Open Thinkering


Tag: Spark

On the new politics of technology.

PodcastOver the last couple of days I’ve listened to two excellent podcasts that I wanted to share with you. Both of them are about the relationship between technology and politics.


I’ve always found politics difficult. What I believe society should look like doesn’t fit well with the traditional two-dimensional left/centre/right representation.

On the one hand, I believe that a guiding principle should be for the State not to interfere in our lives (wherever possible). So far, so Libertarian (and usually, so Conservative).

On the other hand, however, I’m not a great believer in the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market to solve all our woes. And I certainly don’t think that billionaires should co-exist in a world with starving people. So that’s fairly Liberal and left-wing.


To me, we seem to be missing a third dimension to politics. Sometimes it’s not either/or. Sometimes it’s and/and/and.

The podcasts

Whilst I enjoy the high quality of podcasts from the BBC (In Our Time and Thinking Allowed being my favourites) my go-to podcasts when commuting come from Canadian broadcasters.

The first, Spark is hosted by Nora Young, who has a voice like butter. Not only that, but the Spark Plus podcast features the full version of interviews we only hear a snippet of in the regular podcast. It’s a goldmine of interesting people talking about important ideas.

Recently, Nora interviewed Gabriella Coleman about Anonymous. It’s fascinating:


The second, always high-quality, Canadian podcast I think is fantastic is Big Ideas from TVO. Not long ago they featured John Duffy on The Emerging Politics of Technology. The last 17 minutes or so are devoted to questions, leaving just over half an hour of really thoughtful consideration of the three-dimensional nature of politics I allude to above.

Both are well worth watching or listening to. And if you haven’t subscribed to any/many podcasts, I’d highly recommend both Spark and Big Ideas.


The left/centre/right two-dimensional version of the political spectrum has served its purpose as what I call a ‘convenient hypocrisy’. But to try and force every issue into its confines forces the metaphor to breaking point.

Apart from perhaps politicians in line with the party whip, no-one I know exhibits purely Liberal or purely Conservative behaviours. We’re three-dimensional.

What I find really interesting is that, as John Duffy points out, the political battleground is shifting from the economy to issues surrounding technology.

And that sounds like a debate I’d like to be part of.

Innovation, productivity and frames of reference

A lot of people get stuck in the trap of trying to create something that is really innovative, something that doesn’t exist in the world today. But the truth is that an innovation that is really supercreative, that has resonance and power plus the ability to do extremely well in the marketplace, is already part of a clear set of products that already exists. In other words, they have a clear context, but there’s something novel about the way that an innovation is being thought about that really shifts the paradigm.

(DeVito, A. (2006) ‘Constantly Experiment’ in Winsor, J. (ed.) Spark: be more innovative through co-creation, p.162-3)

I’m reading the Spark at the moment, a book sent to me by Online MBA after ‘winning’ a competition (I commented on their blog). Spark is a great read with contributions from people who work at extremely innovative organisations such as Oakley, Nike and Herman Miller.

My belief that innovation thrives upon a bedrock of standardisation has been reinforced through the stories and experiences shared in the book. In other words, people have to have time freed up so they can kick ass. That comes through increased productivity, through streamlining – and to a great extent, automating – the mundane, the procedural and the administrative.

As a tangent, I’ve decided that the final version of #uppingyourgame is going to be subtitled ‘a personal guide to productivity’. Positive feedback from non-educators has convinced me that the ideas it contains are more widely applicable! đŸ˜€