Weeknotes #234

What I did this week:

Product fit

I’ve been working on a product assessment before making a recommendation as to whether it’s a good fit for meeting organisational requirements across safeguarding, technology, operations, and people, and how that fit might change over time. Part of that assessment is to construct a test so I’ve been collating a long list of swear words, football hooligan gang names, mental health trigger words, and racist and sexist insults to use as triggers for understanding how we might recognise their use, understand their meaning (which is always very contextual), and respond in positive supportive ways.

Outcome-thinking

Had a very interesting chat about what it means to be outcome-driven. It’s not a normal way of thinking (well, for most people anyway). Having to answer for yourself whether this thing you’re about to do is going to get you closer to your goal relies on having done lots of thinking about those goals and how your theory of change works. It feels almost normal to me, but maybe I have one of those weird brains that means I already know why I’m saying what I say in a meeting, and what I’m trying to achieve by saying it, and how achieving that thing will help achieve a bigger goal. You can’t be outcome-driven unless you have outcome-thinking.

Digital Remediation in Art and Culture

This week’s lecture went into the idea of remediation. This was the second lecture but as I missed last weeks it was my first, so my first opportunity to see how this lecturer teaches. He was using a Kahoot quiz to ask questions about the pre-recorded lectures and reading materials and then explain more about concepts behind the answers. This is interesting in two ways; one because the topic of remediation in digital art suggests a very different view of creativity than we usually consider for art, and two, because the lecturer is experimenting with how online education with large cohorts (80 +) can be effective.


Some things I thought about this week:

Product management is just backlog prioritisation

I spend more time on ‘goodness of fit’ work, assessing and coordinating how we might solve organisation-wide problems and how all of the solutions will fit together long before a piece of work gets onto a delivery backlog than I do (or ever would) spend prioritising the backlog. Of course, most of the delivery team I’m part of don’t see this, and the Scrum product owner vs. Product Manager confusion persists so there is an expectation that the main part of my job should be to prioritising the backlog of work for the team. A high-functioning delivery team shouldn’t be relying on any single person to prioritise work, they’re capable of doing that themselves, and it avoids bottlenecks.

Where innovation sites

I’ve noticed a a few Innovation jobs in the charity sector recently, which is really good to see, and it intrigues me as to where in the organisation the roles are. Rothwell talks about how for innovation to be successful lots of factors have to work, including project execution and corporate level factors. So, I wonder if small innovation teams in the fundraising department are limited to only ever having a small impact constrained by innovation not being enough of a part of everything the charity does. Innovation teams are a great start, but innovation cultures, systems and strategies are better.

The role of the collective in wellbeing

Wellbeing at work is a challenge. No kidding. The challenge seems to me to be about the nature of the relationship between the organisation and the individual. Maybe it needs rethinking. Most organisations approach the wellbeing of employees as the organisation having responsibility for the individual, which of course they do, but there is more to it than that. There are more players in this game. There is the organisation, the individual, and the collective. The collective is groups of people with a common behaviour. Outside of work, we have collective social support networks made up of friends and family. Maybe similar co-supporting networks at work might be beneficial to everyone. Perhaps the organisation feels it couldn’t suggest this as it might be seen as abdicating responsibility but that shouldn’t stop people from building supportive networks for themselves.

Input/output

Knowledge work changes the input of learning to the output of work. It used to be that you could learn one thing and use that knowledge to do the same work thousands of times over your career. Now you have to learn ten things for every one thing you do. Knowledge work places far more emphasis on learning, which requires individuals and organisations to change how they approach learning.


