Roger Swannell

Page 2 of 118

Backwards looks like the right way round

A director emails two managers about building something new to solve an existing problem.

The first manager says:

  • Let’s have a meeting.
  • We’ll have to get more resource.
  • We’ll need to understand the requirements.
  • I’ll write a Proof of Concept Document.

The second manager says:

  • Let’s build it.
  • We’ll get customers using it.
  • We’ll learn loads about what customers actually want.

The first manager is solving organisational problems. The second manager is solving customer problems.

In a large, traditional organisation, the first manager looks like the one who’s doing it the right way. The second manager is a heretic who isn’t ‘thinking strategically’ and is considered to be doing it the wrong way. But it’s backwards. Delivering value to the customers and starting to learn about their problems as soon as possible should be what’s important. That’s the right way round.

First Aid at Work Training

Completed First Aid at Work Training with St. John Ambulance.

The way the course is run has changed since the last time I did it. There seemed to be more of a dumbing-down of first aid techniques, perhaps in recognition that the majority of first aiders are unlikely to retain more complicated techniques and apply them correctly, and that making the course simpler means more people will do it. So, it’s better to have more people with less knowledge than fewer people with greater knowledge.

Talking about first aid, and the causes of injuries got me thinking about complacency again. I think complacency is the root cause of the majority of injuries; didn’t think driving fast would be a problem, didn’t think to check the smoke alarm batteries, didn’t think to look both ways before crossing the road, etc., etc.

Developing a mindset of planning ahead, figuring out what the right procedure is, and following it in a habitual way is the solution to complacency. Then its ok to not think about the thing that you would be complacent about because the procedure takes care of making you do the right thing.

Testing images for charities

A selection of our images and stock images were tested and this is a summary of some of the outcomes:

  • People look at facial expressions, especially mouths.
  • People facing towards the camera offer better impact and being able to see their eyes to gauge emotion is useful.
  • Images with a clear purpose resonated, for example seeing someone wearing a branded T-shirt helped better connect with a fundraising ask or gave that sense of wanting to help. People wanted to be able to visually identify a charity and will look for badges and logos.
  • When showing a survivor, provide clear visual clues such as scars from surgery.
  • Don’t use shots of people wearing high-fashion (really well-dressed people) as apparently this is off-putting.
  • Don’t show images that could bring people to do the opposite of what you want, e.g. someone eating chocolate when we would want them to abstain –we’re not good at processing negatives.
  • Show images with hope, not shame – people connect emotionally.
  • Staged images weren’t well received – such as a baby dressed up in a Santa outfit. People felt manipulated. There is a fine balance between making people feel bad about themselves, against tapping into emotion to prompt people to react and donate.
  • Images showing concern makes people want to take action, but with a medical image of someone with discomfort made people turn away.
  • Natural poses and settings make people identify and comes across as warm and genuine.
  • Selfies did not read well, as people in them did not comes across as connected to cause.
  • Everyday people were more relatable – not super-fit super models.
  • Moments at the end of the race and demonstrating a sense of achievement were well received (rather than mid-race, partway through ‘the struggle’).
  • Groups of people / crowds tested well.
  • Images of babies tested better than of older children to show a sense of urgency and to prompt donations, as did black and white photography.
  • Real (recognisable) medical equipment tested better than graphics – and even more so if in use in a realistic setting such as a hospital.
  • To demonstrate ‘money making a difference’ images of researchers tested better than images of survivors as the latter give the impression of helping ‘only one person’.
  • Showing several researchers working rather than a single researcher gave the impression that more was being achieved.

Digital Design Principles

10 design principles to help charities build better digital services:

  1. Start with user needs, and keep them involved
  2. Understand what’s out there first
  3. Build the right team
  4. Take small steps and learn as you go
  5. Build digital services, not websites
  6. Be inclusive
  7. Think about privacy and security
  8. Build for sustainability
  9. Collaborate and build partnerships
  10. Be open


Being happy at work

Apparently, according to this tweet, the things that make people happy at work are a nice desk, gym membership, and a paid day off on their birthday.

Those seem like very superficial things to me, like expecting a new car to bring you happiness in life. And they are things that are separate from and external to your job.

I think we should look to our work to make us happy at work, not chase superficial outside gratification to distract us from our work. It suggests that an attitude of ‘I don’t like my work but at least I can go to the gym for free’ is the route to being happy at work. How can that make sense?

Finding and doing the right work for you will bring you more happiness than a new desk. Feeling meaning and significance in your work is what will make you happier at work. Appreciating how you contribute, having positive relationships with colleagues, learning and growing, this is what will make you happier at work.

The end of the one stop shop

Its a weird time in retail right now. Maplin is closing down, Homebase has been sold, Marks & Spencer are closing stores, and Tesco is shutting down Tesco Direct. What they all have in common is that they all try to be one-stop-shops for the section of the market they operate in. Maybe that’s a bad idea. Maybe it’s no longer what the customer wants. Maybe this kind of big retail operation has had it’s day.

Perhaps the poor economy, the driving force behind these changes to the retail landscape, will force the bigger players to relinquish their hold on each of their markets at the same time that new technologies and digital capabilities enable more smaller retailers to fill the gaps.

The state of the economy doesn’t make it any easier for smaller retailers, but if the idea of being a one-stop-shop, using a centralised operations model and a market-domination-by-being-the-biggest approach has lead to the downfall of the big retailers, then that’s a useful lesson for small retailers.

With growth in the number of stores and people comes increased complexity and the need for more people and more systems to manage that complexity, and with complexity comes cost. Maybe it’s better to accept ten per cent profits on a million pounds a year turnover than one per cent profit on a ten million pounds a year turnover.

Perhaps out of these weird times a multitude of small, more specialist, retailers will have the opportunity to take the place of the likes of Maplin, and rather than trying to be a one-stop-shop where you can get everything they will focus on more specific product ranges and more expert service.

Mental health awareness week: coping with stress at work

Does telling people to take time out of their day to play board games really help their mental health? Does having less time to spend doing the same amount of work make someone more stressed? Would helping people deal with being stressed be more helpful than distracting from it? Could a few simple workshop-type activities start to give people the skills for dealing with stress?

I have a few ideas about things that can help our mental wellbeing and cope with stress.

Getting perspective

Sometimes, when we’re really focused on something we can lose a sense of perspective about how important the things that are making us stressed really are.

Write down what the most important thing in your life is. It might be your family or loved ones, or achieving something meaningful to you, but whatever it is let’s give this most important thing a score of 100. Then, list the things that are causing you stress and give them a score between 0 and 100 to describe how important they are to you, not to anyone else, or to your job, but to you. Hopefully, when you add up all those scores they won’t even come close to the most important thing in your life.

Comparing the things that are causing you stress to the most important thing in your life can hopefully put those things into perspective.

Sharing achievements

If we spend our time thinking about all the things we haven’t done, how long our to do list is, and how those deadlines are looming, it’s easy to lose sight of the things we have achieved.

Share with someone (you have to say it out loud) some of the things you have achieved this week. Let them ask you questions about it if they want, but the important part is for you to recognise that you are getting things done and achieving things, even if you still have lots of other things to do.

Recognising and sharing achievements can help us feel good about ourselves as we have to admit that we have have made progress towards our goals.

Be kind

When we’re stressed we can often be quite terse with people, especially if we feel like they aren’t recognising that we’re really busy.

For every person that you speak to that day, try to say something nice, compliment them on something they’ve achieved, thank them for something they’ve done.

Taking the time to actively say something nice to someone not only makes them feel better but makes you feel better about being a nicer person.


Just breathe.

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