Week note #182

This week I’ve been doing:


I haven’t done much on RogBot this week because I’ve been focused on the assignment for my masters course, but I have started writing a user manual for me and collating some info about being an INTJ. I need to get some bitesize chunks from my Insights personality test and then put all of these together in the ‘about’ section on my Miro board so I can figure out the connections between them all.

Will automation threaten the employability of graduates?

I’ve been writing my first assignment for the ‘Innovation in the knowledge economy’ module. As with my other assignments, I’ve enjoyed writing it and reading lots on the subject. Automation replacing humans is something I’m interested in anyway so getting some theoretical background to it has been fascinating.

This week I’ve been studying:

Lecture 2: Skill biased technological change: Automation and the future of jobs

The second lecture of the ‘Innovation in the knowledge economy’ module was essentially about the trend of technology changing work and how it might change it in the future, or to put it another way, are robots going to take our jobs. The dominant thinking seems to be that automation will affect the routine work that is easy to codify first and the creative work last or possibly not at at. I think it depends on the timeline you are considering. I have no doubt that on a long enough timeline all jobs will be performed by robots, and this raises interesting questions about what society looks like when individuals no longer generate their own wealth and our current concepts of contribution and consumption no longer stand up.

Reading list

  • The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerization? 
  • The case for a robot revolution, in “Our work here is done. Visions of a robot economy”, NESTA.
  • Talk by Eric Brynjolfsson on “The key to growth? Race with the machines” TED talk.
  • Reasons for skill-biased technological change
  • The CORE curriculum (2015) Unit 2, Technology population and growth
  • Effects of skill-biased technological change on jobs.
  • Talk by Anthony Goldbloom on “The jobs we’ll lose – and the ones we won’t” TED talk.
  • Creativity vs robots: The creative economy and the future of employment, NESTA
  • Classifying occupations according to their skill requirements in job advertisements, ESCoE Discussion Paper.
  • Which digital skills do you really need? Exploring employer demand for digital skills and occupation growth prospects, NESTA report.
  • The Rise of Skills: Human Capital, the Creative Class and Regional Development, CESIS Working Paper.
  • The shrinking middle: how new technologies are polarising the labour market, LSE CentrePiece.
  • Effects of skill-biased technological change on inequality
  • Skills and social insurance: evidence from the relative persistence of innovation during the financial crisis in Europe, Science and Public Policy.
  • Technological change, bargaining power and wages, in “Our work here is done. Visions of a robot economy”, NESTA.
  • The truth about the minimum wage: neither job killer nor cure-all, Foreign Affairs, January-February.
  • Digital Dividends, World Development Report, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

This week I’ve been thinking about:

How capital investment delivers increasingly marginal returns

Neoclassical economics with its focus on investing in capital vs New Growth theory with its focus on investment in knowledge. Seeing how the neoclassical thinking filters into things such as consumer culture’s drive to buy more things and the project management idea of more people equals increased productivity, it seems like an interesting thing to understand. I also think organisations don’t focus enough on knowledge management and intellectual assets so its interesting to find an economic theory that provides some validity to the capital vs. knowledge argument.
Also I heard the term ‘Return On Asset’ on a podcast in contrast to ‘Return On Investment’ so I might try to find it again and see if it has any connection for me.

Workplace collaboration startups

Merci Victoria Grace‘s article about the current market space for workplace collaboration startups.

Mapping Workplace Collaboration Startups

I think the real prize is in the Documentation space with anyone who figures out how to help companies turn people’s knowledge into intellectual assets and then leverage these for a competitive advantage standing to make a lot of money. It looks to me like that is what Microsoft is trying to do with Teams, and any direction big players are taking their product strategy is always worth paying attention to.