Stuff I read this week:

Charities, artificial intelligence and machine learning

It’s really great to see this article. I firmly believe that more charities need improve their understanding of new and emerging technologies like machine learning. Even if they don’t feel like it’s the right time for introducing these technologies into their organisation, understanding how those technologies might be used in ways that affect their beneficiaries. Charity digital and technology strategies are always about what they are going to do about their internal tech rather than how they are going to respond to technology changes across society.Follow the foxThis video was sent to me by one of Twitter friends. It talks about emerging process, doing the next right thing, rather using models that pretend work happens in straight predicable lines. Learning and adapting as you go is a better https://www.youtube.com/embed/UsWCA505EUc?feature=oembedView original

Charity island discs

I watched the fourth episode of Charity island discs with Zoe Amar. Wayne often mentions about getting behind the LinkedIn profiles and getting to see people’s humanity, and although it’s taken me four episodes, I’m starting to get what he means. For most of the people I know of in the charity sector on Twitter I only see a profile picture. Seeing them speaking about life experiences and their favourite songs, hearing their voices, finding out about their journeys and what motivates them, removes the barrier and veneer that social media profiles create. Helping people in the charity sector to look more like normal people to others helps us all feel more like we can be part of it, that we can all play our part without having to be doing amazing things (even if all those people on charity island discs are doing amazing things) and be super-successful.

Worst first

How should we prioritise work on a project? The RRR method suggests that we start by assuming projects have a high probability of failure and so we should prioritize tasks based on risk, but actually not in terms of the absolute amount of risk they’ll reduce but in terms of their risk-reduction rate. The risk-reduction rate is the amount of risk you can reduce per hour or dollar you invest in doing them. By doing the highest RRR tasks first, you do them in the order that will most rapidly reduce the project’s remaining risks.


Tweets of the week:

Shaped by surroundings

I tweeted, “Interesting question for remote organisations: If culture used to be shaped by office layout, is it now shaped by the digital tools it uses?” How much does Microsoft Teams affect the culture of an organisation?

Don’t worry about readers. Write to clarify thinking

Julian Shaprio tweeted, “One of the best ways to become a prolific creator is to share what you know. But what if you’re not an expert?” He shares lots of ideas and advice for writing online.

Accessibility 3

Abi tweeted, “It is not recommended for anyone to start using WCAG 3.0 in earnest until it is published as a W3C recommendation. The earliest this is likely to happen is in 2023.” It’s interesting that the guidelines are evolving

5 Charity Digital Trends in 2021

Empower ‘s five charity digital trends, inspired me to think about where I see the focus going for charities increasing and improving their digital skills and services in 2021.

More considered product suite

Charities will give greater consideration to which products and digital services they adopt.

There will always be the tension between going where the people are, which means using products like Zoom and Whatsapp where user security and privacy might not be top priority, and ensuring that the people a charity interact with online are safe and well-protected. As digital knowledge around security and privacy grows, charities will give greater consideration to choosing which way to resolve that tension. Sometimes that will mean adopting products that are new to those people the charity supports and accepting the short term pain of encouraging adoption in return for the long term gain of helping people understand the importance of cyber security.

More communities

Building communities will win out over growing supporters

Small online communities popped up in lots of places in 2020. From neighbourhood Whatsapp groups, to support groups on Facebook, and Zoom yoga classes, everyone was joining and building online communities. As charities reconsider that it means to engage and interact with people online we’ll see a shift away from mass communication on big social media platforms towards small well-focused, and in many cases private, online communities.

Back to the basics of digital

User-first thinking means recognising that sometimes digital isn’t the right solution

Digital thinking is user focused. And if the best thing for the user is to receive a hand written letter on a piece of actual paper, then that is the solution digital thinking should provide. Charities will increasingly adopt a digital mindset over digital technologies to focus on solving the problems people face.

Exploring connected services

More charities will focus on partnership working to tackle more complex problems

In our increasingly interconnected society we’re becoming more and more aware of how complex the problems people face are, and that one organisation working alone cannot solve them. Charities will turn to partnership working as the first thought in tackling problems. We’ll see more joint bids for funding to provide more cohesive and effective services, and people will get better help as charities turn outwards to work more with other organisations.

