This week I:
I spent more time this week mapping out how we want our online education service to work. It has been really interesting and has driven lots of really good discussion with creative and critical thinking going on. I get excited in the team calls where it feels like we’re all jiving. I feel like I’ve stepped up the amount of direction and leadership I provide with the team over the last couple of weeks which is good in some respects. Although it would be good if we could focus on this single priority I feel like we’re making some progress with increasing pace.
Build Better Systems
I bought the domain buildbetter.systems and redirected to a Notion landing page that I’m in the process of setting up. I intend to use it for an idea I have around generating business models for makers, entrepreneurs, and side-projects. I also had an idea for a chatbot that takes Makers through scenarios of running a small business to see if they make the right choices for their business to succeed or fail.
Ideas and impact
I wrote a blog post about my idea about claiming working from home tax relief and donating it to charities that tackle child poverty for Fundraising UK. If I was looking at the idea as a product manager I would compare it to two similar ideas; Marcus Rashford’s campaign that resulted in lots of businesses across the UK offering to provide free food for children during school holidays, and Joe Freeman’s Google Map of all those places. I think my review would would say that the simplicity of the idea matters, and having the platform/influence to launch the idea matters. Ideas that involve learning to do something new (such as claim tax relief) are much harder to communicate and so gain adoption. Getting one million people to sign a petition is an easier task to ask of them than getting the same number to claim their £60 tax relief, but if they had I wonder about the comparison of impact. Would £60,000,000 of tax income suddenly being claimed from HMRC have made the government take more notice than the petition? And if it had been donated to charities that tackle child poverty in a sustained and reliable way, would it have had a more impact than 165 cafes on a map offering free food to children but with no systems to facilitate or measure it. Maybe this is is where the Effective Altruism argument comes from along with the criticism that it doesn’t take account of how people actually behave. Anyway, the whole thing has taught me a bit about the practice of fundraising. There are lots of books about how ideas spread. Essential reading for fundraisers, I’d say.
Lectures did not go well this week with technology issues on the part of Birkbeck University. They really are so far build the curve in providing online education. It’s fascinating and a bit meta to be studying disruptive innovation at the same time are experiencing education being disrupted. I’ve read a bit about the unbundling of universities, and whilst the sense of achievement of getting an MSc is part of my motivation (the ‘certificate’ is one of the things that is being unbundled), the main thing I want is the intellectual stimulation. There are lots of other ways to get that, and perhaps that’s part of my motivation for exploring Maker communities.
I worked on my assignment about the fall of Nokia, disruptive innovation, strategic alliances. I’m looking forward to getting it finished so I can focus my study time of learning and revision for the exams in a few weeks.
I’ve been trying to engage in the Visualise Value community. There is a community website with some online learning and a Slack group. I feel like I haven’t been able to properly get the value of it yet as most of the learning is via video which I find takes more concentration than reading as it’s harder to dwell on points in your own time. I’ve been trying to share some knowledge/opinions in the Slack group and the community is proving useful research into my potential customer group for Build Better Systems and some of my other ideas. But the measure of its value will be how engaged I remain over time. There are a few of these maker communities/incubators showing up, which is good for growing the maker economy by sharing knowledge (feels like this model parallels with the ‘social inclusion to fix the digital divide’ thinking).
I provided some user feedback for a product that is under development and I’m really looking forward to getting into a deep audit of it. I’m keen to develop a bit of systemised approach which I can use in the future, and it also made me think about finishing the blog post I started ages ago for providing advice for small charities in assessing digital products and tools.
Beauty in science
I get quite a few newsletters, but this one grabbed my attention and I read every word. It’s three beautiful articles about Alan Turing, Mary Somerville and Audre Lorde.
The Mandelbrot Set
I watched this video about The Mandelbrot Set because I thought fractals might provide a useful analogy for something I was thinking about but I can’t remember what. It happens. Anyway, it’s still an interesting video.
The tragedy of the tragedy of the commons
This article is about how the “man who wrote one of environmentalism’s most-cited essays was a racist, eugenicist, nativist and Islamaphobe—plus his argument was wrong”. This is why we need to be rigorous in understanding the history of ideas and the assumptions they are built upon.
And thought about:
Where capabilities reside
I’ve been reading about Christensen & Overdorf’s concept of disruptive innovation and how “the factors that define an organization’s capabilities and disabilities [to innovate] evolve over time- they start in resources; then move to visible, articulated processes and values,- and migrate finally to culture.” The point they make is that as the capability to innovate moves along that chain away from people and becomes embedded in the organisation, which is why large organisations find it difficult to deal with smaller new entrants into a market. This is where I think the maker community starts to fit as it is at the very resourced-focused end of the market. I wonder if as we’ve seen over the last few decades of small start-up companies disrupting large firms, that trend will continue and we’ll see the next few decades with individual makers disrupting large firms.
The merging of products and services
Productising services is hard. Moving a service that utilises people to provide value only at the point of use to a product that provides value at any time (and moves people up the skills ladder) is a complicated thing to do, especially when the service involves lots of different tasks that can’t all be completed by the same piece of technology. The discussion seems to comes down to the complexity of the existing service and how much of an operational pain point it is. The more complex a part of the service is, the harder it is to codify and more likely it is that it should continue to use the service approach.
The Maker community and economy
I’ve been thinking about the connection between a loosely-coupled economy (one where the majority of wealth creation is distributed across a wide range and high number of organisations that aren’t reliant on each other for their value chain) and the Maker community (where individuals aim to achieve financial success through the use of internet-era business models, products and services).
- The reason the Maker community is important is because 20,000 people making £50,000 a year is better than 1 person making £1,000,000,000
- A decoupled economy would surely rely on lots of small sources of value rather than fewer larger sources.
- If innovation, in the economic sense, is the creation of new value, then a growing and vibrant Maker community could probably contribute more than large organisations.
- Influence and credibility are the most important aspects of any information age business model.
- Currently, the biggest issue I see is that the maker economy is mostly focused on selling to itself. Makers buy from other makers because makers are making things that makers want, but that no one else does. So the viability test for the Maker movement will be to create products that sell itself of the maker community.
And some people tweeted:
Optimise for the size you are now
Toby Rogers tweeted, “One of the shortest routes to failure is scaling your product too early.” This resonates with something I heard in one of David Perell’s podcasts about optimising your product, service, systems and team for the size of the audience as it is now. He gives the example of how the CEO of Stripe received and acted upon customer feedback and complaints, something that no company would do if it was already putting in systems designed for scale but absolutely essential for a small startup that needs to know what their customers think about the product.
I performed a comprehensive, nay definitive, study on how people cut their toast and can reveal that 15% of people cut their toast into triangles, 30% rectangles, and for a whopping 55% the shape they cut their toast depends on how they intend to use it. That means that more than half of people have a creative growth mindset when it comes to toast. I’m sure my PhD certificate is in the post.