Week notes #179

First weeknote of 2020. The future is here (it’s just not yet evenly distributed).

This week I’ve been doing:

Annual expenditure analysis

Updated my budget tracker (because I’m just that rock ‘n’ roll) and analysed how much money I’d spent over last year and what on. 12% of my expenditure was on my car (tax, insurance, maintenance), 11% on my education (course fees and books), 9.8% on fuel for my car and 3.6% travel (train fare). I expect the balance of expenditure to shift next year with more going on travel and less on my car and fuel.

What do mental health carers need

Started thinking about a side project I might want to work on over this year. I’ve only just started discovery work but I think there is a need for support for people acting as carers of people with mental illness problems. There is growing awareness people suffering from mental illness and what support is or isn’t available, but maybe their carers need support and that is a hidden problem. Based on my experience, and some recent thinking based on a discussion about the book The Chimp Paradox, my hypothesis is that ‘the problem to solve’ is that carers feel like the illness of the person they are caring for controls both of their lives, so I think feeling more in control of their own lives helps them to maintain their own health and support the person they are caring for. I don’t know if this will ever develop into anything as I don’t really have time to work on it but I’ll continue with some discovery work for the time being.


This week I’ve been studying:

The cost/benefit of reading a book

Haven’t done much studying this week. I have lots of books to read but not enough time to read them. I feel a bit torn between reading academic books that are about the past and wanting to develop my own ideas for the future. I get that the accepted academic research provides an important and necessary background for my own thinking, but reading an entire book feels like a large time cost for a small knowledge return


This week I’ve been thinking about:

The future paradigm for innovation is systems-thinking

For a while now I’ve held the belief that the ‘creative destruction’ paradigm that underpins our dominant thinking about innovation isn’t fit for purpose in the 21st century. It comes predominantly from Schumpeter, an Austrian political economist writing in the 1930s. His ideas about innovation being about the new new thing and first mover advantage came out of him living at the time of the Great Depression and in between two world wars. The backdrop of this economic and political world climate undoubtedly coloured what Schumpeter saw as the purpose of innovation and what it required to achieve economic success.

But times have changed. This thinking is almost a hundred years old and yet it still informs how most organisations approach innovation. Innovation needs a new paradigm. And I think Systems Thinking is it. Systems thinking requires synthesis approaches rather than reductionist analysis, it looks at how the parts work together rather than isolating the parts from the whole, and it recognises that change is evolutionary, building on what exists, rather the perpetuating the myth of innovation as newness.

I need to spend a lot more time learning about systems thinking, how it can serve as a paradigm for innovation activities and thinking.

Web 3.0

I’m really interested in decentralisation as a model for the web and as an idea for leadership. This video provides a quick overview of the different versions of the web and why 3.0 is so important.

I set up a blockstack ID for myself, and played with some DApps (Decentralised Apps). There are lots of alternatives to the centralised monopolistic internet services like Dpage instead of blogging services like WordPress, but it’s really not very user friendly, a barrier that will have to be overcome if it’s to get widespread consumer adoption.


This week on my Twitter people were talking about:

What they did in 2019 and how things have changed since 2009

Lots of people were posting about things they’d achieved in the past year and what has changed in their lives during the past decade. I think reviewing the past (essentially running a retrospective for yourself) is really useful. I did a quick ‘What I did in 2019’ blog post, but I haven’t really done enough retro-thinking about the year. It was definitely a year of lots of change.

Different ways of writing week notes

I’ve also looked a bit more deeply at how people are using week notes and what benefits they get out of them. For me it’s part of a reflective practice, being able pull together lots of different moments and thoughts from a defined time period into a (semi-) cohesive picture on a regular cadence forces me to think critically about my week. Although I don’t look back at old posts that much, and I wonder if anyone looks back at what they previously wrote, perhaps just the act of writing about what happened is sufficient for learning. Of course being public means that only those things that are deemed ok to be publicly mentioned are included. I wonder if this prevents/reduces reflection on the private things, or whether there is another mechanism like week notes for encouraging that.

