Weeknotes #268

Photo of the week:

This week I did:

Age Appropriate Design Code

I spent some time this week learning and interpreting the ICO’s Age Appropriate Design Code, which is essentially GDPR for children. It’s raising lots of questions and making us think more rigorously about the solution design decisions we make, which of course is very much the point.

Backwards hypothesis

I’ve started some data analysis of one of the processes that makes up part of one of our services. I have a hypothesis that the process isn’t working very well for two reasons and the analysis should prove it. I realise that technically that hypothesis is backwards and I should be trying to disprove it, but it’s much harder to talk to other people about it that way round. It’s interesting how what is often the right way to do things isn’t the intuitive way to do things, and when working with others you have to do the translation work between the two.


I set-up ready for the Tweet100 Challenge. I want to use it to tweet specifically about innovation from a slightly more academic perspective than most innovation tweets, blog posts, podcasts, etc., are based upon. Each tweet will include a link to innovat100n so I can try testing whether there is any interest in innovation from this perspective before I write the one hundred email mini-lectures that I’ve been thinking about. I’ve written the one hundred tweets and scheduled them for the last one hundred days of the year, which means they start on the 23rd Sept.

And thought about:

A system for everything

I realised that I can’t just do something, anything in fact. I have to have a system for it before I start. Write a document? No, I’ll create a template and check with the intended audience that it has what they’ll need. Sign-up for a hundred tweet challenge? No, I’ll use it to test interest in a build and audience for innovat100n. Go to the shop to buy Diet Coke? No, I’ll buy four because I’ve already measured how many cans I drink a day and estimated when I’ll next be able to get to another shop.

Digital thinking

How to teach a digital mindset has been on my mind this week. There’s the Essential Digital Skills Framework, which might provide a basis for developing on but is very functional. I’m more interested in how you could teach a digital mindset that appreciates why each of those essential skills matters and understands some of the context around it. So, for example the framework says someone should be able to search for information but there’s nothing about how to critically evaluate the information and test it for bias or falsehood, because to be able to do that requires a deeper understand about the nature of information on the internet, the business model of search engines, and how we are affected by things like confirmation bias. How to even go about listing what should be part of a digital mindset feels disorganised and too amorphous to get a grip of.

Fractal tasks

I started using my notion roadmap more this week to organise the work I want to do on various projects, and it has made me think a bit about how we group tasks and what view of that work we want to see. My roadmap uses kanban boards within kanban boards. It means each piece of work operates to the same way, regardless of it’s level within the roadmap/project and that there is no overall big picture view of all the work that is in progress. I’m testing out this way of working for a few months to try to understand how useful that big picture actually is. How much coordination does there need to be between projects? Does the system need awareness of all the in-progress work? Or is being only able to see one project better for focus? But then, if you can’t compare one project to another, how do you prioritise one piece of work over another. Hopefully I can get to some answers as I try out this fractal task management approach.

I listened/watched/read:

Proximal learning

I heard about proximal learning on the Farnam Street podcast so looked into it a little bit more. It’s the idea that every person has a zone of what they know, and a zone of stuff that they could know if only they had some help to learn it. In some ways it goes against the idea of self-learning and makes education a far more social endeavour. This makes some sense to me when we think about knowledge transfer and how only that which can be codified into information can be transmitted. So, without someone to learn from, a person would be limited in what they could learn. This applies in a micro-sense within organisations. Most learning is expected to be done through online video course platforms because that makes the learning ‘scalable’, but it limits hat can be learned to what can be codified. So, how do we create ways to learn the uncodifable things at work?

The Difference between Engineering and Design Thinking

This is useful in helping to explain a design thinking approach by contrast the engineering thinking approach.

Don’t Build It. A Guide for Practitioners in Civic Tech

The guide says:

  • If you can avoiding building it, don’t; if you have to build it,
  • hire a chief technology officer (CTO),
  • ship early, and mature long; and if you can’t do that (or even if you can),
  • draw on a trusted crew,
  • build lean and fast, and
  • get close to and build with your users as fast as possible.

Sounds like good advice.

A Constellation of Possible Futures

“The working hypothesis is that the Observatory will gather weak signals from across civil society to create a Foresight Commons, bringing to life civil-society foresight and creating a shared evidence base that helps: Funders fund different futures Civil society organisations anticipate and adapt more quickly” This looks like an amazing piece of work.

And my growth area this week was:

Making connections

I wanted to try connecting more people and more work together this week. I found a few opportunities but I didn’t really feel like the connections achieved much.

