Steve Hilton is a former director of strategy for David Cameron. He spent a year as a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He is co-founder and current CEO of Crowdpac, a political data technology start-up, and a visiting scholar at the think tank Policy Exchange. He is also the author of More Human: Designing a world where people come first.
“Things work best at the human level. When we can relate to each other as people”.
Steve’s central argument is that the systems and structures we have built have become too big and bureaucratic. This is particularly prevalent in government, in the economy and in business. We are seeing a smaller number of big corporations taking too much power, and exploiting and abusing that power to the detriment of the people that work for them, their customers, their suppliers etc. The way to deal with this concentration of power is to make the world more human. There needs to be a structure/environment where people can have a say and have some control over their lives and what happens in their communities.
He criticises technology for becoming 'unhealthily fetishised as an end in itself'. He agrees that 'big' is not always bad and that small is not always beautiful. However, he does think that we are losing sight of the main purpose, namely to make the 'world more human'.
Is he anti–tech? He doesn’t own a mobile phone, but he assures us that he isn’t. His thinking on technology seems to support the idea that technology, if used in the right way, can make us more human. He used Air BNB as an example of a tech company that is facilitating more human connections. As well as Uber, because of the way in which the company enables people to participate in the economy – drivers can earn money by fitting the job around their needs, which is empowering.
Can the structures and systems that are dehumanizing us be broken? He believes that they can and that technology can also help to expose the selfishness and bureaucracy of the companies and political institutions that are causing people to feel frustrated and overlooked. He’s also a huge advocate of human centered design thinking and its ability to put humans and their needs right at the heart of the process.
In his opinion everyone should be a human centered designer, which would mean that instead of asking questions such as, “How can we raise our customer’s average monthly phone bill by 10 percent?” We would be asking the question, “How can we help busy families to stay connected?” There seems to be a perfect fit between the discipline of human centred design and communications planning. After all, it’s our job to reframe business and sometimes, societal challenges in the context of human insight. In order to do that we have to make sure that we truly understand people’s deep emotional needs.
Steve’s thinking covers a variety of topics including: government; politics and policy making; education and its current failings; health care; food; corporate bureaucracy; the role of capitalism; poverty and inequality; the needs of children; and the world around us. Has he taken on too many topics? Some might argue that he has. Nevertheless his thinking is challenging the status quo and is calling on all of us to rethink solutions, ask questions and review our approach to some of the big issues that effect the world we live in as well as some of the smaller, but nonetheless important, issues that affect our communities and our personal lives.
by Rosie Collins