Looking after each other

More people in the charity sector will take more time to look after themselves and each other

If we haven’t yet realised how important well-being is for the health of our minds and bodies, our families, society and our organisations, then 2021 will encourage more charities to figure out how to enable it’s people to work from anywhere, work flexible times around other commitments, and achieve good things in healthy ways. The idea of people as replaceable resources, as cogs in the machine that just need to do what they’re told to do, is dead. Charities that encourage, or even expect, their people to be creative individuals using all their capabilities will be more successful in 2021, which in case anyone is in any doubt, is going to be a year full of challenges that need kind, intelligent, adaptable people to make a difference.

Weeknotes #231

This week I did:

Annual Review 2020

I looked back over the year and wrote a bit about the things that went well and that didn’t. It helped me focus on my goals for next year.

900 Digital Tools

The Ultimate Digital Tools List now has 900 products and tools. Next target is one thousand.

Panta Rhei

I wrote and sent my second Digital Nomad Newsletter, and this one was actually read by my three subscribers. I’m getting a better idea about how I want to use the newsletter. It’ll be a bit about my experiences of being a digital nomad, places I’ve visited, etc., but mostly it’ll be about the underpinning thinking for the lifestyle and mindset of digital nomads, remote and flexible workers

Message me

Added smallchat to my website. Its a cool integration with Slack so when anyone messages me on my website I can chat back from my phone. It’s especially cool because no one is going to message me, so I can play with things like this without being bothered.


And thought about:

Meetings

I was thinking about how much we complain about meetings, but other than some ideas on asynchronous communication, we don’t really have any good ideas for replacing them. I wonder if it’s because meetings tackle different problems for different people in different situations, but we don’t call out what any particular meeting is meant to achieve. I don’t mean that each meeting should have an agenda, and that that would fix it all. I mean that when people started working in offices meetings solved a communication and coordination problem because getting people in a room together was the only way to do it, there was no technology that could solve those problems. Then, there was a period where we did have the technology but continued to put people in a room together, and now we put people in virtual meetings together. I wonder if we think meetings are still solving the coordination challenge that work ultimately is, when maybe they are solving other problems, possibly social connection problems. Do we have meetings because we want to be in the in crowd, don’t want to feel like we’re missing out on anything, don’t want to feel lonely at work. Perhaps understanding and decoupling those problems could lead to solving them in different ways.

Repetitions

I thought about Craig Burgess’, “Make the focus tighter and the repetitions more frequent”. It works as a solution to a particular problem, but it isn’t a starting point. Intuitively it make sense, especially if you have any pre-existing agile conditions. Feedback loops are really important. Just doing the same thing more isn’t going to achieve very much if you’re doing the wrong thing. How you build feedback mechanisms into the things you do, and use those to course correct seems far less understood. It also made me think about how so many wisdom-tweets are at a point in time, for a particular person, in a particular context, with a particular history, and with particular prerequisites.

One hundred innovation ideas

I was wondering if I’ve learnt enough about innovation, from an academic perspective and in practice, to write one hundred short blog posts. I thought it might be an interesting and challenge-ified way to revise and recap my knowledge. I wonder if I’ll ever have time to do.


And read:

Remote work

I read Exploring the opportunities of asynchronous communication and the (conscientiously) written word and Did A Virus Just Bring About The End Of The Office? as part of my interest in WFA

Midweek nudge

I read the Midweek Nudge Compilation by Deepansh Khurana from his newsletter. It’s interesting to me for a number of things, a) how useful the knowledge (expressed as information) is in all of these kinds of things, and as a side-project

Reading list

I put together my reading list for the module I’ll be studying this term on Digital Creativity and New Media Management. It’s about art and creativity and the use digital technology, so it should be really interesting.


Tweets read:

Liquid employment

I tweeted that “Liquid employment is going to revolutionise knowledge transfer“. Liquid employment is the idea that as employees don’t need to be in an office for eight hours a day it frees them up to work multiple part-time jobs for multiple employers. If employers are smart about this they’ll encourage the knowledge transfer between themselves and other firms and utilise it in competitive ways.

