Building Better Roads

Sfalassa BridgeAs my Twitter followers will know, I’ve been traveling through Sicily, returning to some places for the first time in a decade. One change that really stands out over this period is the investment in the road system. A great new network of tunnels, bridges and motorways has spread out across the island from Palermo, making it quicker and safer to get from place to place.

One can only wonder at the cost of these engineering feats. Most were completed before 2008. Alas, I fear that solving our everyday travel problems with such large infrastructure solutions will not be possible in the austerity-ridden Europe of 2012.

Which got me thinking, as I glided across another beautiful new bridge: how will Europe be able to solve its future problems in our new, more constrained world? What do these Sicilian motorists need to do to continue to ensure economic growth on their island?

One answer is challenge assumptions about how things are done. New economic realities mean that many of these assumptions are out-dated.

However, most people have yet to realise this. Clearly, just telling people that they’ve living in the past is not a good idea.

So what to do? One option is to help people to think more creatively about what can be done if we simply challenge the old ways of doing things. Now, this is easier send than done. Our assumptions about how things are done are often deep-rooted. They are rarely talked about because, well, they simply describe how things have been done for a long time.

Build a bridge to cross a valley, use the car to get to work, use established forms of labour to earn a living. Challenging such assumptions can be difficult.

But I think that people are more likely to challenge such assumptions if they can glimpse a more positive future. Empowering people to think creatively in order to generate and own that future can overcome natural reticence to change.

There is an important role for creative facilitators here. Europe, more than ever, needs our skills in order to challenge out-dated assumptions in creative ways. The stakes are high. And the time is now.