Weeknotes #220

Things I did this week:

Requirements isn’t a document

It has been a very busy week with a new product build kicking off, an existing product being in the design phase with prototypes being created for user interviews next week, and another existing product starting to go into requirements gathering now that we’ve finished the programme design that the product supports. I’ve been using the phrase “Requirements isn’t a document, it’s an understanding” quite a lot.

The last piece of work I did on Friday evening was preparing some copy for discussion with a Safeguarding Consultant on Monday and then testing with young people on Wednesday. These few words will have had so much focus and effort to get them right, but as they are the words that will show young people how to get help if they feel unsafe online or need to raise a safeguarding concern, it’s vital that we get them right.

Digital tools

My Digital Tools list was mentioned in Richard Sved newsletter. I’m now up to about 150 digital tools, and I’ve added it to a bigger page that includes some examples of charities doing digital things and some other useful resources.

Rapid ideation

I joined in with Reply’s Rapid ideation session to help a charity called SLIDE come up with some ideas of how to offer digital services. Although I don’t know much about the project it seems like a great way to get small charities understanding how to approach ‘digital’. And the ideation sessions were a fantastic example of the digital charity community (can you be a community if you don’t know each other?) using their skills and knowledge to help charities.

Charity Hour on ethical web design

I’ve followed a few Charity Hour discussions on Twitter but this was the first that I felt I could contribute to. It was led by ethical web designer and UX consultant, Tamara Sredojevic, and covered a range of topics around what charities can do to improve their websites and digital presence. The best thing about it was the rallying cry for charities to make more use of the ‘digital charity community’ that exists on Twitter. There is all kinds of expertise that charities could make use of if they knew about it.

Connect with experts

My products on Gumroad have had 15 views; 6 from my website, 4 from Twitter and 5 direct, and no sales (which is expected). I haven’t had time to do anything else with them but I did have another idea around the same theme of collating and curating the knowledge of experts for others to learn from. It would involve a newsletter where each email is about a Twitter thread from some internet business expert along with some reflection.

Innovation research

My lectures this week were about corporate competencies for innovation and research design. The topics are interesting, the lectures are painful (universities really are behind the curve in online education), and the reading is long. I’ve also started thinking about my dissertation which I think will be about innovation models and processes in the charity sector.

Things I thought about:

All charities are on a digital journey

“All charities are on a digital journey”. I read this in the Catalyst newsletter and felt like it gave my brain a little slap. It’s the ‘all’. All charities are on a digital journey, even those that don’t know it yet, even those that haven’t started yet. All of them. There is no such thing as a charity that isn’t on a digital journey. A charity cannot exist in the twenty-first century and not be affected by digital. That is a sobering thought.


I’ve been thinking about how to slice the prerequisites for decision-making, which (for the purposes of this) I think are how much information you have about the decision and what the consequences of the decision might be, which gives us:

  • If you don’t have all the information you need but the decision is reversible, make it.
  • If you don’t have all the information you need and the decision is irreversible, get more info.
  • If you have all the information you need and the decision is reversible, make it.
  • If you have all the information you need and the decision is irreversible, make it.

Basically, have a bias towards making decisions and taking action.

Coronavirus Tech Handbook

I was looking through the Coronavirus Tech Handbook again and found an empty page about the Digital Transformation of Charities. It seems like such a shame for the page to be empty given the size and scope of digital transformation charities are faced with, but it also occurred to me that it’s probably not the first place a charity would look for that kind of support and guidance. So that empty page exists only as an empty testament to another idea that someone had, started, and which never went anywhere. I have so many of those myself.

If side-projects lead to startups, what leads to side-projects?

I read in Michael Novotny’s newsletter on side-projects, which made me think about what gets people into starting their own little projects (of all sorts, not just tech) and led to an interesting discussion on Twitter. f I had time I’d write up a blog post about side-projects and online education coming together to breakdown learning and economic value creation into even smaller chunks.

Things I read:

First Principles for learning

I created and read through some websites about First Principles for learning, and how motivation is one of the most important first principles. This is interesting to me because some of the research we are basing our product and programme design around at work is that motivation is the biggest barrier to learning, progression and achievement. Obviously, low motivation has multiple complex causes, but if you can’t affect those causes how do you make sure you accentuate the things that lower the barriers?

Mindsets vs. Personas

I read through a list of websites about personas and/vs mindsets. I came to the conclusion that to understand a customer/user group we need personas, mindsets, and intents.

Innovation and social enterprise activity in third sector organisations

Innovation and social enterprise activity in third sector organisations, by Celine Chew and Fergus Lyon is from 2012 and “examines the different sources of innovation amongst third sector organisations that are involved in social enterprise activity… Social enterprise activity can also create a space for innovation in terms of positioning services for new users/funders, and can reflect a changing paradigm of delivering services.”. I found the implicit connection between innovation and commercialisation quite interesting, as if innovation should be focused on making money (which I’m not against but don;t agree with).

So much knowledge

I read some of Toby Rogers’ digital garden and blog. It’s interesting to see someone going through some similar thinking to myself around managing ideas (and starting a newsletter, and being an INTJ, and reading lots). I think these things are very individual journeys, and lots of people are figuring out their own ways of being as knowledge workers in an information society. Sometimes just the thought of how much there is to learn even within a narrow field such as product innovation feels overwhelming. How did the human race generate so much knowledge?

Tweets people sent:

Async by default

Chris Herd tweeted, “I’ve spoken to around 1,000 companies over the last 6 months about their plans for remote work going forward” and went on to share the things he’s learned about organisation’s approach to remote work including how many are reducing their office space, hiring remote to widen the talent pool, and changing the measures of output.

Simple rules led to coordinated complex behaviours

Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer at Horizons NHS tweeted “It’s hard to run a big organisation top down, so we end up with many policies/procedures. What if instead, we created a set of “simple rules” that everyone agrees to stick to & interprets in their own way?” Helen links to Timpsons as an example of an organisation that takes this approach. I think as we better understand complexity and how it emerges from autonomous agents following simple rules (like the murmuration of sparrows) we’ll see it tried out in management thinking and organisational design. I think ‘complexity’ is going to be the defining idea behind so many things in society over the next hundred years as we start to figure what it means to live in such a hyper-connected world.

Doing good

Rhodri Davies tweeted in reply to a question about who gets to define “doing good” as more organisations become purpose-led and more tech-for-good projects lay claim to what might have previously been the space of charities. “The really interesting question IMHO is what it means for role of charities. Think it wld be dangerous for them to claim sole ownership of “doing good”- rather they shld champion models of defining it that empower people/ communities & look to challenge “purpose charlatanism”.” I’ve written before about charities as modes of organising people in the civic space to provide a centralising function for groups and communities, so the idea of those modes could also contain ways of facilitating the people in involved in the work in defining ‘good’ is really fascinating to me.