Theory of change

I’ve been thinking about ‘Theory of change’ and how it could be used for providing context for team and individual OKR’s and/or goals. Rather than setting goals that might be impossible to achieve because no one truly understands the barriers, constraints, and influences on all the complex things that affect even one goal, a team (or even better the entire organisation) should start with a well-documented system map and theory of the changes required in order to achieve the mission. Then, it should be easier to see if achieve the goals is getting the organisation closer to it’s mission.

This week on my Twitter:

Reinventing charity

Ben Holt, charity innovator previously of CRUK and currently of British Red Cross, posted this request to find people to work with on what a new charity might look like if you designed it from scratch.

Ben Holt's tweet about reinventing charity

I think the hardest thing when starting a charity from scratch would be deciding what its purpose should be, what issues is it going to tackle. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges I foresee for the third sector over the next few decades is going to be how to coordinate services and organisations to solve people’s problems in a connected way rather than the disparate way we do at the moment where we know that the problems people face are often connected but we make them go to one organisation for help with one problem and another organisation for help with a different problem, even though it’s the same person. Perhaps this conceptual charity should start from the point of view that choosing just one problem isn’t really user-centred enough.

It started me thinking about how to approach this as a thought experiment, starting with doing some target space discovery to understand the various ways in which an organisation can exist, whether it is a legal entity like a charity or social movement which doesn’t, what some of the underpinning assumptions are. So if/when I get time I’m going to try to do some work on it.

OKR’s: to cascade or not to cascade

I’ve often struggled to get my head around the different ways people think of and use OKR’s. One of the prevailing ideas seems to be that they should be set up to cascade down through the company. I think this risks complicating what should be a simple (and that’s what makes it difficult) idea about how to align everyone behind an objective. One of the problems with cascading in this way is it often takes months for the uppers and betters to write and agree their OKR’s so that by those in the lower levels of the organisation can set their’s. By the time everyone has done their OKR’s the year is almost over.

I think a clearer approach is ‘This is our mission’ (the Objective), ‘What are you going to do to help achieve that mission?’ (the Key Result). Clearly the answer to that question is going to be different depending on who answers it, but the benefits are that if anything changes, from company strategy to a new recruit joining the team, it’s easy to change the things one person or one team is going to do to help achieve the mission without having to coordinate a change anywhere else as no one else is affected. It also gives more breadth to include learning key results rather than just delivery key results, which isn’t the case with the cascading approach.


Pagham Beach


Elmer Beach


British Wildlife Centre


Warleigh Weir


Week notes #180

This week I’ve been doing:

Rogbot, what do you know about Roger?

I wanted a new project so I started developing a chatbot for my website that will surface information about me from my CV, personality test results, and my user manual (thanks to Becky for the inspiration). I wanted to try to find a way to make the conversational interface more than just ‘here’s stuff from my CV’ and ‘here’s stuff from my personality test’, so that it isn’t about presenting individual documents but has some sense of a cohesive picture of what I’ve done, what I’m doing, what I’m like, etc. So it needs to surface the info in the documents rather than the documents themselves, and in the context of questions that someone might ask.

I started with Postit notes on a wall to help me see each item I wanted to include in the bot. This helped me figure out how to connect it all, and the answer was to allow the user to create a unique(ish) journey by connecting each answer the bot provides to three other pieces of information that will allow the user to jump between work history, projects, ideas, etc., without me having to preempt the journey.

My first iteration is a short quiz about me, which was really just about getting the chatbot on my website with something vaguely interesting to interact with. The next thing on my roadmap is to use the Trello API to pull in my life roadmap and the Google Calendar API to enable the bot to show what I’m doing at any point in time.

Jab, cross. Track, review

I started Krav Maga. It’s been in the Next column on my roadmap for a while so I decided to start classes and move it to the Now column. I also added it my ‘Lead an intentional life’ OKR for 2020 so I can track how many classes I go to. I currently have 130 key results to track against my three objectives, and my current score is 0.12 (but hey, we’re only two weeks into the year). I think I’d like to add reading books to my KRs but I’m not sure I’ll have time so will probably review this in a couple of months.