GDPR

Oikos Digital tweeted about the “changes for me and my clients regarding data protection when the UK leaves the EU“. It’s a really useful primer to make you think about the impact Brexit is going to have on data protection.

Indie economics for good

Traf tweeted, “A few things I’ve learned this year from building a small, profitable internet business from zero to $100k ARR in 8 months.” Apart from my interest in the indie maker economy, I’m keen to figure out some ideas about how charities can learn from this kind of thing, and where the overlaps are in the economics of what charities provide and how makers make money.

Weeknotes #230

This week I did:

Service blueprinting

I reworked our service blueprint to take account of a new programme design. I’ve been thinking about where our knowledge and information resides. How do we effectively develop shared understanding of user needs and business requirements across scope definition documents, service blueprints, user stories, etc., and how do we help each other understand how they all fit together. One of the interesting stances we’ve taken is the the user journey within the service blueprint is our single source of truth about what to build. It shifts the focus away from business requirements and what stakeholders want to what experience the user has and how all the parts fit coherently together.

Some thoughts on digital project management

Inspired by Be More Digital‘s post on Simple project management I wrote some of my own far less useful thoughts on managing digital projects, including why digital project management is different from non-digital project management, what is actually managed by project management, and why prioritisation leads to uncertainty.

The Ultimate Digital Tools List

I put my Digital Tools List on Gumroad. I expect the list to be up to a thousand products and tools over the next few weeks. I haven’t made any sales but that’s not surprising because I haven’t promoted (and I have no intention of becoming ‘the digital tools guy’ on Twitter), but the process of writing a product description helped me figure out the usefulness of the list. The Digital Tools List can be used to create a unique tech stack for an indie business. So, for each side-project or maker business someone decides to set up, they can either do it the way everyone else is doing it, or they can think more strategically about what tools to use to help make Twitter be an effective main promo channel, or to stream their video to multiple platforms at the same time. Productising this process was the idea behind Build Better Systems. It would help makers figure out their business model.

Why charities tackle wicked problems

I wrote up some of my ideas on why charities choose to tackle wicked problems rather than tame, solvable problems. The post veered off from what I intended it to be and went on more about my idea of the three spheres of societal life and how they can or can’t respond to wicked problems. My intention was to write about how charities are actually pretty well equipped for tackling wicked problems but maybe that’ll be another post.

2021 Goals

I started writing my goals for next year, which are mostly continuing with what I was working on this year (doubling-down, as they say). As part of ‘Know What You Bring’, one of my side projects, I was working on a method for identifying things like that are you interested in, how those areas of interest intersect, how you develop expertise at that intersection, how you communicate that expertise, and who will find it useful. The process lead me to conclude that I want to spend more time on the intersection of charity, digital and innovation than I do on indie maker side-projects, so I want to try to spend more time writing blog posts about digital charity and innovation than I do working on side-projects.

I also updated my Now page. It’s still a mess but I like the idea and want to try to find a way to make better use of it.


I read:

Learning attitude

I read A Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets and I assume I’m below average, both of which deal with having a learning attitude. Derek Sivers says, “To assume you’re below average is to admit you’re still learning.” and Carol Dweck says “There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”

A foray into Online Film Clubs – a peek into the future of community building

I read Paulina Stachnik’s article talking about how “digital leaders, we have a unique opportunity to create this sense of community for our supporters.” Digital communities isn’t something I know very much about, but as Paulina says, they are more important now than they ever have been. What the article shows is that things that could be done without considering community can also be done with community in mind. That’s really interesting and opens up lots of possibilities. It basically says that anything and everything can be a community-building activity.

Why should community building be important? Well, there is some research that says that it’s intrinsic goals (like feeling a sense of belonging to a community) that improve our well-being, so how we create things that help people achieve intrinsic goals (being part of a community) whilst achieving extrinsic goals (watching a film) matters.

