Integrative thinking with Judith

Everything can be understood and is explainable. Cause and effect will explain everything we do. So if we put guns in all the police cars then that will deal with the apparently permanent increase in attacks on police. Just as more police officers, tasers, harsher sentences, more prisons, less parole have all reduced crime. Excuse me a modicum of sarcasm. Could it be that these measures actually don’t do anything? Has the crime rate reduced? The uncomfortable demeanour of the police commissioner fronting media on the proposal and John Key’s caution contrasts starkly with the forthright, simplistic “they’re armed more so we have to be” approach of the police union and our minister of police Judith Collins. Why?

The mental models that determine our world view are deeply rooted in beliefs from the last several hundred years where at times we as humans have thought that we were the centre of the universe (literally!), that the solar system was akin to a clock with moving parts, all of which were understandable, that we would eventually understand all things and that cause and effect answer all problems. If that sounds odd ask yourself: have you recently addressed an issue at work with confidence that your understood the problem, and that all was required was some creative thinking around the solution. You might even have congratulated yourself on your creative thinking.

Our police minister has said that she simply waits on a recommendation from the police commissioner and a decision will be made. Well, we know what that recommendation is going to be. So advocacy (sort of) and implementation.

Were any counter views sought or listened to? The prime minister, I would say, but for political reasons he doesn’t want to appear weak on crime. But none are asked for publicly.

So what is wrong with all of this? Integrative thinkers understand the concept of mental models – the world views that shape their thinking, they are open to other world views, in fact, they openly acknowledge that there will be conflicting systems at play. Paradox is embraced. Advocacy is eliminated and replaced with open enquiry. Integrative and strategic thinkers focus on understanding the real problem which may not be linear – in fact it almost never is in intractable problems. If it were, it wouldn’t be intractable.

In government circles there is a phrase “whole of government” which if used properly might head a government to think integratively. Imagine seeing the head of the Ministry of Social Development with the police commissioner at a press conference announcing a series of changes that were to attack crime and disrespect to the police. Maybe that sounds all soft, liberal and do-gooder to you. Maybe it is. But just maybe we might start to resolve something so serious as increased crime. Because so far, we’re doing nothing.

It’s a line of failures brought on by linear thinking and a belief that we know everything so we only need to find more solutions. What’s the problem I say.

If you find yourself thinking: well what would you do about it man?, you’ve done it. Straight to solution.

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