This week I’ve been studying:

Balancing academic with ideas

Term starts next week so this is my last week without lectures for a while. I am only studying one module this term, ‘Innovation in the knowledge economy’, so I can spend less time studying course material and hopefully have some time to progress some of my thinking about how anarchism and systems thinking can change how we thinking about innovation.

I started reading Ten faces of innovation and The Free-Market Innovation Machine.

This week I’ve been thinking about:

Running discovery on a new role

How can we start in a new role in a way that gives you the best chance of success? Approaching it as a fire control problem I could develop an understanding of the target and target space, move early in the direction of the target, get regular feedback to course correct so that I have the best chance of hitting the target. I need to give this a lot more thought and formalise it to make it useful.

In How to start, Lauren Currie talks about the conventional wisdom and the reality of starting a new role, things like fixing problems, making a good impressions, and learning the sweet spot between the company way of doing things and how you work.

What does county council innovation look like?

I read Tom Harrison’s weeknote about the new Buckinghamshire County Council website. Seeing a bit of how he and the team there are approaching this work is interesting in itself, but it’s especially interesting for me because I live in Buckinghamshire and it is becoming a unitary authority, which makes me wonder if the new website is a result of that and how an organisation going through such a complicated process affects the process of building the website.

It also made me think about what an innovation team could do for a county council. Having seen the experience someone went through in applying for a blue parking badge it looks like there would be lots of opportunities for rethinking the processes that citizens go through and making them easier and more efficient for everyone.

This week, people I follow on Twitter were saying:

Making decisions

There seemed to be a bit of a theme of talking about the different ways of approach decision-making. Kent Beck showed his cycle for observing effort/output to outcome/impact, and how difficult it is to connect the two. Simon Wardley talked about how maps don’t tell you what to do, they help to create a shared understanding of the landscape and challenges to make more informed choices, and that Cynefin is an excellent decision-making framework. Allen Holub was talking about how T-shaped teams have all the skills they need to make decisions and don’t have to delay waiting for an expert from outside the team.

Blaming the product

There were tweets about Microsoft Teams. Lots of people don’t like it and I wonder about why that is. Could it be that blaming a product (which is faceless and immediately in front of you) feels easier than blaming the people behind the product (which we probably don’t even think about that much)? Products are the way they are because of decisions people have made. MS Teams has an extra layer of that as the people at Microsoft who built it made decisions, and then there are people at the implementing organisation (usually the IT team) who also make decisions about how to configure it. Making those decisions is always going to be complicated and dependent on lots of constraints, and I guess it should be for a Product Manager to take on the responsibility for them. Of course, in many organisations implementing Teams there won’t be a Product Manager who can speak to users to understand their needs to inform those decisions.


Brighton Beach


Week notes #179

First weeknote of 2020. The future is here (it’s just not yet evenly distributed).

This week I’ve been doing:

Annual expenditure analysis

Updated my budget tracker (because I’m just that rock ‘n’ roll) and analysed how much money I’d spent over last year and what on. 12% of my expenditure was on my car (tax, insurance, maintenance), 11% on my education (course fees and books), 9.8% on fuel for my car and 3.6% travel (train fare). I expect the balance of expenditure to shift next year with more going on travel and less on my car and fuel.

What do mental health carers need

Started thinking about a side project I might want to work on over this year. I’ve only just started discovery work but I think there is a need for support for people acting as carers of people with mental illness problems. There is growing awareness people suffering from mental illness and what support is or isn’t available, but maybe their carers need support and that is a hidden problem. Based on my experience, and some recent thinking based on a discussion about the book The Chimp Paradox, my hypothesis is that ‘the problem to solve’ is that carers feel like the illness of the person they are caring for controls both of their lives, so I think feeling more in control of their own lives helps them to maintain their own health and support the person they are caring for. I don’t know if this will ever develop into anything as I don’t really have time to work on it but I’ll continue with some discovery work for the time being.