Weeknotes #246

What I did this week:

Plugging gaps

The last few days before a product lunch as always intense. It’s when everyone realises all the things we didn’t quite finish and just gets on with making stuff happen. I love it. I love the pressure and pace of work. I thought about that saying about work expanding to fit the time available but I don’t think that’s fair. I think the earlier, slower work is all about the thinking and learning that makes the later work go faster.


The last session of the Service Design course I’ve been doing is coming up so I’ve built a prototype of an asynchronous project-based learning course. The idea is for people to undertake projects such as building their own website in which they learn to do that as they progress through the course but just as importantly, finish the course with a website, or whatever other tangible outcome. So much training training fails to fill the gap between learning and applying the learning, so I’ve interested in ways of filling that gap. It made me think a bit about my ideas around a social enterprise for teaching life skills.

What I thought about this week:

What changes in digital culture can tell us about digital work

I’ve been thinking recently about how the way we do digital work might not be that great. I’ve been wondering about some of the process-based practices we use, where they come from, and why they feel so immature and ineffective. I thought it might just be because our ways of working digitally haven’t been around that long, but there’s quite a lot of thinking, especially from Bolter, about the ways in which technology have affected culture, so I wondered if the same process might be happening with how we approach digital work.

Weeknotes as reflective practice

I’ve been writing weeknotes for almost five years. They’ve changed purpose over that time and become part of my practice in improving my understanding and so my behaviours. For me, weeknotes are part of the ‘reflective observation’ step in Kolb’s learning cycle, a chance to consider the ‘concrete experiences’ of the week. The ‘abstract conceptualisation’ phase seems to happen more subconsciously and is probably due some optimisation. It might be a bit meta talking about weeknotes in my weeknotes but it’s all about the meta-learning.

On the outside

I’ve had five run-ins with society’s authority figures since becoming a digital nomad. I take this as sign of my growing realisation of myself as an outsider. Watts talks about the outsider and it’s role in society, and how it attracts the suspicion of the mainstream. My understanding of my place is the world is changing.

What I read this week:

Design thinking

I read some design thinking stuff, and a bit of social design stuff, because I think I might use Design Thinking as one of the innovation management methods in my dissertation. The main stance of social design seems to be a critique of human-centred design for putting the user at the centre and not considering the environment, systems and structures that act on them, which I can’t help but agreeing with. They are the design equivalent of humanism vs. post-humanism.

Digital Bricolage

I found this chapter on Digital Bricolage which “investigates how the concept of bricolage translates to contemporary digital artists and tools.” I think it might hold some useful ideas for solving the problem of too much structure and process in digital work. The blog post I mentioned above is an attempt at a quick summary of why our digital ways of working are so much about process, because they have followed in the footsteps of digital culture as it became ‘databased’ (organised, structured to fit a schema, etc.).

The most important conversation

I listened to the Modern Wisdom podcast with Thomas Moynihan on his new book on the history of existential risk. It’s a mind-opener. It has some really thought-provoking examples like where is the biggest gap in effects; between peace and the annihilation of 99% of the human population, or between annihilation of 99% and 100% of the human population. Our intuitive thinking makes jump to saying the first option because it looks like the biggest gap, but that’s wrong. 100% is the extinction of the human species, the end, no way forward, no future. That has a far greater effect than the death of 99% of the human population because it means 1% continues. And aside from existential risk, which is clearly a big enough to be thinking about, they talk a bit about how we struggle to get past applying old ways of thinking to new things, which is one of my rants about digital transformation in organisations.

Weeknotes #207

Some things I did this week:

Platform thinking for safeguarding 

I wrote a discussion paper on how to approach achieving a high degree of safeguarding on a digital platform. As a platform (rather than a pipeline) it requires some different thinking (and maths) so, if two people have one connection, then 825 people 339,900 possible connections at any one moment (n * n-1 / 2 just so you know). When planning how to approach monitoring and moderating the platform it’s important to think about the right thing (the number of connections, not the number of people).

Variety pack

I had some user research discussions about how teachers might work with our educational content in a variety of circumstances, from selecting a re-arranged package that they use repeatedly to being able to build up a number of custom packages. Achieving the right amount of variety without providing an overwhelming number of choices (there are thousands of variations) is an interesting problem.

Becoming a cyborg

I watched Maggie Appleton’s talk about “How to Become a Neo-Cartesian Cyborg” and thoughts about the ‘Building a second brain’. It helped me clarify some of my thinking about what an idea ‘is’. I think it is a distinct piece of information; codified knowledge expressed in a transmittable way. Ideas, in this framing rather than ideas as aha moments, are the building blocks of creating other things. 

