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Why a learning culture is important (Part One) 

 July 22, 2020

By  Christopher Bird

Why a learning culture is important (Part One)

Have you ever thought that our whole political system needs radical change? But in the face of complex global challenges, for example, a pandemic why is the British state a lumbering beast still using the technology of the 20th century if not the 19th. When it needs to be as agile as a Silicon Valley tech company. So, you may be asking why are our politicians not well equipped for the jobs they do? Well, you are not alone.

Politicians have to make important decisions fast. Are they equipped to use the data they have or is it time to send the politicians back to the classroom for extra maths?

How about your first day in parliament?

Chi Onwurah member of parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne central. Nick Herbert MP for Arundel and South Downs for 15 years until last year. Have said when they arrived in parliament. It was one of the greatest culture shocks they had ever experienced. And Chi Onwurah had worked in France the US and Nigeria, in fact, all over the world.

Nick Herbert MP stated his recollection of becoming a member of parliament. Parliament is more akin to going to a new school than it was beginning a new job? You are given a peg with your name on it and a locker. When he left, he found a key that he thought must be the key to the locker that he was given. But he has no idea where that locker is. He was unsure as to whether he put anything in his locker. He thought he might have put some marmalade sandwiches in his satchel. Like Paddington bear. They could still be there rotting inside as he had never been to collected his belongings.

Both said you are greeted by these men with gold chains and white tie and tails. One of them said, mama. So she looked behind thinking the Queen was behind her and then she realised they were talking to her. You do not arrive as you would in any other job. Where there are defined job specifications and a set of targets that you have to meet. It's just not like that.


Coming from a very different background and very little training. You are left wondering whether the institution is fit for purpose. In 2010 we got half a day's training and that was the first time they did an induction for MP’s. For too long being an MP has been regarded as such a unique job. That any level of training would not be regarded as appropriate. Being an MP is not a profession. Chi Onwurah thinks that's right. Because MPs are supposed to be representing people. In all the different professionals. And all the different ways, people live their lives. She does think it's appropriate need to be more professional. Any form of continued personal development would improve MPs ability to do the job.

There is more training now though still not as much as you might expect. And it's true that being a representative of the people is not a regular job. Weirdly a really good example is the other side of the world is China. Every minister every governor, mayor has to go through weeks of residential training every year. Training tries to fill the gaps in their knowledge. They need to understand how world class organisations use data. And the complexities of public engagement and all the things they will need to know in their job.

Jeffery Morgan a professor at University College London. Was director of policy under Tony Blair. Jeffrey states it is taken for granted in the UK system, however senior you don't require training. In China, even the president has about 60 hours of learning each year. Something absolutely unthinkable for a British Prime Minister. We don't have a learning culture in British politics. It is assumed when you become a minister you should pretend to be an expert in whatever ministry you are given. It’s crazy. No one in any other field works like that.

So, if we are not going to send our politicians back to school what should we have on the curriculum. Time for our first class. Anybody who is going to be making decisions based on evidence or data analysis. Needs to know what are the common pitfalls are. What they should be thinking about and what are the questions to be asking about what you being told or seeing.

Tomorrow's article will dig deeper into the questions raised above. The pitfalls of statistics, data analysis.


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Christopher Bird


Building your own Power App, BI solution, or automated workflow can be a mind-blowing experience. It can also be a nightmare. Particularly when you begin with a blank screen. My advice, get professional help as and when you need it. That's what successful people do.

Christopher Bird

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