I made a little mistake today and am still kicking myself for it, though the consequences are minor. Shopping at the Farmer’s market I bought some leeks. They are quite long so they stuck out of my backpack. I didn’t bother trying to zip it closed, and somehow on the way back home it fell out, I’ve no idea where.
The little mistake Chris Huhne made 9 years ago, it is alleged, was getting his then wife to admit to being the driver for a speeding offence which would have got him to lose his licence, it is alleged. The little mistake, as alleged, turned into a big mistake when he admitted an affair and he and his wife split. Vince Cable told the BBC he is ‘very sure’ Huhne will clear his name, which must mean he is very sure the Crown Prosecution Service is bringing the case forward despite insufficient evidence, which suggests that Vince the Business Secretary should get in touch urgently with Ken Clarke the Justice Secretary and tell him to get his house in order?
The way our brains work this kind of thing happens a lot. We make one little mistake and because we get so annoyed about it, like I am with losing my leeks, we compound the problem, and so I spent an hour looking for the leeks I dropped!
We have to hope that people trying to solve some of our energy/climate change problems don’t let that kind of slip happen, for example with first generation power from nuclear fusion. Design engineers are trained to build in several levels of safety so that if someone makes a mistake it is not catastrophic, but design engineers also know that one slip can lead to another, so they build in fail safe mechanisms which are meant to take the human out of the decision making. But BP was supposed to have all kinds of fail safe systems when the Deepwater Horizon Blow out occurred, but they admit “The root causes are systemic” and BP admits it made mistakes, not just one, a series of compounding errors of judgement and decision making.
The scenario looks much the same in the banking and finance industries, systemic issues which are unresolved, compounding errors of judgement, the world financial system is in a mess and no-one seems to know what to do about it. Except repeat the same mistakes again, what? In the hope that eventually we will learn from our mistakes.
The same scenario exists in the various kinds of wars we have, whether it is the war on terror or the war on crime. The systems for dealing with both are fundamentally faulty. Around the world we fail to combat people trafficking (seemingly men are trafficked from England to work virtually as slaves in northern Europe, basically kidnapped!). We fail to combat drug trafficking, piracy. money laundering, again, this must be a systemic issue, the approach to addressing the problem does not work and the decisions people in the business of trying to control or eliminate the problems are fundamentally flawed.
The UK Government is under heavy criticism for its supposed ‘reforms’ of the education and health systems. We should ask why. The logic seems good, leave decisions to those on the front line, as GPs and as teachers and Head teachers, but GPs, teachers and Head teachers know that little mistakes they make often have big consequences, either for those they serve who are their clients or from the Government itself, which responds to problems with heavy control mechanisms.
Add concerns over housing reform, transport, employment and science (like the plan to put crystals into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun) and you wonder if this or any Government has the process for making decisions which will yield more than a series of small mistakes which then sometimes have huge consequences.
Chris Huhne is not the first Minister to resign. OK, so he is yet to go to court, the point is that people in Government seem to be prone to making mistakes which probably seemed minor events at the time but have lead to imprisonment and castigation, not just MPs expenses but money laden brown envelopes passed over at train stations, and often mixing with people who it is pretty obvious the public don’t expect you to be mixing with, not in that way, not Newspaper Proprietors surely, and more?
And if those in power can’t get the little things right how do we expect them to get the big things right?
The process of Governance cannot be left to the hope of appointing people who can do the right thing. It obviously doesn’t work. There needs to be a more thorough process of Government which allows inclusive decision making, which exposes how judgements are formed, how various options are balanced, how both reason and intuition are being used together in a Council of the Wise, which could include some ‘Cloud Thinking’ from people at large and a good dose of creative thinking.
We have 3 processes for decision making, reasoning, intuition, and creative, and we need to see how they can be used together, in harmony, with cross checks so that little mistakes don’t have such big consequences.