Weeknotes #238

This week I did

Problem-focused

It’s easy to leap to solutions without understanding what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. This week was busy with trying to get an understanding of what problems we’re actually trying to solve with the products we’re being asked to build quickly for projects with tight timelines. I heard someone say (on a podcast, I think) ‘make the right things to make things right’, and it stuck with me. I also talked quite a bit about us trialing products purely with the intention of learning. I feel like we have lots to learn, so the sooner we start the quicker we’ll figure out the things we need to in order to help young people get effective training online.

Does digital creativity differ from non-digital creativity?

I finished my assignment ‘Does digital creativity differ from non-digital creativity?’ Spoiler: It does. I’ve learned about lots of interesting things in this module, and for this essay, about digital media. I’d really like to have time to go back over some of the ideas and write blog posts about them but that’s going to have to wait until after my dissertation is finished.


I read:

Digital Scotland Service Standard

The service standard aims to make sure that services in Scotland are continually improving and that users are always the focus. I like the idea of service standards. Although they seem quite aspirational and a little immature at the moment with few real-life examples of how standards have been implemented effectively, they are a great way to help others understand what it means to be ‘digital’. I know it’s a very different thing, but the standard that explains how to manufacture a bolt is very specific about measurements, tolerances, etc., but maybe it that’s just my understanding of the word ‘standard’, which isn’t the point here. The point is that even though some of the standards in the Digital Scotland Service Standard feel a bit context specific, overall it’s brilliant.

Climate impact of digital

Don’t watch this video 😉

Our digital world

I feel Like, Swipe, Click, Repeat & Change by Peter Trainor and New Public – For Better Digital Public Spaces complement each other and should be read together. One is about the effects social media sites have on us and the other is a about creating better digital spaces.

Reading list

My notes contains lots other things I’ve read this week.


And thought about:

Measures of influence

I had a thought that maybe a measure of influence is how many times someone has to say something for people to take notice of it. I could repeat the same message time and time again and no one would take any notice, because I have low influence. Seth Godin says something once and thousands of people listen to it, because he has high influence. On a smaller scale, it might be an interesting way to measure your influence at work.

Play jazz

After some conversations with Jonathan Holden on Twitter, I’ve been thinking a bit about how our use of militaristic (and so masculine) language relates to our mental models about work and groups of people organised to achieve common goals. Do creative/artistic endeavors offer a better way to think about it? Musicians can play alone, in perfectly in-sync large orchestras, and improvising in jazz bands.

Affordances and proto-affordances

I’m intrigued by the idea of affordances. An affordance is an object’s sensory characteristics which imply its functionality and use. The idea allows designers to “design for usefulness by creating affordances (the possibilities for action in the design) that match the goals of the user“. It seems like the missing gap between what a product is intended to achieve for a user and the design of the user interface.


Some people tweeted:

Positioning product management

Scott Colfer tweeted, “What do product managers like? No, not Venn diagrams. Quadrants! This one shows the range of what product management can look like (in my experience). Helps me when someone asks ‘how do I become a PM?” It’s a really useful way to think about how product managers move around in there role on the axis between tactical and strategic, and between generalist and specialist. So at the daily stand-up a PM might be a tactical generalist talking about UX decisions for a web page and later that day might be acting as a strategic specialist on the digital safeguarding.

Tweet-Syllabus: Prioritization 101 ⏱

Nick deWilde tweeted, “The most successful people I’ve met aren’t the ones who work the hardest. They are the ones who prioritize the right things to work on. These 7 concepts & resources will help you decide what to prioritize in your work and life” I found this interesting because I’ve been thinking about what we really mean when we casually talk about prioritisation for a few weeks. I’m not convinced by some of the tweets, for example that value is only measured by money, but the one about how every system has constraints and that when projects put pressure on a constraint it causes chaos is interesting. Considering bottlenecks in that way helps us think about the knock-on effects rather than just that one constraint in isolation.

Remote work research

Eat Sleep Work Repeat tweeted, “A lot of people saw that viral thread about remote work last week, chock full of unattributed opinion claiming that the office ‘was over’. Let’s try and use some evidence… what does published research tell us about what’s going to happen to our workplaces?” It’s interesting how the pendulum of remote working has swung between ‘the end of the office’ and ‘get back to normal’ and is finding the middle position between home and office. It’s also interesting how much of the discussion about the future of work centres around the location of people. Is that really the most important aspect about effective working, or is it just because its the most obvious and easiest thing to talk about it?

