I had to renew my car tax the other day. I can’t tell you how impressed I was that I could do this online now. Gone are the days of lining up in post office queues sandwiched between chainsmoking alcoholics, only to find the document you have entitled ‘Insurance Certificate’ is not in fact a certificate of insurance, and being told curtly to come back and enjoy the experience again tomorrow.
I am always impressed when these things actually work because working for a large institution I have an appreciation of systemic complexity. One of the (many) problems with modern media is that they simply cannot understand complexity – they always seek to find an individual to blame and having done this, they feel the problem is solved. But in large organisations dealing with complex tasks it can be the case that everyone is working perfectly well but things can still go wrong. That’s the nature of complexity. For this reason I always find myself rather siding with the corporate spokesperson who is called on to a consumer rights programme such as Watchdog and is given a grilling by the unsympathetic presenter who prides themselves on being the people’s champion.
So, when things like the tax renewal work, I am pleasantly surprised because I have an understanding of the complexity of the problem – imagine having to coordinate all those databases, get agreement from the insurance agencies, create the appropriate software, check with the MOT database, and so on.