Weeknotes 330

Did this week:

Risky business

Worked on risk management this week. It’s interesting area because it doesn’t seem to have progressed much since the seventies. Maybe some of the risks have changed and there’s more data to analyse, but fundamentally it’s still about likelihood and severity, finding a way to give them a score (often by guessing), and using that to prioritise which risks to mitigate the most. The approach isn’t very Internet, it doesn’t have feedback loops, doesn’t treat risks as being in a network, doesn’t consider a power law distribution.

The soft power of civil society

This week’s Irregular Ideas was about how civil society uses soft power to influence and persuade. It is by successfully exercising their soft power that civil society organisations bring about change in society.

More NaBloPoMo

Wrote more NaBloPoMo posts. Some of questionable quality. Such is what happens when the writing is for the sake of writing rather than from having something to say.


I’ve started playing with Slack again. It has a good RSS reader app which posts new content from websites into a channel. I think there’s also a way to post tweets into the same channel so I might play with that too. I’m trying to create a content discovery tool to help me find interesting things to read, and although this doesn’t have the randomness that people sharing has, but it’s better than nothing.

And I read:

Are You Solving the Right Problems?

85% of 106 C-suite executives said that their organizations were bad at problem diagnosis, and 87% agreed that this flaw carried significant costs. They don’t struggle with solving problems but figuring out what the problems are. And creative solutions nearly always come from an alternative explanation for—or a reframing of—your problem.

A typology of organisational cultures

This paper on a typology of organisational cultures has some interesting points of how information flows in organisations. “A culture is defined as the organisation’s pattern of response to the problems and opportunities it encounters. Three dominant types—pathological, bureaucratic, and generative—are described. These types are shaped by the preoccupations of the unit’s leaders. The workforce then responds to these priorities, creating the culture. A focus on personal needs leads to a pathological environment, a focus on departmental turf to a bureaucratic style, and a focus on the mission to a generative style.”

Output vs. Outcome & Impact

Thought about:

Defining problems

Trying to reconcile how we define and talk about problems, when there’s a tech thing about different teams repeatedly solving the same problems and the research (above) which shows how difficult it is for organisations to define problems. Perhaps problems exist on a spectrum from tame to wicked, and perhaps solutions range from clumsy to elegant. Definitely need to do some more work on the problem of defining problems.

Maximising impact

In business, it’s all about growth. In charity, it’s all about impact. So, how might teams maximise their impact? Just doing the work to deliver a project is low impact. Doing that work in a way that helps the team learn and improve is medium impact. Doing the project work, improving the team’s working practices, and helping the rest of the organisation learn and improve is high impact.

User journeys

I really like user journeys. They are probably one of my most favourite techniques for creating a model of reality. But so many user journeys are assumptions rather than an attempt to model a user’s reality. They aren’t based in user data. They are you journeys, not user journeys. So, what do we do about it? Maybe start by reminding ourselves that our aim is to create a model of the user’s reality.

Weeknotes 328

Did this week:

Knowledge sharing

You don’t know what you don’t know. So you don’t know what you need to know. And you don’t know what you might need to know in the future. These are the challenges of documenting and sharing knowledge. Luckily, async working helps as to do it well you have to think carefully about what people need to know upfront (sync working often relies on finding what people don’t know and then telling them) which creates documentation as it goes. I think the default concept we go to of some kind of database or library, but that treats all documentation the same, which means it loses context and history. I prefer to think about the ways we can create ‘trails’ of decisions made, knowledge created, ideas explored. Documents have links to earlier, relevant documents, which link to earlier documents, creating a network of knowledge not unlike the internet. You should be able to start with the most recent and click back in time to the first document. This preserves the timeline of knowledge being created.

How complex systems succeed

This week’s Irregular Ideas was about complex systems and how although they should fail, they succeed. The biggest factor seems to be people finding ways around problems and keeping things running.


Held up my streak of writing a blog post each day for eleven days so far. Only nineteen to go. So far I’ve written about how setting outcomes depends on having a reliable mental model of how the world works, how having lots of work in progress might create naturally occurring work in progress limits, and how the three big risks of product, being valuable, viable and feasible, might change for product management in charities.