On The Mind Of: Stephen Hale, Chief Executive at Refugee Action

https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9vbnRoZW1pbmRvZi5jb20vZmVlZC9wb2RjYXN0Lw&ep=14&episode=aHR0cHM6Ly9vbnRoZW1pbmRvZi5jb20vP3A9MTQ4Nw

Crisis has brought us together to work together but it is an incredible test of every organisation. Find out if you have the cohesion to pivot, adapt and survive.

Opportunity and privilege comes with moral responsibility.

Put a commitment to shift power to refugees and people seeking asylum at the centre of the strategy. Its a journey to go on rather than a state to be reached. We need to centre those people, voices and perspectives because its morally right, will make a better organisation, and is important for the cause.

Debate in the charity sector about lack of diversity, equality and inclusion and how privilege has excluded people from having the opportunities.

White men are in the way, and need to own that and recognise the structural racism that exists across the sector, and more space, confidence and power to people to say things that they want to say that they haven’t been given explicit permission to say.

Recogniding that silence can be complicit. Make way for other voices that have more lived experience. Not dominating platforms that are available for other voices, spending more time listening and learning, but also wanting to contribute.

If you rush to use your voice you risk skipping the listening and reflection but it might not be amplifying voices.

Shifting power to experts by experience. The shifting of power often requires people in senior positions to give away power in order for others to take it forward.

The shifting of power should have three dimensions, 1) the make up of people on the board, 2) increasing the number of refugees employed within the organisation, 3) who makes decisions.

We have a profound moral obligation to think about our cause before we think about our organisation. That is what the people who support our organisation expect. If we are not connecting we are letting down the people who have enough confidence in the organisation.

The role of leaders to figure where their organisation fits in contributing to the cause.

Charities have an obligation to collaborate to achieve more together.

Challenge the idea that there is a conflict between the short term interests of the organisation and whether you are collaborative or not.

Influencing the state to make people’s lives better, but we should not over estimate what the state can do.

Big and complex network of charities around any given issue, their coherence and collective strategy and influence can have a huge impact on the system. What we can do within our sphere of influence?

In defence of Digital; why it is and should be ‘a thing’

Every so often the ‘what is digital?’ question comes up on Twitter in one form or another. It always gets lots of reaction, mostly from people who work in the digital industry so the term carries all kinds of meanings, experiences and contexts, but the reaction often seems to be cynical and sceptical about the term. So here are my thoughts in defence of ‘digital’. 

Digital is just another fad

Phrases get used without any agreement about what they mean, and then the argument becomes about the definition rather than the thing itself. ‘Agile’, ‘Innovation’, and of course ‘Digital’ are all terms that suffer from a lack-of-definition problem. Of course, depending on your point of view, a lack of definition can also be a good thing because it creates space for discussion and different meanings in different contexts. ‘Digital’ in its all-encompassing meaning, is not a fad. It is here to stay, as a part of life and business for certain, and as a phrase that describes lots of different things in lots of different contexts.

Digital is about new technology but it’s more than just ICT. I heard a definition once that said IT is the internal technology function for a business and Digital is the external facing technology that is used by an organisation’s customers to interact with them. There are a couple of interesting points there; the internal/external view of who the technology is being provided for and how they will use it, and that interaction is a key point for digital technologies. Working in an organisation you wouldn’t be surprised to use one system to access documents and a different system to submit your expenses, but if you were a customer using an app you’d expect to be able to manage your profile, process payments, and do whatever the app is designed do all within the same product. The expectations of internal and external are different. Digital technologies provide a fast and convenient interface between the organisation and the customer that isn’t constrained by the characteristics of physical interactions such as location and time availability.

Digital is just a channel. If your organisation markets itself using print, TV, and Google Adwords then seeing digital as just another marketing channel makes sense. Until you expand your view. As TV advertising became a mature industry people began to appreciate how it could influence the behaviour of the masses to propagate the idea of a dominant identity and that everyone should be trying to achieve that ideal through consumerism. As digital marketing is maturing it’s important that we understand how the speed and scale of misinformation campaigns, deep fakes, etc., can influence political outcomes. Digital isn’t just a channel, in the neutral ‘same as any other channel’ sense because of its power to influence so many people in such subtle ways so quickly. 