This week I’ve been studying:

The cost/benefit of reading a book

Haven’t done much studying this week. I have lots of books to read but not enough time to read them. I feel a bit torn between reading academic books that are about the past and wanting to develop my own ideas for the future. I get that the accepted academic research provides an important and necessary background for my own thinking, but reading an entire book feels like a large time cost for a small knowledge return

This week I’ve been thinking about:

The future paradigm for innovation is systems-thinking

For a while now I’ve held the belief that the ‘creative destruction’ paradigm that underpins our dominant thinking about innovation isn’t fit for purpose in the 21st century. It comes predominantly from Schumpeter, an Austrian political economist writing in the 1930s. His ideas about innovation being about the new new thing and first mover advantage came out of him living at the time of the Great Depression and in between two world wars. The backdrop of this economic and political world climate undoubtedly coloured what Schumpeter saw as the purpose of innovation and what it required to achieve economic success.

But times have changed. This thinking is almost a hundred years old and yet it still informs how most organisations approach innovation. Innovation needs a new paradigm. And I think Systems Thinking is it. Systems thinking requires synthesis approaches rather than reductionist analysis, it looks at how the parts work together rather than isolating the parts from the whole, and it recognises that change is evolutionary, building on what exists, rather the perpetuating the myth of innovation as newness.

I need to spend a lot more time learning about systems thinking, how it can serve as a paradigm for innovation activities and thinking.

Web 3.0

I’m really interested in decentralisation as a model for the web and as an idea for leadership. This video provides a quick overview of the different versions of the web and why 3.0 is so important.

I set up a blockstack ID for myself, and played with some DApps (Decentralised Apps). There are lots of alternatives to the centralised monopolistic internet services like Dpage instead of blogging services like WordPress, but it’s really not very user friendly, a barrier that will have to be overcome if it’s to get widespread consumer adoption.

This week on my Twitter people were talking about:

What they did in 2019 and how things have changed since 2009

Lots of people were posting about things they’d achieved in the past year and what has changed in their lives during the past decade. I think reviewing the past (essentially running a retrospective for yourself) is really useful. I did a quick ‘What I did in 2019’ blog post, but I haven’t really done enough retro-thinking about the year. It was definitely a year of lots of change.

Different ways of writing week notes

I’ve also looked a bit more deeply at how people are using week notes and what benefits they get out of them. For me it’s part of a reflective practice, being able pull together lots of different moments and thoughts from a defined time period into a (semi-) cohesive picture on a regular cadence forces me to think critically about my week. Although I don’t look back at old posts that much, and I wonder if anyone looks back at what they previously wrote, perhaps just the act of writing about what happened is sufficient for learning. Of course being public means that only those things that are deemed ok to be publicly mentioned are included. I wonder if this prevents/reduces reflection on the private things, or whether there is another mechanism like week notes for encouraging that.


New Year’s day walk at Selsey


What I did in 2019

I progressed my career… Left BHF after four and a half years, started at BSI, and left BSI. I learned a lot about what kind of organisation and culture I want to work in and how I position myself.

I invested my education and learning… Did a Product Management course at General Assembly and started an MSc in Business Innovation at UCL. My thinking about product, organisational design and innovation has really progressed.

I started listening to podcasts… My favourites are Darknet Diaries, How to be awesome at your job, Freakonomics Radio, Tech For Good Live, Alexa Stop, Akimbo, The Product Experience, Build and All The Responsibility.

I consolidated my website… Moved my blog and website together and added more historic content. But I still have lots more to add.

I did a loop in a stunt plane… It was awesome. If I had the time and the money my number one hobby would be Stunt Plane Pilot.

I visited lots of beaches… Because being by the sea, in places of solace, creates a separation from daily life and helps to settle thoughts.

I saw Pink in concert… She was fantastic.

I experimented… with ways of working and with being more minimalist, more stoic, and a bit anarchist.