Week notes #178

This week I’ve been doing:

Alpha Mike Foxtrot

It was my last two days of working at BSI, time I spent finishing off project handover notes. It’s been an interesting six months and I’ve learned a lot, mostly through challenges to my ideas and assumptions about how teams work and how important cultural fit is. I feel like I need to spend some time reflecting and thinking about how to reset before starting my next role so I’m in a good place.

Having books and reading books are two different things

I received nine new books (thanks, Santa) on topics from innovation and digital business to ecommerce and the network society. Finding the time to read them is going to be a challenge. My books database says of over a hundred books on my list I haven’t even bought about a quarter of them, and I’ve only read 30 of them.

End of year organisation

I updated the About page on my website to talk about my three objectives. And I updated my Roadmap so that the things in the Now, Next and Later columns align with my objectives. I’m happy with my objectives (which are slightly tweaked from 2019) and think they’ve really helped me focus over the past year on getting a new job, starting a Masters course, and starting to write a book. I also updated the workflow for my Personal Kanban to use Google Assistant to allow my to add items to my Trello board using voice.


This week I’ve been studying:

The future of innovation

Not having lectures this week has given me a bit of time to work on research for The Fire Control Problem, and my ideas about the future of innovation. In previous weeks I’ve reached the conclusion that the ‘creative destruction’ mindset for innovation isn’t fit for the future and that Systems Thinking can offer a more evolutionary approach.


This week I’ve been thinking about:

Scales for systems thinking

Systems thinking is very interesting, I don’t know why I’ve only just found out about it. My first thoughts were that it was a useful tool for problem definition (as the second stage in a double-diamond process) as it focuses on uncovering the surrounding and underlying causes of a problem, but questioned how well it could be used to understand unknowns. I think Mintzberg’s puzzling puzzles might be more useful for uncovering unknowns. It also occurred to me that systems thinking adds to my thoughts about platforms providing value in a circular manner in comparison to pipelines providing value in linear ways. This video changed and expanded my perspective and helped me see that it is also a paradigm shifting idea. Moving from always approaching work with a reductionist analysis mindset (which using systems thinking for problem definition is) to a systems-thinking synthesis approach feels awesome and inspiring, and something I want to explore much more.

It’s not all about riots

I’ve also found out a bit about anarchism, which has opened my mind to some of the philosophical underpinning anarchism provides for autonomous teams, cooperative working and how it works at the speed of trust. It’s something else I want to find out a lot more about and figure out how it fits as a useful set of ideas.


This week on my Twitter people were talking about:

Working in the open

Using digital and Internet-era ways of working means being open about things you’ve learned, mistakes you’ve made, prototypes you’ve launched. I think a reflective practice is so important for learning and sharing it publicly spreads the learning and helps us all get better. ‘Digital’ is more than just a channel for marketing and embedding digital-thinking in all the work we do is going to be an even more essential in the next few years.

What leadership looks like

There was an interesting discussion about what modern leadership look like, including:

  • “the only goal that makes sense is learning”
  • “its not about telling people what to do, but about understanding what people are trying to achieve and helping coordinate different interests towards a common goal”
  • “adapt the plan to the people, not the people to the plan”
  • “those working on related things are not competitors, and being open about what you are working on, and promoting and encouraging people who are working on similar things, is a good thing.”

To me, some of this fits with my thoughts on everyone’s job being to learn and integrate the learning into the organisation, and how leadership allows and encourages this. How an organisation integrates learning is essential for it to become or remain an innovative organisation, as knowledge, information and intellectual assets are so vital for innovation.

Week notes #177

This week I’ve been doing:

Talking about using Microsoft Teams

I had a few chats about Microsoft Teams, why organisations should use it and what benefits they should be aiming for from it. As a digital office space Teams offers communication and collaboration tools that can help people be more efficient but I think there is a bigger picture in how tools like Teams help to manage organisational knowledge and information and enable companies to turn it into competitive advantage. I put together some thoughts on Microsoft Teams.

