At the core of every problem is a human life.
This life sometimes gets lost.
When we talk about innovation, problem solving and designing solutions, often we see large corporations losing sight of the human need at the centre of the issue. Quickly becoming wrapped up in the glamour of problem solving.
The speed. The low cost. The out of the box thinking.
But whilst many can be all too quick to point to their shiny solution that connects cutting edge expertise, we lose sight of the component that raised this issue as a problem in the first place: a human life.
It feels like problem solving has become all too performative. Rather than solving problems to be seen to solve them, which can often produce short term solutions to systemic problems, we need to re-shift our focus on meeting the real needs of people looking for help, in solutions that will serve their grandchildren.
We need solutions that fix the bones of the issue, rather than just sticking decorative plaster on the top.
Northumbria Water Innovation Festival
At last week’s Northumbria Water Innovation Festival, we saw a holistic approach taken to problem solving.
This 4 day festival saw academic institutions, water boards, social planning organisations and businesses come together to discuss the issues threatening our societies today. Across different workshops, sprints and presentations, attendees worked together to solve business challenges and issues currently facing the industry, as well as look at wider global issues that impact everyone.
Our Kind Currency Founder, Michelle Jones, shares her main takeaways from attending the event, and the thoughts and feelings the festival has inspired in her since.
I was delighted to be asked to attend the Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival. I’d obviously heard of the festival before but I’d never participated. Getting to be there and be part of the exhibit area and then be a lightning speaker was not only a great opportunity to obviously represent Kind Currency and our values, but also to engage in conversations around the problems we face in society that Norhtumbria Water has identified. The water industry, as we know, has a fairly integral role within our society. It’s great to see that our water board is leading with an opportunity to create the change we need to see.
The week as a whole was very very well planned. The mix of businesses that were there from academics to tech based solutions for the changing world that we live in in regards to the service industry. The whole format in terms of addressing real challenges and problems, but doing it in a way that brought people together as a community and also allowed them to work together, but have fun at the same time. So you had this blend of real festival vibes, alongside a real need to find solutions for the problems we were dealing with.
One of the beauties of the week was the fact that the water board had brought people together from across various different sectors to work together, to collaborate on a problem that we all share as a society. At Kind Currency we constantly raise awareness for the fact that we’re all responsible. We can all do our little bit to make a difference. The festival got that. It was the fact that we needed to come together as a collective. The beauty of doing that is that you've got a diverse range of voices that are coming at a solution from different experiences, different understandings, which provides the opportunity to think a little bit differently. From Kind Currency’s point of view, when we went in to do our presentation, right in the mix of the thought process of what solutions we were going to come up with for these problems, we went into disruption. To really give some real insight into why solving these problems is so important.
But also giving a bit of a reality check. We tend to come to problems from a top level point of view. We skim the surface, put a sticky plaster on, but obviously that whips off and the problem’s exposed itself again. So it was to get people to think deeper. Not just looking at the symptoms, but thinking about the root cause of all these symptoms, who is it affecting? That disruption is needed. You only get that real thought process that allows disruptive thinking when you bring people together from different sectors in society. Whether that be the people that have actually been affected by it, the people who are responsible for resolving it, and all the different players within the thread, and others from the external community. So it’s a case of collaborating to serve the human at the root cause of the problem. Collaboration is essential to that process.
Fundamentally when we’re resolving problems, there is a human at the heart of it. A human life is affected day in and day out. Many of the problems that we face in society can be a life or death situation. Rather than looking at the symptom, it’s realistically looking at, if we don’t solve this, if we don’t look at this correctly, what is the consequence of that action. And it could be a death. Our presentations throughout the week highlighted the people who have been massively affected by some of the problems we were facing. Some people had lost lives, some people’s health had been massively damaged, some people’s lives from a business perspective had been ripped up and pulled apart. And that’s the reality of the problem.
We have to stop looking at the symptom, stop thinking “this is a problem we need to solve from a business point of view”. “What resources have we got?”, “what is the budget?”. Doing it within really tight boundaries. For me, it’s about not being afraid to do the right thing. Doing the right thing might burst those boundaries and might put you in a bit of hot water, but I would rather do the right thing and save a life than do what I think I should do for the purpose of the organisation and a life beyond my hands.
Ultimately we’ve always got to put ourselves in the position of the person that’s been affected by it. If it was us, would we want to be in fear? Would we want someone to help us and put this wrong to right?