Framing the future

Watched some of the Framing the Future Symposium livestreams about where web3 might be heading.


Fluid teams

This paper is about building high performing fluid teams, which are teams that have “unstable membership that organisations create and hold responsible for one or more outcomes”. It describes seven situations which might prompt an organisation to choose fluid teams over stable cross-functional teams, which is important to understand because how well teams perform always depends on the environment they’re working in. It makes me want to work on my Magix Teams project again.

Why we need skeptics

Because sceptics don’t accept the truth of something as self-evident. Sceptics help us keep an honest and healthy organisational culture. They continuously challenge, seek balance in their points of view.

Decision-making methods: a comparison

There are five decision-making methods, autocratic decisions, majority vote, unclear decision-making, consensus and consent. Considering how many decisions we make, how important some of those are, and generally how bad we are at making decisions, we should probably all understand these a bit better.

Thought about:

Digital transformation

If you know what digital transformation looks like, you’re wrong. Defining things upfront is a sign of old, analog ways of thinking. It implies predictability and doing things in a sequence. The reason so many digital transformation programmes in organisations fail is because they use old thinking to do something new. You have to approach digital transformation from a digital, agile perspective where work is unique and unknowable, and progresses iteratively based on what has been learned along the way. And, I think, you have to incorporate concepts like pacing layers which tells us that different things change at different rates. Replacing old technology with new works at one pace, replacing old knowledge with new works at an entirely different pace.

Digital charity community

The imminent potential demise of Twitter got me thinking about how the platform isn’t the community, but that the community can’t exist with out a platform. There are lost of platforms out there for the digital charity community; websites, email newsletters, Whatsapp groups, LinkedIn Reddit, Quora, Facebook, Slack, Discord, maybe even Mastodon. The challenge isn’t about getting everyone in one place (Twitter didn’t do that anyway), the challenge is connecting people, ideas, content across different places. One of the things I’ll miss most if Twitter goes is discovering blog posts people have written, articles they’ve shared, ideas they had, things they’re working on. This seems like a hard thing to replace, no obvious solution occurs to me yet. Digital communities aren’t just people talking to people, they are so much more than that.

Start with who

You can start with why if you like, I’ll start with who. When you know who, really know, and really who, then figuring out the behaviours and then how to effect them makes more sense. User story mapping is probably one of my most favourite tools for figuring out problems, because it forces you to answer “who?”. If you don’t the story collapses. I want to get better at user story mapping.

Weeknotes 327

This week I did:

Continuous improvement

We started an experiment in taking a continuous improvement approach with a live product. I’m a believer in continuous improvement because the underpinning theory (always go to the source) makes a lot of sense to me. The continuous improvement approach we’re taking is based on Goldratt’s theory of constraints. It says that, whatever your goal, you have only one biggest barrier preventing you from achieving it. You have other barriers too, but only one of them is the biggest. Identifying and removing that barrier will have the greatest impact on achieving the goal. Then your second biggest barrier becomes the biggest. In my head, I see the barriers as a pareto distribution where quite quickly you reach a point of removing barriers only giving marginal returns, and where the efforts to reach the goal at as good as they can be. So, although continuous improvement achieves goals by removing barriers, it also identifies that optimal end state where the product has reached maximum value.

Be more fox

This week’s irregular ideas was about not tying ourselves to a single big idea about how the world works. Instead, we might do better to have lots of smaller, different ideas and more flexible worldviews.

The platform charity conundrum

A few thoughts on the challenges of charities using self-reinforcing loops in platform business models. If the loop is always self-reinforcing, then it depends on the problem the charity is tackling getting worse not better, which would mean the charity is failing, hence the conundrum. Since writing this two thoughts have occurred. One mentioned by Nick about how impact (solving the problem) is represented in the model, and another about how the role of the charity (as an organisation) is to turn a positive self-reinforcing loop into a negative self-reinforcing loop.

A system-shifting approach to new product development

I’ve been gradually thinking about how to take some of the system-shifting product management thinking into more practical tools, and this New Product Development process is a step towards creating a process that isn’t user-centred or linear and involves more actors and affects systems to create change.


