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.