Moving Beyond Command And Control

I read Moving beyond command and control* by Paul Taylor. He talks about different assumptions and perspectives people hold on centralised control and localised communities, and how both are needed in national crisis situations like a pandemic. He goes on to talk about the different narratives around communities and how they shifted from celebrating the ingenuity of communities when they seemed to be abiding by the wants of centralised control to criticising communities for breaking the rules when they seemed to take too much of their own power. He ends with, “In 2021 we all need to get off the fence and state which one we truly believe in, and make that world a reality.” Do we believe that communities can hold their own power and make their own decisions, or do we believe that should not have power communities and so need central command and control in order to make decisions.

Out of context, but it made me think about loosely-coupled systems again. The issue I see with the either/or approach to where the power lies is that it is built on hierarchical structures from previous centuries. If we were building something new today with modern information networks (and what we’ve learned from how a global pandemic disrupted tightly-coupled systems) the available options might look quite different.


Thought about:

Learning from the past

The problem with learning from the past is that it assumes we’re facing the same problem in the present. Often it’s easier to assume we’re facing the same problem, and ignore the differences as inconsequential. Sometimes, saying that we’re learning from the past is a shortcut to conclusions even if the context is different. I don’t know how to resolve this, to tell the difference between when learning from the past is a good idea and when it isn’t. The only sense that I get is that the level of abstraction matters for the relevance of the learning. Too detailed and the differences between the past and the now means there is nothing to learn, too generalised and the lesson becomes so vague as to be useless.

User stories

There’s lots written about how to write User Stories, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about how to interpret user stories. Do designers think of user stories differently to developers? How are user stories useful for stakeholders, and for testers? User stories have a form and function, and a language of their own. Without a shared understanding of those how can we expect to understand user stories?

Posthuman charities

I’ve been thinking about writing a blogpost about how charities might work differently in a posthuman society. If we “reject both human exceptionalism (the idea that humans are unique creatures) and human instrumentalism (that humans have a right to control the natural world)” then how might we think about charities and for-good organisations that have their thinking rooted in humanist ideals?


Tweets:

Fake it till you make it

James Heywood tweeted, “Another problem with “fake it until your make it” is that you know you’ve faked it. That can trigger anxiety even as you succeed.” It made me think about how the phrase can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Faking it could be seen negatively as hiding inadequacies or incompetencies. Or it could be seen more positively as demonstrating a growth mindset and courage to go outside your comfort zone. It could be seen in different ways by different people, leading to confusion about how well-equipped a person is and where they might have development needs. I guess that’s the things about short phrases like this, they are purposely ambiguous, which can be a good thing when it leads to conversations to uncover and improve understanding.

Strategy for information products

David Vassallo tweeted, “A reliable info product strategy:

  1. Find something you know very well.
  2. Share what you know on the internet.
  3. Wait until people start asking for more.
  4. Do a brain dump of everything you know about the topic.
  5. Edit for high info density.
  6. Self-publish.”

It implies the idea that well communicated expertise can be part of overcoming the information product paradox, where customers don’t buy because the don’t know what they’ll be getting, but if they are given two much of the information then they don’t buy because they already have most of the value. Expertise signals value. If you’re known to be an expert in a topic then there is the expectation that what you produce will be valuable even without knowing what you’ll be getting.

Select who to serve first

Natalie Furness tweeted, “How to assess product market fit, while generating traction without spending money. A thread based on my experiences on scrappy startup go-to-market strategy.” She goes to offer lots of advice to indie makers including, “Product Market Fit : Select who you want to serve first. Try and make your test audience as narrow as you can to start with. Remember, this can change as your product develops.” The idea that indie makers start by building an audience around their area of interest before they even know what product they’ll be building is opposite to the usual approach of a business where they develop a product that fits their capabilities and then go looking for an audience. Its interesting to see these difference as the majority of business business models have grown out of industrial thinking whilst indie maker business models have grown out of internet-era thinking. I’ve said before that the maker movement will come of age when a single maker disrupts an established incumbent business, but perhaps another measure of success for the maker movement will be when businesses begin adopting their strategies (like they did with startups and software development).

*I don’t normally tag my links, just this once for fun.