I’ve manged to write a blog post every day so far (which is only four days, so not saying much). I’ve previously thought that I want my blog posts to be like well researched mini essays, and NaBloPoMo gives me an excuse to write posts that are more about exploring ideas, work in progress, not well polished. I’m also trying to take on some of the advice I’ve read recently about changing my definition of done (because a reader will never know what it was anyway) and writing more like I talk (or in my case, more like I think).

And I read:

Designing good digital stuff

Read a few things around designing good digital stuff.

Maturity models

I’ve been reading and thinking about maturity models, and how to resolve the problem of maturity models always being an output that doesn’t correlate to organisational outcomes.

Sign Language in Virtual Reality

I read this and this about sign language in virtual reality.

And thought about:

Teams don’t have a brain (but they might have a Brian)

If the team is the unit of delivery, self-contained, autonomous, empowered even, but it doesn’t have a brain, how does it coordinate, remember, decide, act? These things happen because individuals have brains, and they do things like document information, make decisions, do work. Does a team behaviour less like a unit and more like a murmuration of starlings responding to signals from others in the team? If so, what might be the behaviours that the team should be aware of and respond to?


Thought a bit about the second part of my mini exploration into how to ask better questions. If one type of question is aimed at gathering information and the second type is about encouraging thinking, then perhaps the overarching guiding principle is that good questions are about curiosity. They express the asker’s curiosity and encourage the answerer’s curiosity. A question phrased as a statement can be a good question if it’s doing the work of encouraging curiosity. And a statement phrased as a question isn’t encouraging curiosity, it’s shutting it down.

Birds vs elephants

Maybe Twitter is seeing an extinction level event. And some people in my Twitter bubble are setting up Mastodon accounts that they may or may not use. Always good to hedge your bets. And perhaps an opportunity for us all to make more intentional choices.

For me, the interesting question is about the future of social media platforms, and especially really large social media platforms. From a user’s experience point-of-view, RLSMP’s always feel like niche bubbles (Product Twitter, Charity Twitter, etc.) but there’s always an underlying effect of social interaction at scale, which human beings aren’t equipped to understand. So, maybe the next evolution will be to small, loosely coupled, groups (I hesitate to use the term “communities”) where the group is more able to control unwanted behaviour. One of things I’ve learned about online communities (from being a moderator of a few) is that activity equals leadership. The most active participants are the ones that set the tone for the community, create the culture of what’s acceptable, and generally keep the community alive. All communities need these people, without them the communities stagnate and die off, but well-functioning communities also have a way of getting the right (most acceptable to the community) people into those positions.

Weeknotes 326


Tech strategy

Worked on a strategy for making choices about which technologies to use in different situations and to help us deal with the grey area between buying commercial-off-the-shelf and building on our own tech stack.

Down with dogmatism

This week’s Irregular Ideas was about creating a social safety net for open-mindedness that helps us change our minds.


I read 20 things about roadmaps, altruism, systems, agility, product management, climate, bees, anti-racism, autism, design and non-profits.

October retro & November delivery plan

Wrote my retro for October and delivery plan for November.


Better Value Sooner Safer Happier

The Design System lifecycle: it’s simply push and pull

This explanation of how design systems can be used to pull information into the product development process and push information back is really interesting.

Product management principles

I have mixed feelings about principles, but these product management principles from dxw are pretty cool.

Thought about:

Consistent or creative

I’ve been thinking about two modes of working; one that uses a standardised, repeatable process to reach a known output, and one that uses more creative approaches for vague and uncertain outputs. It seems obvious when either should be applied


It’s almost November so I’m going to try to write a short blog post every day of the month like last year.

Weeknotes 325

This week I did:

Be cool, Scooby

Online services go down all the time, no service has 100% uptime, that’s normal. We had an issue that, at the time, looked like a small blip that had quickly been resolved. But I was wrong about that. There were other plans that I wasn’t aware of, which turned it into a bigger issue along with a inadequate response from me. No one knows what everyone else doesn’t know. So, should I assume that there is always more going on than I’m aware of and act accordingly, even if most of the time that won’t be the case? It also reminded me that if you build an MVP, you can only use it as an MVP, and can’t expect it to work as a fully-functioning, strategically-important product. Lots to figure out about how we use technology better.

