Unmentoring and Randomised Coffee Trials


We launched Randomised Coffee Trials for the first time at our Wellbeing Seminar. For the uninitiated, they aim to get random people together to discuss their work. This guide by David Gurteen is a really useful introduction. In order to explain the concept to attendees, we played this video by the Red Cross on how they’re using it.

Happily, LocalGovDigital launched their Unmentoring at about the same time, which is based on the same principles. Perfect – a chance to experience the method and to learn about someone’s work at the same time.

I was paired with Paul Inman of Warwickshire County Council, and it was a great chance to learn more about their work and compare it with what’s happening this side of Offa’s Dyke.

Warwickshire have been undertaking some work around customer journeys and channel shift. An online transaction can be much cheaper than meeting in person – a transaction costs an average of 15p online compared to £8.62 in the flesh. It’s interesting to hear how small changes can make a difference, like prompting people to go to the website when they’re on hold on the phone.

Warwickshire County CouncilThe pleasing thing is that Warwickshire haven’t forgotten about people in all of this. Kate Bentham’s blog is a great example of why we should keep our people focus when making changes. In terms of their website, Warwickshire believe in evolution, not revolution. This means small changes along the way, like making the margins smaller on mobile, rather than big PR headlines. But each change makes a small difference, and people don’t have to re-learn the site.

In terms of what I brought to the party (apart from my own cup of tea), I expanded a little on how the Wales Audit Office are using Yammer and the Good Practice Exchange’s Effective Use of IT event, where we looked at the National Library of Wales’ disaster recovery.

Our next Unmentoring chat is at the start of next month, so we’ve both got a bit of time to reflect on our first conversation and delve a bit deeper into things. But what’s been really useful is the opportunity to take some time out to reflect on what a ‘good IT service’ might look like, and also to spend some time talking to somebody about the challenges public services face who has a different perspective to my own.

Most of us have worked in silos at one point or another, and it’s all too easy to get entrenched in these with our own specific ideas and perspectives. It’s been fascinating seeing how Unmentoring and Randomised Coffee Trials can play a part in breaking down barriers to information sharing, and I’m looking forward to learning more about Warwickshire’s work going forward. Mark Jeffs has outlined how we need to work differently. The inspiration for that has to come from somewhere, and hopefully Unmentoring and Randomised Coffee Trials can be that spark that helps people to think about things in a new light.



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