You may subscribe to the idea that Modern Life Is Rubbish (an album by Blur), but does it have to be that way? I believe not. We have a much bigger capacity to creatively re-think our lives, relationships, and even society than we allow ourselves to imagine.

wordle image for re-think targets write in with yoursThis is why the Re-think weblog encourages you to send in your ideas about improving life and the world we live in. While I don't want to restrain your creativity with too structured an approach, here's my suggestion for a format that will make your input more manageable. I intend to publish some of the best, particularly those that challenge received wisdom, question assumptions, and are beneficially provocative to others. So here goes.

1. What needs re-thinking?

This could be personal, professional, or societal – nothing too big or too small for a re-think. For example, in my home town of Oxford my re-think is the visitor's welcome to the city. What's yours?

2. Why?

It may be self-evident – e.g. eradicating child pornography – but taking the time to write down a line or two helps to focus the mind on why you feel so strongly about the topic.

In my Oxford example above, I feel strongly about it because (a) it's a beautiful city, (b) shopkeepers are not over-friendly, (c) when you arrive you have to pay for Park and Ride parking and then the bus separately – and it's expensive, (d) most visitors don't see the most interesting and hidden parts of Oxford, (e) parking is hell.

3. What are your re-thinks?

It's very easy to groan about a problem, harder to suggest constructive solutions. Continuing my example:

  • Big re-think: Oxford to become the UK's first Customer/ Visitor Friendly city. Businesses and the public sector combine to create a training, awareness, and communications strategy to reach everyone who affects a visitor's perception from taxi drivers to traffic wardens to retailers and restauranteurs.
  • Small re-thinks. A one fee 'Passport to Oxford' ticket for visitors, together with updated flyers that describe what you can do in a day in the city, what's on this week, and so on. Also monthly brief videos on the bus to describe the most sought after and also unusual sights.

4. What's the first step to make this happen?

In my case, contacting the authorities who are responsible for the visitor experience and offering to facilitate a meeting where they create a do-able scheme, funding, and communications strategy. Watch this space!

5. What are the yes, buts you will have to overcome?

This should not hamper your creativity, but make you more focused and resilient in pursuing, selling, or 'redefining' your ideas. I expect the following:

  • We're doing ok
  • Different interest groups have their own agendas
  • Inertia
  • Failure to see (a) it's possible, (b) the real benefit

This certainly tests one's resolve! Only consider these to the extent that they will sharpen up your own thinking. (And then ignore them. Why not? What if? Always trumps 'yes, but' in the end!)

I look forward very much to your ideas. If you come up with a format that's more natural to you, that's fine. My intention is that this will also be valuable to you as once we have brought our attention thoughtfully to a situation, our mind is already set to solve it.

Just email Nigel Barlow and we'll see what we can create together.

Originally published: Sat 06 May 2006


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