Measuring and motivating

There is an interesting interplay between explicit and tacit measures of success. Both drive behaviour, sometimes in unexpected ways, and I have lots of questions about how we measure people, how closely connected measurement is to motivation. PDR’s are hard.

Storytelling for strategy

Strategy doesn’t have to be boring. I had some fantastically inspiring chats today about presenting strategy as an aspirational story, mixing in testimonials and impact measures from the past year with the vision or where we want to get to and how we’re going to get there.

We also chatted about how the biggest challenge for the charity sector over the next ten years is going to be to deliver coordinated solutions to problems rather than charities focusing on single solutions such as homelessness, alcohol abuse, or mental health.


This week I’ve been studying:

CSR as a response to market pressures

Last week was the end if term so this was my first week without lectures. I finished and handed in my assignment for the Principles of Management module was answers the question “Organisations implement CSR practices and make ethical decisions primarily to increase shareholder profit as opposed to wider social considerations“. I’m not very confident it’s going to be good enough to pass as I think I’ve misunderstood what was expected by this assignment, but if so I can rewrite it next term.

It feels weird not having the pressure of lectures, pre-reading, reviewing notes, revising for exams, and writing essays, but I’m hoping the next few weeks will give me the space to study more broadly some of the things that have interested me most this term.


This week I’ve been thinking about:

I’ve been taking some of what I learned about innovation last term and thinking about what an innovative organisation of the future might look like.

Why is flexible working about more than just letting people work from home

Listening to a podcast on flexible working helped me to get my thoughts together on why it’s essential for organisations as it helps them make the boundaries between the organisation and society more permeable, which allows more diverse ideas in and can become a competitive advantage.

What role will HR have in innovative companies of the future

I think the role of the HR department will have to drastically change from what it does in most organisations now and what organisations will need it to do in the future. When the knowledge workforce no longer needs a HR department to secure it’s commitment to the work (because those knowledge workers will bring their own commitment) then the role will shift to being more about managing human intellectual assets, ideas, knowledge and information, and enabling the organisation to turn those into a competitive advantage.


This week on my Twitter people were talking about:

Things that change together belong together

Kent Beck tweeted about how things that change at the same pace belong together. He was talking about programming but I think it’s an interesting idea for other things, such as ‘fixed scope fixed cadence’ work. So if two tasks need to be completed and one exhibits greater change than the other, then does tackling them both at the same regularity make sense? We tend to think in time spans of daily, weekly, monthly and annually because that’s how our calendars are organised but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to complete work. I wonder if setting thresholds to trigger work makes more sense, so, for example financial records are reconciled when a number of transactions have been reached rather than daily, and project status reports are issued when a certain amount of progress has been made rather than monthly.

I’ve also been thinking about product strategy as an intention to keep pace with the rate of change in market. So, the strategy could be either to ‘get ahead’ of changes in the market, ‘stay on the curve’, or ‘lag behind’ the market. This feels like a more responsive approach and informs how investment decisions are made based on that intention.

Week notes #167

This week I’ve been studying:

Managing people in organisations

The week 2 lecture in the Principles of Organisational Management module was about managing people and the role of Human Resource Management.

I learned about how the employment relationship is both a legal contract and a social relationship. As a legal contract it establishes certain rights and obligations between the employer and the employee. As a social relationship, it is dependent on the existence of labour as a commodity, and gives rise to various social phenomena within and beyond the workplace. Conflict is inherent in the employment relationship but what is established is what Goodrich called ‘The frontier of control’.

I also learned about how HR is fundamentally individualistic, which means that the nature of the relationship between the organisation and the employer is one-to-one rather than one-to-many or many-to-many. It’s through the nature of this relationship that the employer

Business models for a smarter economy

In the intellectual capital and competitiveness module lecture I learned that innovation requires a number of things, and that these seven criteria of a good innovator form a useful model

Big Innovation Centre - Seven Criteria Of A Good Innovator

I found the idea of ‘agility and absorptive capability’ really interesting.

