Some things I did this week:
I’ve been working on digital safeguarding, which like so many digital things, is a little about the technology and a lot about the attitudes, assumptions, behaviours and expectations of people. A big part of the shift in mindset is to understand that people behave differently online than they do in real life due to the online disinhibition effect and moving from ‘assumed safety’ which comes naturally to us when we’re in groups in real-life, to ‘assumed risk’ which helps put us on our guard when in digital spaces. Digital safeguarding needs technology, training, policy and practice as part of the solution but the mindset stuff underpins all of that, and can’t be successful without it. Wider than safeguarding, the digital mindset seems like the big gap in the digital transformation. Living in an online world but using the thinking we learned in the real world causes such a lack of awareness and understanding about how that online world operates.
And then The Catalyst launched DigiSafe, which has some really helpful guidance (and is cool because it’s in Gitbook). I don’t want to seem like I’m bashing it because I think it’s a really good resource for charities but I feel like it falls into the ‘digital is just another channel’ trap and implies that safeguarding on the web can be approached in the same way as safeguarding in real life without taking account of the behaviour change that happens online and the scale and complexity of it. I worry it would be easy for charities to become complacent because they have a policy in place and have had some training.
I’ve been doing some work to support teams and users new to Teams. It’s been really useful to see the challenges people have with using a new product so I hope I get to do more of it, and it was interesting to see where other organisations are in rolling out Teams. I think I’m starting to understand how Teams and all the infrastructure behind it is such a different product to the likes of Word and Excel, and is on a whole other level of complexity.
Defining product experience
I’ve been working on a way to quickly and iteratively develop and capture the understanding of people from different teams with different skills and perspectives as we define new products. One of the problems I see is that people produce good work which if we could all absorb would help us understand the product better, but that work is scattered across different documents and folders and formats, which means we’re likely to look at it once and not fully absorb it.
So, this process, and the single shared document that we work in, structures and records our understanding. It uses five layers with progressively finer fidelity of understanding. The first layer helps to paint the big picture about ‘why’ we should be building this new product. The second layer is ‘who’ we are building it for. That breaks down into ‘what’ those users want. The even more detailed level describes ‘how’ we are going to do it. And ‘when’ introduces an element of time and knits all the parts together to create the entire product experience.
We’ve had people from different teams working together in a single shared document, using calls to discuss things quickly, chat to discuss things together, and comments in the document to raise questions that we should answer later. People join in when they are available and drop out when they have other things to do but the work flows on.
It’s an interesting way of working synchronously and asynchronously, and it provides an undercurrent of shifting the focus away from hierarchical decision-making structures towards collaborative decision-evolving. Where there is uncertainty we have lots of activity as people work through questions, and as certainty emerges the activity reduces to the point where no more changes are being made because everyone feels settled on their understanding and how it is expressed. This is what I mean by decision-evolving, rather than someone working in isolation to create a document that is reviewed and approved by a single decision-maker.
I’m going to blog about it at some point.
I’m on the waitlist for YourStack, where people post about what products they use. I’m not quite sure why it exists yet but I’m keen to see if it can be part of my thinking about opening my workflows so I guess I’ll see once the 17,193 people who are ahead of me on the waitlist have been given access.
This week I studied:
Revising previous lectures
No lecture this week, exams in a couple of weeks, and then I’ll have finished the first year of my masters. I’ve really enjoyed learning so much but I’m also looking forward to not having the added pressure of lectures, reading, assignments, etc. for a few months.
I thought about this week:
A platform business model for a charity
I realised where I’ve been going wrong in my thinking about platform business models for charities for the past couple of years. I’ve been trying to see it at the level of how products and services, or various functions like fundraising and volunteering, interact, but that is too close to the reality of an operating model in order to really understand how a platform business model would change how all those things work. The platform business model needed a deeper layer of abstraction.
The model describes how data, information and knowledge flow through an organisation so that value is added by turning data into information and information into knowledge, and how if any part of the system experiences an increase it drives an increase in the entire system. It utilises internet-era thinking including the law of increasing returns, network effects, and positive feedback loops. The opposite model of a pipeline drives value in one direction which makes it really difficult for a change in a later part of the pipeline to affect anything earlier (in fact there is maths to prove it).
I started a blog post about it but I couldn’t figure how to structure the post in a way that would make sense. But I do intend to finish it some time soon and explain what I’m talking about in much more detail.
I tried to hold daily standups with myself in order to be clear with myself what I’m focusing on but it didn’t go very well. I only remembered to do it once and even then I didn’t do the things I told myself I was going to.
I haven’t used my workflow Trello board very much this week because I haven’t had time to do very much of this kind of work.
I’m keen to keep trying to improve how I do this kind of work to achieve the right balance between inputs (reading books, listening to podcasts, etc.), processing (thinking and making notes about the inputs to improve my learning and understanding), and outputs (writing blog posts, improving my digital practice. And eventually to think more about a model for platform-ising my workflow.
When bad stuff happens in the real world, things like bereavement, debt or mental health crisis there are charities to turn to for help. What about when bad stuff happens online? Stuff like identity theft, online reputation damage, fraud and financial theft, and inaccurate personal data affecting life opportunities like getting a mortgage. I wonder when we’ll see a digital–first charity that supports people affected by things that happen online?
How employers see digital skills
Perhaps now as never before it’s actually conceivable that a child could go through their entire education digitally; that is, never having sat in a classroom with other children, never having attended a lecture in person, and never having had any work experience outside of their home. But they could have still learned lots of very useful skills. I wonder how potential employers would look upon this person. Would they consider them as employable as someone who did go to school, go to university, and get experience in an actual workplace?
Think global, act individually
I wondered what, as an individual, I could do to contribute to the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals? With things like ‘No poverty’ and ‘Clean water and sanitation’ the goals seem like such big things, which of course they need to be, but what if individuals could contribute to them? The GoodLifeGoals website and Pack of Actions include some suggestions around educating ourselves about the cause of poverty and buying from ethical companies, for example, which is a really useful start. I want to spend some time figuring out how I might align my life and the choices I make with the goals and perhaps how they can provide some kind of ‘framework’ (for want of a better word) for what a good life looks like in practice.
Some people tweeted:
The Good Service Scale
A few people tweeted about Lou Downe’s Good Service Scale, which looks like a really interesting way to assess services. I wonder if there is a way to rephrase and reframe the questions to be able to ask the service users what they think and compare to what the people from within the organisation
Brianne Kimmel asked “What has been the most impactful book, blog post or podcast episode for your personal growth?” and received hundreds of answers, which one day I’ll add to my reading list.
Change is an air war and a ground war
Jason Yip tweeted about his preferred models and strategies for facilitating large-scale change. It contains a lot to think about.