Laurence Benson routinely uses the lateral thinking techniques of the original thinker Edward deBono to review new and old policy for public services. As a teaching focused academic at Manchester Business School here Laurence runs the recent devomanc policy through deBono’s Six Thinking Hats technique.
Each hat has a different colour to represent a different channel of thinking. The effect is that you get a wider appreciation and scanning of an idea before you jump into often usual conclusions and close down lines of thinking and analysis. I have used this technique many times in my teaching career and recently within a class of post graduates studying Health Policy. It is best done wearing the hats one by one,the feeling of silliness soon falls away and many people warm to the technique quickly. So here are the Six Thinking Hats as applied to Devommanc policy idea announced in February 2015 by George Osborne, the Chancellor, civic leaders of Greater Manchester (GM) and national and local leaders of the English NHS.
With red hat on (for a gut reaction and initial emotional response to policy)………
I welcome this significant attempt to devolve power to regional authorities the funding and commissioning roles for health and social care. It is about time! Although this was a surprising initiative from a Tory dominated coalition. It is also very timely as the evidence base is so strong for regionally commissioned health and social care.
With yellow hat on (the happy hat of seeing the strengths, positives, advantages of policy )…….
This could mark a new era in English public services, where health and social care would be more locally accountable and as such more sensitive to the needs and demands of local people as there is to be a direct democratic link.
With black hat on (the hat of the devil’s advocate) ……..
I think that this policy will be severely limited by the protracted period and politics of austerity which the UK is still in from 2008 onwards . Local and regional public services with the exception of the NHS have endured a long and sustained storm of real reductions in funding from national government. This is particularly so for the funding of social care. Such a policy will mean that the NHS in England will become even more of a post code lottery. I would counsel caution as there have been other attempts in recent times across metropolitan areas in the North of England (Bradford and Liverpool amongst these) which attempted to coordinate agencies in impacting on health and well being. This included Health Action Zones launched in a blaze glory in the early years of the Blair government but with minimal progress to show as a result. They were wound up as Policy moved on in health and social care partly due to the endemic faddism in the early Blair years. A new Minister a flip flop in policy and a new policy.
With white hat on (the hat that prompts you to think we need more information on aspects of the policy) ……...
There are lots of implications of this policy and before it is implemented more information needs to be collected on budgets for instance and the cost of this new structure.
Key actors in GM need to look at the international evidence and practice of regional systems for health and social care, for instance practiced for decades in the Nordic countries. Much can be learnt and mistakes can be avoided by doing so. Everyone forges a new path but there is much information that can he gleaned from countries which has beaten the path of health and social care governed by City Regions, cities and towns.
With green hat on (to brainstorm the possibilities of something new like a policy announcement)…….
If successful no doubt other areas of England could follow and apply for greater devolution and more local accountability for healthcare. There will be shortened lines of command from the local commissioners through to the executive regional body. The age old wicked problems of health inequalities in the GM region can now be reappraised for action. New energy and enthusiasm to grapple with endemic public health and well being problems.
With blue hat on (the hat which manages the process of thinking and discussion if the exercise is done within a group) ……
What is needed is for key actors within the planning and implementation of DevoManc policy to hold an International summit or conference bringing together systems which have a clear democratic form of governance where the city is central. The event needs to be carefully orchestrated and facilitated in order to develop new ways of thinking for GM. A well connected University with international connections could take the role of facilitator for this, MBS within the University of Manchester is uniquely positioned to do this as it has excellent links with European healthcare systems and their practitioners.
So there you are deBono’s six thinking hats applied to DevoManc, any reactions or comments to this would be welcome and particularly ideas about the application of creative thinking techniques to public policies.