Week notes #184

This week I was doing:


It was my second week at the Prince’s Trust and I still haven’t been onboarded. I don’t have an ID badge or a laptop. I have no idea how to book leave or if I can claim expenses. And it has been fantastic! I’ve been able to look at things as an outsider, explore the target space that the Prince’s Trust operates in, look at what other organisations are doing, and think like a competitor, ‘if I wanted to beat the Prince’s Trust, what would I do?’, and then bring that thinking into my work.

The experience has completely changed my thinking about how to onboard new hires into an organisation. Giving new people the time to explore and see what they find out might actually be a good way to get a fresh perspective on things.

Exploring the target space

I’ve been using a Miro board to map out all of the things I’ve found and learned about in the target space of young people facing barriers to opportunities, organisations, policies and systems affecting them. I’m not sure it’s advanced enough to communicate the nature of the relationships between the parts but it feels like a good start.

I went a little off track thinking about how the digital teams working of government services approach things. They are very service orientated. Understandable as users of government websites don’t want to establish a connection with the government, they just want to accomplish a task. But at the Prince’s Trust we have the assumption (to be validated) that young people, mentors and business delivery partners want to form a connection and relationship with the Prince’s Trust because they get some value out of it. This took me back to the ‘designing and building experiences rather than products and services’ thinking, and whether the IRL experience and the online experience should feel seamlessly connected or whether people want different things from different channels. Face-to-face fosters connection, digital provides always-on access, they meet different needs.

Strategically, we’re moving away from a programme-based approach to a place-based approach. In thinking about place, and how digital products and multi-channel experiences might be affected by place, I’ve been thinking about place not in the geographic sense but as being about which systems affect a young person and their opportunities. These systems might include education and benefits systems, cultural and heritage systems, etc. For me, this helps us understand why different people in the same geographic place can have very different experiences of that place, because they are interacting with different systems.

Some other things I did

  • Joined the Tech For Good Live Slack group and chatted about a ‘taxonomy of problems in the world’. 
  • Went to the Bucks Mind Finance and Risk committee meeting to discuss budgets for the next year.
  • Listened to podcasts with Dr Max McKeown about how to move from original insight to new ideas to valuable real-world innovation, and Seth Godin about the Overton Window and how there is a continuum from policy to popular to sensible to acceptable to radical to unthinkable as we only develop new things.
  • Went to our team away day and played the Prince’s Trust enterprise game that teaches young people how to run a business. 

This week I was studying:

Innovation and industry evolution

How does technology evolve, and what are the implications for industry structure and performance? Well..

  • Technological change is ‘punctuated equilibrium’ with sporadic major innovations are followed by a long stream of minor, incremental innovations that build upon it, gradually enhancing productivity, until the next radical breakthrough either replaces the previous technology or coexists with it. 
  • Productivity increase takes a long time (decades) after the tech breakthrough.
  • In the early stage of development, radical innovations often have many competing technological variants which, according to sociologists of technology, solve different problems which are relevant to different groups of users. Over time, one variant will emerge as the dominant design and it will be the one which addresses the needs of most users, or of particularly important groups of users.
  • Once a dominant design has been established, it can constrain the process of technological change for a long time. Firms develop competences in line with the dominant design and develop a general consensus which gets established in the technical community about what are the important design dimensions that need to be improved. The design can become a cognitive paradigm; the accepted way.
  • Coming to the end of a technological trajectory (when no further improvements are possible) creates the conditions for a new trajectory to emerge (as in Perez: a new paradigm emerges when the possibilities of the old paradigm have been exhausted)
  • The industry life cycle stage is an interesting way to consider how organisations introduce new products, and when the profitability of the product declines the organisation looks to process improvements to maintain profitability, and when that approach provides no more returns, they introduce services to support the aging product. This model is underpinned by the trends of how technological change occurs, so if the organisation is able continue to use the technology their product is based on then the servicisation approach works, but if the technology is replaced by new technology, and so customers no longer want the old technology then the product must be abandoned. Organisations that don’t see this change coming or can’t respond to it quickly enough will get forced out of the market by organisations that can.
  • Radical innovations can be competence-destroying:
    • Required new skills and competences with respect to current dominant technology
    • Usually introduced by new firms or by incumbents in other industries that possess relevant competences
    • Lead to major industry shakeups with exit of incumbents and entry of new competitors
    • Examples: compact disc, integrated circuit, float glass
  • Radical innovations can be competence-enhancing:
    • Although radically new, build upon the same competences needed to produce the current dominant technology
    • Usually introduced by established firms
    • Does not lead to large industry shakeups or large firm sales variability Example: Nintendo Wii (Mu, 2008, case study)
  • Incumbents who do not respond to the creation of a new demand because they are successful within their existing markets and customers can’t make the most of the demand window of opportunity.

So now you know.

This week I was thinking about:

My personal OKRs

I’ve started reviewing and updating my personal OKRs on a weekly basis to focus my efforts. This week my scores are: 

  • Have an impactful career in charity & not-for-profit digital product and innovation: 0.15
  • Be well educated in business, innovation, product, and digital: 0.10
  • Lead an intentional & healthy life: 0.09.

I’m really interested in setting goals and monitoring progress in ways that contribute to greater things and don’t drive negative behaviours. I’m not sure OKRs are the right way to achieve this but they definitely help me achieve things.

A dashboard for publicly available data

If I had the skills, know-how and time I’d do some discovery work on a product that pulls together publicly available datasets and creates custom dashboards. So, for example it could take data on homelessness over the past ten years, overlay government spending on housing, and fundraising for homelessness charities to see if there is any correlation. 

But what I’m most interested in is how we develop a picture of the complexity and interconnectedness of problems facing people in our society and world. My thinking about a ‘taxonomy of problems’ with the TfGL Slack group is about providing a foundational standard of problems which can be used to map how many people face multiple problems so that we can begin thinking about how charities of the future can help people from a problem-centred approach rather than an isolated issue point of view. If only I had the data science skills to do this in a useful way.

This week people I follow on Twitter were saying:

How to future

Scott Smith tweeted about his new book, ‘How to future – Leading and sense-making in an age of hyper change’ and that it is available for pre-order (the link is to Amazon Smile because you should be getting Amazon to donate to charity). It looks really interesting with it’s ‘sense, map, model and communicate’ approach to futuring, and I’m looking forward to reading it in the summer.

Towards a future vision of how charities might work together digitally

Emma Bazalgette tweeted, “It’s not enough to design new services, we need to design new collaborative organisations to operate and iterate them too”, to which James Plunkett retweeted, “Almost every sentence in here applies to charities too. We need new collaborative ways of building shared digital capabilities. We are mulling how we can help.”, to which I retweeted “Absolutely essential for charities to be effective in society in the 21st century. We need an open innovation ecosystem model that enables charities to collaborate and cooperate around digital, design and data.”


Simon Wilson was talking about the difference between problem roadmaps and solution roadmaps, solving problems in a fluid order rather than on a fixed date, outcomes to be delivered rather than features, anticipating future problems, adding certainty by having the research to back-up the decisions, and how roadmaps might express a Theory of Change. This is interesting for me as I write our roadmap, think about what kind of tool it is (communication, alignment, to-do list, etc.).