And some things I learned:

Simplifying the complex

When communicating, and by that I mean providing information with the purpose of convincing someone of something (communication isn’t neutral), simplifying that communication makes it more likely they’ll agree with you. Now, we could call that simplification ‘withholding all the facts’, but it’s a question of degrees. Knowing the boundaries of acceptable presentation gets the job done and keeps you out of trouble.

Fewest moving parts

Efficiency in machines comes from having the fewest moving parts. Where one moving part touches another moving part there is always friction and so energy lost through heat. A perfectly friction-free system would achieve maximum efficiency. So, when we talk about efficiency in working processes or reducing friction in a website sign-up process, we should look at the number of moving parts in the system first rather than thinking we can achieve those things with some surface-level changes.

Learning about learning

We we’re talking about behaviour change and pedagogical models at work, which are fascinating in their own right, but even more so when applying the thinking to creating a blended online education offer that allows people to self-serve some of their learning, receive specialised support, etc., and using those models to think coherently about how the subject is taught, what from the subject is taught, and how is the learning measured.

6G is coming

I didn’t even know 6G existed but apparently we’re expecting it to be rolled out in 2028. In fact doesn’t exist yet and is still in the research phases but the experts are predicting that it will provide internet connection speeds of 1 terabyte per second (the equivalent of 142 hours of movies in one second). 6G will also have a decentralised approach meaning devices can connect to each other without going through a central provider, which opens up lots of possibilities in real time sensor processing for augmented humans and artificial intelligence.

Some things I thought about:

All the problems

I look around and see so many problems, problems facing people right now, and I sometimes feel bad that I’m not doing enough to help solve those problems. I was thinking about this on one of my late night walks and it occurred to me that if everyone was working on solving the problems of today then no one would be imagining and investigating the solutions of the future. The work I do, and want to do more of, is around contributing to an understanding of what the solutions of the future might look like. The things I think and write about like cause-agnostic charities, the digital charity, platform business models for charities, and what the charity of the future might look like, is worthwhile work to be doing. It doesn’t contribute to solving the problems we face today, but I hope it contributes to solving the problems we’ll face in the future. 

Changing charity boards 

NonprofitAF wrote an article about boards of trustees being “archaic and toxic”. Apart from being a really interesting topic, one of the things I like about the article is that it presents a balanced view of the problem; that not all boards are bad, and that there are some ways in which organisations are trying out new governance models. I like this. I’m not keen on the spate of articles that seem to be written to attack particular aspects of the charity sector without offering any solutions to the problems they raise. I think reasoned critique that generates discussion and thinking is helpful, whereas ranting about a problem isn’t.  

Anyway, models of governance is something I want to explore with future.charity but my initial thoughts are that there needs to be some clarifying as to what charities need, governance, stewardship, or something else, not assuming that one type of governance fits all types of charities, and designing governance into the business model of the charity rather than as external to it.

Process models for knowledge management

I was looking at process models and how they have certain characteristics in common. So, for example: 

  • Design sprint: map, sketch, decide, prototype, test. 
  • Design thinking: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test.
  • Double Diamond: discover, define, develop, deliver. 

They all have two characteristics in common; they are linear, and they are conceptual islands. The linear nature of them makes sense if a) you view the world and the work you do as non-complex, production-oriented work that can follow a simple step-by-step process, or b) you want to sell your model and you need to make it easily digestible by people who don’t have time to learn in-depth about how lots of process models should be used. These models are also always fixed (you can’t add another step, for example), unable to respond to change, and isolated, so not connected to other models. The more we recognise work as creative knowledge work that cannot follow the fixed process steps that these models suggest, the less useful these tools and models become. In fact, I think they become contraining of good work.

We need smart networked process models. Models that are capable of sensing and responding to change, that are interoperable, connected and able to communicate with other models, and are continuously improving. These models, built on the principles of the internet-era, need to reflect and utilise the complexity of the world and knowledge work, and be part of an ecosystem of models that support good knowledge work.

And perhaps organisations need Knowledge Managers whose job is about teaching people how to use tools and models effectively. Just as organisations have project managers who are responsible for the ‘when’, the flow of the work, knowledge managers would be responsible for ‘how’, the ways the work is done. They would be part of the shift organisations need to take away from the industrial production-oriented mindset of work and towards the modern creation-oriented knowledge work. 

I’ve seen organisations use the term ‘knowledge manager’ before when they mean ‘information manager’, and usually put that person in the IT department. Instead, I wonder if knowledge management, or to put it another way, intellectual asset management, sits better with HR/Learning and Development as it implies a different approach, that helping people know how to use the right conceptual tools is an important part of their work.

