Are you a policy fashion victim?

I’m a big fan of Nassim Taleb but clearly he’s no fan of the likes of me.
My one saving grace?  I do deadlift, 127.5kg for 6 reps, Mr Taleb.

He’s never heard of me, but he knows my type.  I’m a semi erudite bureaucrat, or hemi-demi-semi erudite more like. Seen a few Ted talks, but reads the transcripts rather than sit through the actual face talking. Dislikes PowerPoint, joined the short lived Prezi craze when every meeting made people seasick, doesn’t have Black Swan but does have Antifragile and Fooled By Randomness.


I read Nassim’s thing diatribe above with growing sadness that this time it was ME he was talking about, not economists or people who basically havent read his books and agree with him. I’ve read your books Nassim! I agree with you!
Sadly though the crucial thing is I don’t have skin in the game.
Look at where I lie on Nassim’s table…

Seeing me as an actual stereotype is really interesting. A policy fashion victim, as much prey to fads, trends and new gee-gaws as anybody.
A policy fashion victim would start seeing things being mentioned online, therefore they appear new and interesting, so they find out more, and turns out they ARE new and interesting. Little do you know that as you’re doing this, so are hundreds of other policy fashion victims, also thinking they’re finding something new and interesting, when really it’s just this year’s policy fashion. As more people see it as new and interesting, it gets pushed more and more, so it appears more and more substantial, cos everybody’s talking about it. Eventually, it becomes so obviously a new truth that it is soon forgotten if it were ever actually known in the first place that it is only a truth because everybody is talking about it.

At the moment what’s IN is demand management, big data, open data, data visualisation. Data. But not data in boring five bar gates. Policy data, data that you get from smart people and smart applications. This is like anything else in Nassim’s list above, fashionable.

So what’s the actual point of this blog post then? If we wanted to go all the way back to that grinning mucky faced boy i used to stick on the end of blog posts, what actually IS…

The Systems Thinking Lesson

Turns out it might not really matter if you’ve read the right books and agree. It might be that despite your best intentions and even better thinking, that being a semi-erudite bureaucrat is a “bad thing” in itself regardless of who occupies your post, and you should go off and do something more useful instead. You can’t get skin in the game as a bureaucrat cos you’re too far away from the game to put skin in at all. All that paper gets in the way, the system defining what a bureaucrat is and does just as much as it defines what everybody else is and does.

Anyway…Keep systems thinking and have a lovely day!

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10 Responses to Are you a policy fashion victim?

  1. Charis says:

    Damn that’s depressing.

    I have no skin in the game and I never can… I guess at least *a* saving grace is that I fit in multiple boxes (as do we all). In my case as a citizen and activist as well as a bureaucrat.


  2. Mike Green says:

    Sorry matey, from reading your blogs and checking out reality I would place you along with the rebels, revolutionaries, innovators and your writing’s not too bad either 🙂
    But I know what you mean


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Can TP, working as a Policy Officer at Big Metropolitan Council, do something that can help staff who help customers, is the question. It’s about the position rooted in a system defined by management thinking, the barrel rather than this particular rotten apple.
      The main power a policy officer like me seems to have is choosing which rotten barrel to be an apple in.


  3. giantknave says:

    Whilst your bureaucratic ‘day job’ might pay the bills, you are clearly far more than that – an educator (not guru*) to many around the world. And given that you are not paid to educate as you do, then you clearly have ‘soul in the game’.

    “A teacher [educator] affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” (Henry Adams)



  4. posiwid4me says:

    It might say ‘bureaucrat’ on paper but the person inside the job title is what counts. You sir have soul in the game.


  5. Dambit says:

    After reviewing Mr Taleb’s piece, I can only conclude that he sounds like a bit of a nob. You should care less about his judgment.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Yes, he is most certainly a nob. But a bit like Richard Dawkins (nob) and John Seddon (some people consider exhibiting nob-like behaviours) , I totally can’t see the nob cos of the thinking.
      Excluding Dawkins twitter that I don’t read, his books are amazing. Especially the early ones. Same as Seddon. I wouldn’t want to be trapped in a lift with him, but has shaped my thinking about work more than anything else. So they’re all nobs, but correct with it.


      • Dambot says:

        Yes, its amazing what those gobby, egomaniacal baby boomers could achieve with research interested parents, significant wealth, public school education, an extended period in academia and access to a lot of other peoples’ work and research.
        (And Dawkins’ books amazing? Verbose, flowery and overly complicated maybe…)
        Time for wine and football – will lessen the pain of tomorrow’s meaningless work.


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