Charity opportunity canvas

The charity opportunity canvas helps teams working on difficult problems align around who they are helping, what problems and barriers those people face, and what solutions and outcomes could help them. There’s still more to do in improving the page to talk more about the role of the canvas in having conversations about the work shown on the canvas. And I should probably think about some marketing for it so more charities might try it out (yeah, like that’ll ever happen).

Defining a technology charity

I wrote down some of my thoughts about what a ‘technology charity’ might look like, and created a comparison table for how charities approach technology of the software they use, how they interact with people who use their services, and how they have the capabilities for using the technology. I’m sure there are far more criteria a charity could be assessed on, and I’m interested in whether a charity can only be in one of the four types (low-tech, tech-enabled, tech-first, or technology charity) or whether the definitions can be tightly connected enough to make that not so.

Asking better question

The first part of my investigation into how we can ask better questions looks at the types of questions we ask for gathering information. The second type of question is about guiding thinking, so I want to do similar breakdown of questions that do that well. And then bring together into some kind of framework or guide or flowchart for asking better questions.

Growth at all costs

This week’s Irregular Ideas was about how the human species is biologically and culturally programmed for growth, and unless we can find a way to re-programme ourselves we’ll continue to overwhelm the planet. It felt like a very negative post, but I’m interested in thinking through the deeper reasons about why things are the way they are, and our need to grow is one of the most fundamental things causing the climate catastrophe.


What Does It Mean to Decolonize Design?

I read this article by Anoushka Khandwala as part of my thinking around decolonising new product development. From research and discovery activities that aim to access the knowledge resources of others for the benefit of the company doing the research, to one group of people deciding what meets the needs of those that are ‘others’ to them, there is a lot to understand. I really like this: “Realizing that the standards we’ve been taught are not universal is key to decoloniality.”

Seven steps to tackle complex issues

In thinking about what a system-shifting product development process might look like I read the System Design Toolkit Methodology. It was helpful in thinking through some of the stages and how to frame them as things like ‘building mechanisms for change’ rather than ‘building software’.

The Scatter-Gather Process

This brilliant article by Tim Ottinger explores some of the issues of how work is divided up and brought together, and importantly, how fitting together things that have been created in isolation means they probably won’t work as well as we’d like. It has the making of a agile zeitgeist phrase and is an important concept we’ll see talked more and more about.

Thought about:

Product managers and company problems

Maybe the best way to figure out what kind of product manager a company should hire is to connect the kinds of problems the company is solving to the skills and experience of the product manager.

So, if a company is solving ordinary problems that have been solved time and again, and is in an industry with easily transferable knowledge, then they should probably hire a product manager who is skilled in applying standard product practices. But if the company is trying to solve as-yet generally unsolved problems but nothing too complex, or is in an industry with lots of complicated aspects to it, then they’d benefit more from a product manager with solid knowledge and experience of the principles of product management. And, if they are tackling new, unique, complex or wicked problems, then they should hire a product manager that excels at the deep thinking of the core concepts that underpin product management.

Trying to solve new problems by applying practices that are designed more for predictable situations will fail. Hiring someone with a deep understanding of economics or rationality and asking them to apply standard practices to ordinary problems is going to cause them to fail.

The thin line

I’ve written before about management as interface between individuals and the organisation, but recently become more aware of just how narrow that interface is. It doesn’t have a lot of scope for flexibility. We talk about it in one way, not that it could be this or could be that.

I’ve recently started working with a coach, mostly because I don’t fit that narrow, single view of how a manager is supposed to be. It leads me to question where the line is between being coached to hide my autistic traits, with me being implicit in that, and it being an opportunity to learn more about how to support others, which I something I like doing. And what the power dynamics are between manager and organisation in shaping the interface to be the one way the organisation wants.

Weeknotes 324

Things I did this week:

Adoption plans

Been thinking about how people take on new things; different thinking tools, working practices, stuff like that. My go-to model was Roger’s Adoption Curve and using the five characteristics of ‘compatible, trialable, relative advantage, observable, and not too complex’ as a guide to communicating the thing and as ‘tests’ of whether it will be adopted. I know I’m in the minority, but I completely standby building plans and practices on the work of experts rather than starting from scratch and guessing.

