Week note #183

This week I was doing:

Started at The Prince’s Trust

It was my first week at The Prince’s Trust. The thing that struck me most is that the atmosphere in the office is full of energy. Everyone seems really passionate about what they do, there is lots of positive conversation and people have smiles on their faces. I think that says a lot about the culture of an organisation. The culture is also very much in favour of flexible working. There is no pressure to be seen to be in the office at any particular time, and I feel that there is lots of flexibility in how I apply myself and what value I bring. Part of the reason for the flexibility in how my role shapes out is that the product space is in flux with priorities still being set. This has meant that rather than having to hit the ground running I’ve had time to begin to understand the landscape more.

Writing about the robot invasion

I finished my first essay for the current Innovation and the Knowledge Economy module. It was about whether automation technologies will threaten the employability of graduates. Personally, I think on a long enough time line automation will replace every job, but the research shows that routine jobs will be the ones most affected and that highly skilled creative roles that face novel situations will be least affected. Graduates hold the majority of those roles but interestingly the majority of graduates aren’t working in the same field as they studied which could suggest that being a graduate is more important than what was studied.

Strategic storytelling

I reviewed and provided feedback on the 2020-23 strategy document for Buckinghamshire Mind. It’s been an interesting process to be involved in again. The last time we worked on strategy it was very much about steadying the ship and getting the right foundational things in place. In contrast this strategy feels much more positive and aspirational. The tone of the document is quite conversational and has a narrative feel about it as it tells the story of what we want to achieve over the next three years.

Lean Tea, please

I went to the first of what I hope to be many Agile Lean Coffee meetups. Lean Coffee is a really interesting way to run discussion groups where everyone has equal say in proposing topics and deciding what is talked about. As this group is about Agile, and was attended by engineers and coaches, it was interesting that the majority of the discussions were about the clash between Agile teams and ways of working with the rest of the organisation (or more precisely upper management). It shows that lots of organisations are still struggling to effectively manage the change around Agile and that you can’t really have Agile teams without having an Agile organisation. And a got a sticker.

This week I was studying:

Predicting future leading technologies

The first part of this week’s lecture was a discussion on General Purpose Technologies, how they are defined, and why it’s important for governments and industry to be able to forecast the next big GPT and understand what socioeconomic impacts it might have. There was some discussion on whether things like 5G really are a new General Purpose Technology or just a continuation of the ICT GPT, and that although it’s impossible to predict the next GPT might be Advanced Materials, Regenerative Medicine or Synthetic Biology.

The second part was a guest talk by Dr Brian MacAulay, Lead Economist atDigital Catapult on “Innovation and Complexity – challenges for modelling change”. He talked about how he is using complexity in building models for understanding the diffusion of innovation in the UK. It gave me a better understanding of complexity and how it might offer some idea about why product direction is so difficult and how to approach it differently. Perhaps picking a direction needs an agent-based model where individuals follow simple behaviours within clear constraints which lead to patterns emerging. So, micro behaviours lead to macro changes, and meso level behaviours between the two. Then, we can see direction as an emergent behaviour and accept that there is no one true trajectory but instead a constantly changing response to change.

This week I was thinking:

We’re in the experience business

How do we to create a cohesive experience of digital products and real world services that deliver the outcomes users need? Given that our users are young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and getting to the outcome makes the difference between surviving and thriving for them, it seems like an important thing to think about. People talk about ‘creating a seamless experience’ without being clear on what that means or what it will take to achieve it. I think the obvious assumption is that it would require a lot of coordinated upfront work, but I think it could be achieved through user validation on a case by case basis. So, for example, should clicking on a Facebook ad take you to a branded website to offer you multiple channels to make contact, or should it go straight to WhatsApp? We might have to challenge ourselves about how unseamless a thing might seem in order for it to be effective for the young people using it.

Reinventing charity

I did a bit of thinking on Reinventing Charity. It’s really hard to get away from the ‘setup to tackle a specific problem’ thinking for a charity. My thoughts on how problems require a better coordinated approach than they currently get has shifted slightly because of the things I’ve learned about complexity and how outcomes are emergent and so impossible to predict or control. I also did a bit of thinking about the business models for charities, how some are funding conduits, others service delivery, etc. There is a lot to understand.

This week people on Twitter were saying:

What designers and developers want from product managers

John Cutler tweeted some results of a poll: “design and developers weigh in on the “best” product manager they’ve worked with…“, or to put it another way, “what the people who work with Product Managers want from those Product Managers”. The themes that seem to come out aren’t surprising, things about listening, negotiating, decision-making, but it’s fascinating to see it expressed in this way.

Experiences and solutions

Nate, principal designer for membership, community and ventures at COOP, tweeted about the boundaries between digital products and services.

Tweet from Nate about products and services

It seems like lots of people have thought about this same question and some of the replies included some interesting links: “New models for service ownership and leadership” by Ben Holliday and “From squads to swarms” by Chris Collingridge. It’s interesting to me because I’m thinking about how we create experiences that work for young people regardless of whether they are accessed digitally or IRL, and regardless of whether we think of them as a product or service, it should just be a solution.

Joe’s week notes

I read Joe’s week notes every week, he has lots interesting things to share, and this week he mentions the NHS Service Design Manual, which was a big deal on Twitter this week and might be useful for me to know more about in the near future.

He always had a really useful bit on Facebook’s use of data from other sites. Clearly it’s a privacy issue thing, which is important to me given my rants about the weaponisation of digital technology and what the charity sector needs to do about it, but Seth Godin’s podcast about privacy on the internet talks about it really being about expectations and surprise. If you are surprised by how much an organisation knows about you and how they use that information then that is obviously an issue for you. If you expect an organisation to have information about you and they use it in ways you expect then it might not be an issue. It makes me think about ways of reframing the discussion away from dramatic scary words like ‘privacy’ and ‘security’ to words like ‘expectations’ and what’s ‘acceptable’. I don’t think scaring people engages them, it causes a freeze reaction in most people where they decide to do nothing, and as I also ranted about, that confusion-leads-to-paralysis is a tool used to control people widely across our society.