A Fearless Brexit (Part Five)


We have reached the fifth and final stage of our Brexit series, and by now most of our work should be done – the first four stages of our innovation process have seen us research, rethink and realise a vision for the country that is all but guaranteed to make Brexit a resounding success. But it would be a mistake to simply conceive and implement a solution and then simply leave it alone – to squeeze the last drops of potential out of any opportunity, we must apply the fifth and final stage: measure progress.

As the name suggests, this involves ongoing analysis and fine-tuning of the original strategy to make sure it’s performing at maximum capacity. One of the fundamental challenges of innovation is not just arriving at the perfect business solution, but also implementing it without causing major disruption. Take driverless cars, for example – an amazing innovation that we are only just beginning to realise faces major executional obstacles between here and widespread adoption. Driverless cars may be a great idea on paper, or in an optimised setting, such as Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs in Toronto. But in order to fit into the wider market, the idea will have to go through a process of extensive tweaks and changes, or else it risks being incompatible with the real world. The only way to understand how to make those changes is to monitor how a new product, service or technology is actually performing.

Brexit, of all things, is likely to face many roadblocks before it can become anything resembling a success – if it ever does. Both the UK and the EU are aware of the challenges ahead; why else would we be staring at yet another exhausting deadline delay? It’s an enormously complex undertaking that we probably won’t get right on first try, with lots of hidden problems rearing their head after we’ve already left. Even if the government had followed our process to the letter, this would remain true – it always does – but since the country is largely flying blind at this point, the prospect of major issues down the line is pretty much inevitable. The one consolation for whichever government ends up delivering the final Brexit plan is that the Measure Progress stage, designed to minimise these problems as much as possible, is an ongoing and long-term part of the process – and thus one they still have time to undertake, even as we crash headlong into the terrifying future.

In order to deliver the best Brexit possible, we will need to establish some measures of success – how do we want a final Brexit to actually look? These KPIs, or targets, or whatever we want to call them, must be measurable – we need tangible metrics to set against our performance as a country. These might be things like a) faith in the government, b) Britain’s economic capacity and market value, c) jobs and employment figures, d) opinion polls that describe the overall contentment of the UK’s population. The government, if it is realistic about achieving the optimum results, must establish a clear game-plan not just for measuring its own success but for improving its performance if it turns out to be falling short of the ideal.

How will the government restore trust if a hard Brexit leads to unseen issues? Will there be a public relations campaign to reassure the public, or a budgetary allowance for social programs, or an economic plan to shore up domestic manufacturing? Will there be a negotiation platform to solve political deadlocks, as we were forced to do during the Winter of Discontent? Will there be funds in place to keep our power stations running if the worst should happen (and any company who has made a risky manoeuvre in the past will tell you: the worst can always happen, and it is unwise to assume luck will be on your side.) Will we form strategic alliances and partnerships with other countries to ensure that the NHS continues to function, business continues to roll in, and medicine continues to make it across the border?

Hopefully, all of these options will be somewhere on the table for the government. And, in the scenario of an unexpectedly successful Brexit, the same rules apply. How will the government communicate its victories? How will we make sure that economic prosperity is not just achieved but actively benefits the electorate?

In either scenario, the only way to sensibly operate is to carefully and constantly measure how the whole thing is panning out, according to a set of pre-arranged targets. If we conduct Brexit with the same haphazard, uninformed complacency that we had going into it, we stand the very real risk of coming unmoored, missing out on vital opportunities, or just generally bungling a whole generation.

No company worth its salt would allow itself to reposition itself, develop a new product or service, or rethink its core vision without some idea in mind of what it wants to achieve, and measuring progress is the only way to know whether or not you’ve achieved something. In some ways, it’s the most important step of them all; you wouldn’t throw your chips into a poker pot without imagining your opponent’s hand and then, most importantly of all, actually turning over your cards.

Whatever happens with Brexit – and whenever it finally, exhaustingly, happens – the dark wizardry of politics pretty much guarantees that the outcome will not be what we expect, and also will be too complicated to accurately forecast. That’s why, if we were in charge of Brexit, we would ensure we were holding the spirit level up to the country at all times – to see whether we were shooting into the clouds, or sliding into the sea.

Many of us, during all this tumult, have been reminded of the classic Clash song, Should I Stay Or Should I Go, to the extent that it almost feels cliché to treat it as a sort of ah-hoc national anthem, as Vindaloo was in the nineties. And yet few verses capture the modern mindset, its confusion and implied threats of peril, as Joe Strummer’s seminal song – and so, as we conclude this little thought experiment (and we hope you’ve enjoyed coming on this turbulent journey with us) we have only one thing to add.

Whether you choose to stay and face the trouble, or to go, and see it doubled (which doesn’t seem like that difficult a wager after all, on reflection) then at least – if absolutely nothing else – look where you’re going, and try to keep track of where you’ve been.

With that, we think we’ve just done about all we can do to help save the country – you can thank us via email, if necessary. The only thing left to do now is wait. And wait. And wait.