Some tweets I liked:


Zoe Amar tweeted about the Charity Digital Skills Report. Apart from the slight irony of the report being a pdf and accessed from a non-responsive website, the report has some really interesting but not surprising information about the state of digital in the charity sector. It says that “80% [of charities] are fair to poor at developing digital products”. That’s definitely a challenge with lots of causes, including the assumption that charity services should be delivered by people because this is essential to qualities of the service. I also found and started listening to the Starting At The Top podcast by Zoe and Paul Thomas.

Streaming apps

Paul Downey tweeted: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a PDF downloading on a mobile phone — forever.” I’m not sure what he meant but lots of people seemed to take it as a bad thing. ‘Dystopian nightmare’ was mentioned. I’m not sure that it is a negative vision of the future for mobile. It’s a bit too centralised for my liking, but it’s conceivable that the mobile phones of the future don’t download an app and then connect to a web service in order to make the app do stuff and instead effectively stream apps and services to the phone in the same way we watch movies.

Who to follow?

Sonja Blignaut tweeted a quote saying “We follow those that reflect our most cherished ideals, not those who reflect the most accurate picture of reality.” Does the inverse work? Can we know our most cherished ideals by looking at those we follow? Or is it more complex than that?

Those who do not blog

Stephen Gill tweeted: “Those who do not blog about their mistakes doom other people in the organisation to repeat them” Well, yes. Not much more to be said about that, is there.

Some thoughts on a reflective digital practice

Reflective practice is used in other fields such as social work and nursing, and I think there are lots of benefits to being more reflective in our digital work.

What is reflective practice

Reflective practice is an active, dynamic action-based and ethical set of skills, placed in real time and dealing with real, complex and difficult situations.

Moon, J. (1999), Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice, Kogan Page, London.

Reflective practice is, in its simplest form, thinking about or reflecting on what you do. It’s about giving yourself the opportunities to learn from experience. You spend time thinking about what you did, and what happened, and decide from that what you would do differently next time. It’s a habit, a skill, to be developed. It’s sometimes a difficult thing to do when under pressure to produce more outputs, but it has many benefits.

Some of the benefits of reflective practice

Reflective practice is a skill that when practiced well allows you to join the higher level thinking and theory with the lower level day-to-day activities and experiences. It creates a mindset that asks questions, seeks different points of view, considers how things connect and affect each other and brings to light issues and problems.

Benefits include

  • Helping you to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, interests and areas they’d like to develop
  • Helping you feel more confident and in control of their learning and development
  • Helping teams feel more cohesion as they learn together

How to become more reflective

In People Skills, Neil Thompson, suggests that there are six steps to becoming more reflective:

  • Read – around the topics you are learning about or want to learn about and develop
  • Ask – others about the way they do things and why
  • Watch – what is going on around you
  • Feel – pay attention to your emotions, what prompts them, and how you deal with negative ones
  • Talk – share your views and experiences with others in your organisation
  • Think – learn to value time spent thinking about your work

Some ideas for a more reflective practice


Retrospectives are a part of Scrum and Agile thinking. They are an opportunity to think back about how a particular piece of work went. They can be formal meetings or quick conversations.

It works because:

  • More formal versions of retrospectives such as meetings and reports communicate to the team that reflective practice is valued
  • The discussion allows people to reflect together and learn from each other
  • They can lead to changes and improvements in practice

Weekly update email

Every Friday send an email to interested people saying what you did this week and what you’ll be doing next week.

It works because:

  • It’s good to communicate
  • It makes you look back over the past week and forward to the next week
  • It’s of the moment with no consequences or accountability
  • It’s in easy to read sound bites
  • It isn’t a project update so it can be lighter, more general

Time tracking

Record, even roughly, how you spend your time during the working week.

It works because:

  • It’s purely quantitative, there is no connection to outcome at the point of recording meaning there is no need to justify how you spent your time
  • It helps you to think about when you do things not just what you do, so if you notice you haven’t put any time into a particular project you can do that next week
  • Over time you start to see which parts of your work take up your time. This enables you to think about whether time spent equals value delivered

Read books and articles

Reading seems to be one of the least valued work activities, even among knowledge workers, but it should be encouraged as part of a reflective practice.

It works because

  • It brings in ideas from outside the team or organisation
  • Lots of people can read the same thing, discuss it and reach a common understanding
  • It builds knowledge quickly making reflecting on other things easier