“For an innovative company in our fast-changing modern day business landscape, it is not enough just to be resourced by innovative employees and driven by a culture that encourages innovation. Dynamism is increasingly becoming a required attribute of innovative companies. In other words, an innovative company is one that is agile and flexible enough to adjust to changing conditions, and quick enough to capture emerging opportunities. Useful internal indicators of these usually include how fluid and flexible, or bureaucratic and encumbered, the company’s decision-making processes are, and whether the company feels comfortable exploring business ideas and opportunities beyond its comfort zone. Externally, these manifest in whether a company is able to capture first-mover, or at least early-mover, advantages, and the extent to which a company has been successful in projects or initiatives in a different market, or sector, that require different skills and competencies.”

The Big Innovation Centre has developed an online tool at biginnovationmap.com to allow organisations to understand how innovative they are against the seven criteria.


This week I’ve been thinking about:

Feedback loops

How feedback loops and course-correction might be a better way to achieve a target than measurement alone.

The usual measurement approach seems like we start by setting where we want to get to, what measures we are going to use to monitor progress, and often leave out defining the actions to get there. This is understandable as we don’t usually know ahead of time what we’ll need to do. We try something but only know if its helping us reach the target at a measurement point. And as the measurement is the visible thing in this scenario it’s easy to game the actions to make the measurements look good but not really achieve the target.

Instead, we could approach it by setting where we want to get to, what the first action we can do to take us in that direction, and how we’re going to get feedback to tell us if we’re heading in the right direction, and if not course-correct by choosing a different action. I think this approach would give us a far greater chance of achieving the target because we can get an idea of whether we’re heading the right direction sooner and do something about it if we’re not. I guess this is a bit of a micro version of the fire control problem, which one day I’m going to write a book about.

ProductOps

ProductOps as a team/function/concept is increasingly becoming a thing. I’m starting to see it as a response to Product Management’s focus on building new things and consequently not being able to give sufficient investment to maintaining and sustaining product ecosystems (not just technical but supplier contract renewals, etc.)

Digital future

I’ve thinking a lot more about what a digital future looks like for organisations (and especially charities, partly prompted by Joe’s article below). I’ve been thinking about whether my idea of digital strata will help to communicate how profoundly digital is going to change our lives, our society and the entire world. It has philosophy at the deepest level (metamodernism replacing post-modernism), principles (such as platforms replacing pipelines for value delivery) one layer up, processes (such as centralised command & control decision-making replaced by decentralised and distributed decision-making) above, and then practices (like how we communicate in smaller chunks, faster, and more frequently) at the upper most level. I intend to write about my ideas in more detail some time soon.


This week on my Twitter people were talking about:

Digital leadership

Joe Freeman wrote a post on Charity Comms about Digital Leadership. I like how Joe writes. He’s very practical and offers some useful advice, which is in complete contrast to my random spouting of completely conceptual ideas. Joe’s stance on digital (if I can put words in his mouth) is that it is merely another tool for marketing and communications, something that charities need to invest in understanding and using better, but fundamentally just an enabler or channel for what the charity is already doing.

I see digital as requiring and even forcing an entire paradigm shift for charity. In order to stay relevant over the rest of this century and beyond charities need to begin to figure out how they will completely redesign themselves using digital concepts to replace the industrial concepts that most charities were built on. The future will require that they have completely new models for governance, decision-making, leadership, financing, managing staff and volunteers, etc., etc. I worry that if charities are convinced that digital is just a channel and so don’t do this necessary thinking they’ll get left behind as the pace of change increases more rapidly over the coming years.

World Mental Health Day

10th October was World Mental Health Day. Lots of people and organisations were tweeting about experiences they had had or calling for more funding for the NHS to spend of mental health. One of the mental health bloggers I follow on Twitter tweeted that this year’s WMHD felt different to previous years with more focus on calling for action rather than just raising awareness.

