a participant knows the joke which begins to engage folks. Anyway, the deal with Moo is that when you are in working in a group and someone is dominating the conversation, you can toss the cow (metaphorically) at the person to let them know it is time to let others talk. I sometimes will give the cow to one of my colleagues to toss at me if I run over.
I am writing about this because this incident reminds me of our tendency in the public service to try and eliminate risk in everything we do. Unfortunately, this also sucks the fun out of everything we do. AND FUN IS IMPORTANT! Especially if you are trying to come up with creative solutions to challenging problems.
Pretty sure there is some research on this and, certainly in my experience as a facilitator and teacher I have learned that if you can make an exercise fun, you will generally get better results. Others seem to agree, at GovMaker 2017, Hillary from Ontario expressed interest so I sent her one of my backup cows as a gift because I know they are working hard at listening as well.
I have done a lot of engagement work over the years and this is the desired result. I am also pretty sure that if more Canadians felt this way about their interactions with government things wouldn’t be so scary for our democracy these days.
What do you think?
p.s. If you like the story about the cow and listening you may also be interested in learning about the ducks and enterprise alignment.