Digital is a behaviour. Just like the ‘mobile isn’t a device, it’s a behaviour’ mantra when smartphones were the new big thing, ‘digital’ is even more so a behaviour. Digital behaviours occur in how we socialise, shop, bank, entertain ourselves, etc., etc. They are so ingrained in the goings-on of so many people that it’s easy to forget that this behaviour is significantly different from non-digital behaviour. Payment is a good example. If you pay with cash, that’s the end of your involvement in that transaction. If you pay with a credit card, the merchant device checks your card has the contactless chip, takes your card identity token, sends it and the payment amount to the acquirer service, who contact your bank to check the card is allowed to be used, tells you the payment is taken, then overnight the transaction is submitted to a bank to bank transfer, along with fraud checks and recording information against your credit history, etc., etc. The data generated at every step is part of your digital identity and you don’t even see it or know how it is used.

Part of the realisation that digital is a behaviour also needs to permeate organisational thinking in how it invests in knowledge assets and when it expects return on those investments. It requires a shift away from the physical asset investment mindset that sees a large up-front investment produce diminishing returns over time to an intellectual asset investment mindset that sees an ongoing investment produce increasing returns over a longer time period. 

Digital isn’t just a fad, and it isn’t going away any time soon.

Digital is part of every thing an organisation does and so it shouldn’t be in job titles.

The argument that team names and job titles shouldn’t include the word ‘digital’ often comes from those who have been working digitally for some time and so recognise that for their context it doesn’t make sense. Marketing teams shouldn’t be called Digital Marketing because digital is just another channel. Product Managers shouldn’t be called Digital Product Managers because the digital interface is just one part of what they do. 

Sometimes, using the word helps others understand the difference. Digital marketing works differently to traditional print advertising. Products that are accessed over the internet require different delivery mechanisms, pricing models, etc., from a physical product. If the skills and knowledge required to make digital successful in an organisation are downplayed by not being mentioned (and team names and job titles are a really blatant place to do this) it could have the effect of slowing digital adoption rather than making it part of business as usual. Digital requires a different way of thinking so if it is consumed into business as usual the difference can be lost. Visibility is a big thing in organisations. If something is important enough it’ll be made visible. And conversely, things that aren’t made visible are considered not important. 

Digital is a part of everyone’s job, but if part of the job is make the organisation more digital then explicitly and visibility help.

Digital transformation is just another IT project 

If you’ve been involved in an organisation that has undertaken a Digital Transformation project then you’re probably as jaded about it as everyone else. 

Digital isn’t the problem. Transformation isn’t the problem. The problem is organisations convincing themselves that it’s an eighteen month project that can be updated to complete when everyone has a laptop, the marketing team have hired someone with AdsWords experience, and the IT team has rolled out Office 365. 

The reality, which doesn’t look so good in presentations to the board, is that the digital transformation of any organisation is going to take decades. Every business in your supply chain is going through a digital transformation, every industry and every market is going through a digital transformation, society is going through a digital transformation, every aspect of life is going through digital transformation. No surprise then that organisations that think it’s a quick project become very disappointed and don’t see the expected short term returns. 

Digital transformation will require no less than an entirely new worldview. This new worldview will involve understanding how the internet has changed everything about our world, from how networks create exponential growth and unpredictable effects, to how we no longer think of human beings as separate biological individuals, to how software is becoming the dominant species on the planet and increasingly more complex than the human brain can grasp. 

And digital transformation will require no less than entirely new business models to be built on top of this new worldview. These new business models will involve speed and scale our current businesses can’t even imagine, will utilise automation to the extent where entire industries are made up of software-as-a-business organisations providing services for other businesses that are just software, and, to ensure we aren’t painting a too utopian picture of the future, will drive further inequalities in society as although the entire human race experiences improved quality of life from the digital transformation of business and the world, the gap between the rich and the poor will get wider.

Digital transformation is essential for every organisation to survive in the 21st century. There are no other options.