Innovation at charities

RNLI shared their approach towards innovation along with 98 slides of trends that see affecting their future. Apart being an awesome piece of work to guide their innovations what I found just as interesting was that they made it public. That feels like a big shift when most charities keep any kind of work-in-progress or direction-setting private. I think it’s really good to see charities like RNLI and Red Cross doing such good work around sharing how they are innovating ideas publicly.

Week Notes #148

What happened this week…  

  • Answered Defibrillator enquires and processed orders.  
  • Handed-over Freshdesk to CSC. 
  • Completed handover notes. 
  • Discussed medical sign-off for Blood Pressure Monitors. 
  • Interviewed for the new Ecommerce Executive role. 

Read this week…  

Doing next week…  

  • Answering defibrillator enquiries.  
  • Right To Be Forgotten requests. 
  • Central Ordering site support questions. 
  • Processing monthly purchase orders. 
  • Second interview for the new Ecommerce Executive role. 

Uninteresting stat of the week…  

  • During my time at the BHF the online shop had 6.7 million visitors, took almost 62,000 orders, shipped 572,000 units, and did over £2 million in sales. 

In the not too distant future…  

  • A new role at the British Standards Institute

Week Notes #147

What happened this week…

  • Answered Defibrillator enquires and processed orders. 
  • Confirmed new online clothing approvals. 
  • Set up Pier to Pier merchandise on the Online Shop. 
  • Set up new clothing online 
  • Wrote interview questions for the customer service system analyst interviews. 
  • Provided sales reports for the auditors. 
  • Discussed fraud prevention for online orders. 
  • Set up the Survival Team on Freshdesk. 
  • Discussed Ecommerce reporting for RMSP. 
  • Wrote more handover notes. 

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Answering defibrillator enquiries. 
  • Switching off Frogmore tickets and L2B Coach Tickets. 
  • Processing Pier-to-pier orders. 
  • Handing-over Freshdesk to CSC and IT. 
  • Completing handover notes. 

Interesting stat of the week… 

  • Comparing Average Order Value from Jan – May 2019 to Jan – May 2018, Mobile has increased 28% from £26.48 to £33.96, desktop increased 63% from £43 to £70, and tablet increased 19% from £31 to £37. 

In the not too distant future…

  • More blood pressure monitors on the Online Shop.

Week Notes #145

What happened this week…

  • Answered defibrillator enquiries and processed lots of orders. 
  • Met the new Digital Strategist for Retail. 
  • Set up Live Chat on the website contact page. 
  • Discussed processes with a new defibrillator supplier 
  • Set up new products for London to Brighton Bike Ride. 
  • Discussed ecommerce configuration in AX. 
  • Attended a workshop for Data Management for advertising technology. 
  • Enabled StatusCake monitoring for the Online Shop. 
  • Wrote more handover notes. 

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Taking delivery of the new Sports Clothing. 
  • Send clothing to the photographers. 
  • Setting up House Clearance payments on the Online Shop. 
  • Answering defibrillator enquiries and process orders. 
  • Volunteering chatbot hackathon. 
  • Setting up Freshdesk for the Survival Team. 
  • Writing lots more handover notes. 

Interesting stat of the week…

  • As the London to Brighton Bike Ride approaches, we’ve seen a 147% increase in unique page views for L2B Tickets between May so far and the same time period in April. However, comparing this year to last year, London to Brighton unique page views are down 80%. 

In the not too distant future…

  • The new range of sports clothing on the Online Shop. 

Week Notes #144

What happened this week…

  • Answered defibrillator enquiries.
  • Discussed using Magento Marketplace functionality to support fundraising and dropship selling on the Online Shop.
  • Discussed using the Online Shop to take House Clearance Payments
  • Agreed the Facebook dynamic tracking work for Magento.
  • Decided to put Selling Furniture on hold.
  • Received cost prices for a new branded merchandise from a new supplier.
  • Discussed the overview of how Ecommerce will work when AX goes live.
  • Met the new Email Marketing Manager.
  • Set up new London to Brighton product in Magento.
  • Held second interviews for the new Ecommerce Executive role.
  • Wrote 19 pages of handover notes.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Setting up the FTP for sales exports into AX.
  • Reviewing the progress of the Heart Helpline using Freshdesk.
  • Working on the new flat-lay style product images
  • Creating a range plan for the new branded merchandise.
  • Writing help articles for defibrillators.
  • Discussing Heart Helpline support for Selling Defibrillators.
  • Writing more handover notes.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • Over the last thirty days of having a banner on the home page to link to the BHF Ebay store, 0.03% (14) visitors have clicked on the banner.

