'Don’t be a poo in the pool': Google teaches civil service all the latest jargon

Sir Humphrey goes to Google – and learns to ‘greenhouse’

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Indy Politics

When the Cabinet Office arranged for a group of civil servants to spend a week with the internet giant Google the expectation was they would return with new digital skills.

But instead the experience seems to have transformed them from Sir Humphrey into a pastiche of the cliché-ridden fictional blue-skies thinker from The Thick of It.

In a blog, published on the Government website for the benefit of officials who didn’t go on the course, one of the participants described what he had learnt in the week.

“Don’t be a ‘poo in the pool’,” Steve Vaughan, the Cabinet Office’s head of media monitoring, wrote in point No 3 of his 17-point plan for Google-inspired government success.

“There are people who may prevent you from jumping into the pool of creativity by failing to embrace your ideas with their reductive thinking. Don’t be that person. Be expansive,” he said.

Other pearls of wisdom included: “Step out of your rivers of thinking”, “Paper, scissor, stone can be quite exciting”, and the marvellous “Greenhouse your ideas when brainstorming [and] implement the SUN technique: Suspend your judgements of colleagues’ ideas; Understand their ideas; Nurture their ideas.”

Without seeming irony, point No 10 is “authenticity is key”.

The 17-point list of suggestions was posted on the Government Communication Service’s website – a body designed to improve civil servants’ communication skills. It followed a week-long visit to Google’s London HQ by members of the GCS Inspire Talent Cohort, including Mr Vaughan.

But it is just possible that the author may have been subtlety sending up his Google experience. Mr Vaughan is a former newspaper executive who, former colleagues suggest, would be unlikely to have such a Damascene conversion.

And the Cabinet Office itself was taking the advice none too seriously.

“Talented civil servants are finding their potential by wading out of the restrictive rivers of thinking and greenhousing new ideas, particularly through these free exchange programmes,” said a spokeswoman.