I love words – they are a window into the workings of our caveman wetware. Spoken and written language is the remarkably recent innovation that opened the door to the development of civilisations because it allowed individual knowledge to accumulate, to be shared, to become collective and to span generations (the picture is 4000 year old Minoan script) .
We are social animals and we have discovered that our lives are more comfortable and more predictable if we arrange ourselves into collaborative groups – families, tribes and communities; and through our collaboration we have learned to tame our enironment enough to allow us to settle in one place and to concentrate more time and effort on new learning. The benefits of this strategy comes at a price – because as the size of our communities grow we are forced to find new ways to make decisions that are in the best interests of everyone. And we need to find new ways to help ourselves abide by those decisions as individuals without incurring the cost of enforcement. The word “civis” means a person who shares the privileges and the duties of the community in which they live. And size matters – hamlets, villages and towns developed along with our ability to behave in a “civilised” way. Eventually cities appeared around 6000 years ago – and the Greek word for a city is “polis”. The bigger the city the greater the capacity to support learning and he specialistion of individual knowledge, skills and experience. This in turn fuels the growth of the group and the development of specialised groups – tribes within tribes. A positive feedback loop is created that drives bigger-and-bigger settlements and more and more knowledge. Until … we forget what it is that underpins the whole design – civilised behaviour. While our knowkedge has evolved at an accelerating pace our caveman brains have not kept up – and this is where the three “Poli” words come in – they all derive from the same root “polis” and they describe a process:
1. Politic is the method by which the collective decisions are generated.
2. Policy is the method by which the Political decisions are communicated.
3. Police is the method by which the System of Policies are implemented.
The problem arises when the growth of knowledge and the inevitable changes that result starts to challenge the current Politic+Policy+Police Paradigm that created the context for the change to happen. The Polices are continulally evolving – as evidenced by the continuous process of legislation. The Paradigm can usually absorb a lot of change but there usually comes a point when it becomes increasingly apparent to the society the the Paradigm has to change radically to support further growth. The more rigid the Policy and the more power to enforce if present the greater the social pressure that builds before the paradigm fractures – and the greater the disruption that will ensue as the social pressure is released. History is a long catalogue of political paradigm shifts of every size – from minor tremors to major quakes – shifts that are driven by our insatiable hunger for knowledge, understanding and meaning.
Improvement Science operates at the Policy stage and is therefore forms the critical link between Politics and Police. The purpose of Improvement Science is to design, test and implement Policies that deliver the collective Win-Win-Win outcomes. Improvement Science is an embodiment of civilised behaviour and it embraces both the constraints that are decided by the People and the constraints that are defined by the Physics.