Origins of the Super-Smart Democracy Paradigm The need to talk about a ‘Super-Smart’ (or as it was then ‘Super-Competent’) model of democracy started to emerge in 2013 when I was a member of a small group of systems thinkers and participation consultants in Curitiba, Brazil.
We were trying to work out whether it would be worthwhile putting a lot of money, time and effort into offering our consultancy services to the newly-elected leftist Mayors and Governors in a few key cities and states in Brazil.
We started from the results of a survey by PWC about managing complexity. PWC interviewed 1400 global CEOs and found that 70% said managing the increasing complexity of their organisations was a high priority, 91% believed that this required special skills, tools and approaches, but only 5% believed they had the skills needed.
We were proposing that the newly-elected Mayors and Governors were in the same position as those CEOs because their cities and states were far more complex than any corporation. Our aim was to help them to identify, acquire and apply ‘the special skills and approaches’ that they and their senior colleagues needed to manage successfully the hugely-complex cities and states for which they were now responsible.
We would base our consultancy interventions on the work of systems thinkers and participation practitioners such as Stafford Beer, W.Edwards Deming, John Seddon, Richard David Hames, Dee Hock, Jake Chapman, Walter Mylecraine, Enid Mumford, Peter Checkland and the Brazilian educationalist, Paulo Freire.
The consultancy never came to fruition for two reasons. Firstly, we were not sure that we could negotiate successfully the very costly bureaucratic hoops that were in the way of obtaining contracts with public bodies in Brazil.
Secondly, we could see that, because we were starting at the top, as it were, we would be competing with the biggest boys on the block: McKinseys, Accenture, Booz Allen, Cisco, Microsoft, etc. Even finding and getting through the right door would need us to offer something very different and special to trigger a positive interest.