In the not too distant future…

  • A new aesthetic to the product images on the Online Shop.

Week Notes #143

What happened this week…

  • Undertook our first focused-working experiment
  • Answered defib enquiries and processed orders
  • Created a new medical devices sales report
  • Wrote new blood pressure monitor product descriptions and submitted for medical sign-off
  • Had a Christmas card catch up with the buying team
  • Analysed campaign spend vs sales on current campaigns running
  • Writing advertising briefs for advertising campaigns – pride and Christmas cards
  • Processed Right To Be Forgotten Requests
  • Explored new product ideas for supporter merchandise
  • Discussed the Heart Helpline supporting on answering defib enquiries
  • Spoke to the events team regarding images for the new event clothing advertising campaign
  • Updated the Terms and Conditions on the Online Shop to cover selling defibrillators
  • Discussed a large potential corporate order for defibrillators
  • Went live on social paid and PPC blood pressure monitor campaigns
  • Got some links on blood pressure monitor website pages
  • Prioritised all development work
  • Set up new London to Brighton products in Magento
  • Wrote requirements for product reviews and low stock notifications
  • Designed email templates
  • Researched furniture delivery partners
  • Christmas cards and branded merchandise photo shoot.
  • Arranged second round of interviews for the new Ecommerce Executive role
  • Learned how to schedule products for ticket
  • Fixed clickable homepage images on desktop
  • Completed RMSP Artist work
  • Fixed finance issues with Freshdesk

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Scheduling in Facebook tracking fix and Instagram pin implementation
  • Going through fundraising site testing feedback from fundraisers
  • Raising the PO for the Magento license
  • Taking over Clothing buying from the Accessories Team
  • Discussing low stock notification and product review work with iWeb
  • Meeting to discuss selling furniture
  • Interviewing for the new Ecommerce Executive role
  • Meeting with the new Email Marketing Manager
  • Reviewing the first week of BPM advertising campaign

Interesting stat of the week…

  • Comparing April 2019 to April 2018, number of users increased by 13.3%, with referrals from the website increasing 4.8%, organic search traffic increasing 21.8%, and email traffic by 120.5%.

In the not too distant future…

  • Writing defib help articles to answer customer questions.

Week Notes #142

What happened this week…

  • Defibrillators enquiries and orders processing of almost £14k (our best week ever).
  • Discussed our focused work experiment.
  • Discussed Range Plan responsibilities and AX learning for Ecommerce.
  • Sent User Stories for the defibrillator webpages to the Content Experience team.
  • Met with a UX designer to discuss the design for the Defibrillator Advice Centre.
  • Listened in on the Marketing & Engagement Directorate townhall, and began thinking about objectives.
  • Tidied the Online Shop and looked at category reorganisation.
  • Discussed the security requirements for using the Freshdesk customer portal.
  • Began updating the Terms and Conditions to reflect drop-shipping defibrillators.
  • Interviewed for the new Ecommerce Executive role.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Undertaking an experiment in focused working (Advertising, Magento dev, blood pressure monitors, defibrillators and supporter merchandise).
  • Discussing selling defibrillators with the Heart Helpline.
  • Takeover Clothing buying from the Accessories Team.
  • Discussing selling furniture online.
  • Discussing Christmas Cards stock management and marketing.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • 32% of defibrillator orders are paid by invoice with 68% paid by credit card. Defibrillators make up 86% of sales with cabinets, cases, etc. making up 14%.

In the not too distant future…

  • Reviewing the results of our focused working experiment.