I was thinking about the amazing experience I just had buying a new MacBook Air, how new digital marketplaces are making things so simple – not to mention fast. This is not even considering the power of a completely integrated experience from someone like Amazon through their Kindle Fire. Contrast that to how we shop for specialist things like food by going to multiple specialist shops. The separate shops also offer some resistance to going backwards on your journey, ie they are somehow serial in nature. If you get the meat, then the vegetable place doesn’t sell what you want, it is hard to go back to change the meat order.
Ideally, the produce and ingredients would assemble themselves around the menu as the dish was being designed by sharing knowledge about availability, fit and broader measures like nutritional value. Then you could cook what you felt like or needed with few impediments other than your own capabilities. To some extent various players are grappling with this but in a very awkward way. Services should be integrated in parallel, not serially.
The thought that many services offered to the community are like the High Street shops. Each in a silo with their own business culture and rules, offering what they have and offering it in a strange sequence which might not fit a real world situation, especially complex ones. This sequential, silo approach may offer efficiencies in tight verticals but denies the complexity in the world that requires integrated thinking and appropriate systems. The recent spate of finger pointing in response to emergency services criticism related to bushfires in WA is a good example. The same might be said for areas like mental Health, except that the new Mental Health Commission is talking about a new integrated, person-centric approach. Where is the digital ‘marketplace’ equivalent? This is one area that could draw on the parallel services model.
In some ways that is the big difference between primary school and high school. High school tends to specialise in silo form. Integration in the form of projects is harder there than in primary schools where the teacher has a brief to integrate. I can’t help thinking that the logic extension of a push to project-based learning or challenge-based learning in schools must be supported by a model similar to parallel services and a digital ‘marketplace’. Take that a step further and we get a school where the students learn inside projects, in the community using digital tools to achieve access to expertise in an integrated way. They can then return to school for the hard problems or assessment. The inside-out school. Could bear scrutiny.