Ambiguity – CareBnB!

News and Comment from Roy Lilley

Was it wacky? Stupid?  A brain wave? Innovative or just plain daft.  We’ll never know.

When the gig-economy clattered against the barricades of social care, it got a bruising.

CareRoom’s BnB is dead.  Was it a good idea? Setting aside our prejudices, we will never know.

What price innovation and off-the-wall thinking?

We know the care-sector is facing a gloomy future.  Funding, down the pan.  Whatever it’s future looks like, it will, in large measure, depend on ways of doing things differently, new ideas and innovation.

Doing things differently is painful, new ideas are precious and innovation comes with risk.  The extent to which risk and care-services are bedfellows has just been tested on the front pages of the newspapers and bulletins.  It appears they are not.

Looking after people in the homes of community spirited members of the public could be done safely.  If it is possible to arrange for families to foster vulnerable children, it must be possible for a retired nurse to care for a post-op person, for a few days, whilst they get back on their feet.

We will never know.  The Trust credited with the idea, in a media storm, look like they panicked or got sat-on by ministers and backed-off.  I don’t blame them. 

We’re left wondering, is innovation worth the bother?

Innovation is disruptive; disrupting the taxi industry, the bed and breakfast industry.  In the high street we get our cash from ATMs.  We were told they’d never replace the bank-teller.  Supermarkets invite us to be their checkout staff.

Unless the NHS is to become an innovation free zone, it cannot be risk-averse.  It needs to be risk aware.

When the industrial revolution began there was almost no regulation.  Now, we are on the threshold of a technology and data revolution and we are mired in regulation.

CareBnB… how would it have dealt with; 

…police checks, references, health and safety requirements, fire regulations, aids and adaptations, contractual liability, insurance, safeguarding, security, trip hazards, regulation, inspection and communications.  

…the answer is, it could but it’s not worth the bother.  The idea strangled by red tape.

Is the era of innovation dead?  Are we in a slough of regulation, red tape and bureaucracy, creating the ice-age of innovation.

Innovation does not come with well researched evidence and a well informed public.  It comes with ragged edges, incomplete and bits hanging off.  It battles with prejudice and preconceptions.  Innovation is not neat, oven-ready and complete.  It is born of ideas and inspiration, needs imagination, courage and risk takers.

Risk and hazards are two different things.  We mix them up.  Add vulnerability and uncertainty and developing public policy becomes unachievable.  Politically too risky. 

We don’t say give it a go. We are more likely to say; give it the elbow.

Ministers have to realise the damage this does.  They should, instead, shape a legal and regulatory frame-work that can protect the risk takers, create the hot-houses and social laboratories to road-test for what works.

Public acceptance of new ways of delivering public services, particularly in the sensitive care sector, is vital.  Where there is a risk that governance might go wrong and ideas are abandoned, we all lose.

Debates about risk and decision making are not abstract, they are the front-door to the future.

Innovations around the use of data are stuck in complex arrangements, a coral reef of guidance and requirements that will turn innovators away.

Every-day we all make decisions based on imperfect information, we take the risk because it’s worth it.  In the end it’s the only way we get things done, change anything.

The future used to be visible on a five year spreadsheet.  Now we all need a crystal ball and they are in short supply.  Innovation takes us into unfamiliar territory.  Who will we follow into the new landscape?  

Innovation leadership; no longer looking for the right answers among the wrong answers. Looking for answers in intuition, what if and ambiguity.


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