Charity opportunity canvas

One of the things that I’ve been/will be applying the thinking around adoption to is the charity opportunity canvas. I’m working on a plan for at work and I’m adding it to my website to make it available for other to use.

Asking better questions

This week’s Irregular Ideas email was about asking better questions. Using search engines as the example of how not asking good questions leads to negative consequences. The idea for this email started with thinking about the need for asking better questions, because I don’t always see other asking, or ask myself, questions that as well-defined. So, I want to do some work on defining how to ask better questions in the context of research, design and product development. Asking unanswerable questions doesn’t make you look smart.

Things I thought about:

Decolonising product development

I started by thinking that most of product and service design and development processes are designed for environments that don’t work for charities. For example, the Discovery Alpha Beta Live process is designed for well-resourced cross-functional teams that work on a product throughout its lifecycle.

Charities need a process that recognises working in a resource-constrained environments and for teams that may not be stable or have all the skills they need. The process should also centre lived experience and shift systems.

Thinking about what that process might look like led me to thinking about how colonialist the process of service design and product development might be. The idea of ‘discovery’ as an act of those with power going into the places and spaces of those without power to access their resources, to the advantage of the powerful. And the use of problematic terms like ‘service safari’. All of this needs more critique. I have a lot of reading to do.

Design looks to be a bit further ahead in thinking about decolonisation than product development, but there’s a long way to go in changing the practices of teams.

Technology charities

I wondered if there’ll ever be ‘technology charities’ like there are technology companies. Thanks to the wonderful people on Twitter I got lots of ideas to play with in trying to answer that question. One of the first things should be to define what we might mean by a technology charity. I need to do some more work on that, but my first thoughts are that it probably uses proprietary technology and acts as an intermediary and enabler, but there isn’t even a clear definition of a tech company.

Too many ideas

I think I’ve starting to figure out why I haven’t made any progress on any of my projects over the last few months. I think I feel overwhelmed by so many ideas. There are five ideas in this post alone (charity opportunity canvas, a framework for better questions, a charity-specific new product development process, decolonising product development and defining a technology charity) which could, if I explored them as I’d like, be weeks or months of work. Every week I have more questions, more ideas, more things to explore than I have time for. Every new idea seems more interesting than the last. Too many ideas.

Weeknotes 323

Photo of the week:

Sunset over the sea


Continuous improvement

I did some work on one version of what continuous improvement could look like for some of our products. In part, it’s about establishing a good practice that tackles some of the issues we uncovered in retros. It provides predictability to help people plan their time, aligns to goals and uses more data to inform decision-making so we understand why doing the work, and embeds ownership and responsibility. It’s only one way of approaching CI, and I still have lots of work to do on figuring out other approaches for other contexts, but its good progress.

Why make a humanoid robot?

This week’s Irregular Ideas newsletter was about the humanoid robot announced by Tesla and how making robots that look like an able-bodied man reinforces how society isn’t designed for everyone.


Chaos surfing

We tend to think of chaos as a bad thing, but in nature it’s just how things are. Perhaps if we can drop the value judgement, we can view chaos as system behaviour and accept, even in organisations for example, that too much stability creates a risk of not being able to adapt, self-organisation will always emerge regardless of hierarchy, and trying to be directive towards a linear path creates tension and is likely to fail.

Innovation and not-knowing

If, at its simplest, innovation is about ‘creating new value’, then the ‘new’ part has to start as unknown. Vaughn Tan’s point, “not-knowing creates room for new things to emerge”, means accepting uncertainty. The question is, how do you stay with uncertainty when creating new value. This is part of the product management question I’ve been working through over the past few weeks, trying to find methods for dealing with uncertainty to go along side those that try to create certainty.

Trial and Error

Jerry Neumann’s post about uncertainty and using trial-and-error as a fundamental building block of knowledge is useful for thinking about how we apply the scientific method. He says, “The naive view of trial and error is: you try random things until something works (“blind variation…”.) In reality, we try things that seem most likely to succeed. Science does this, but also tries things most likely to generate more knowledge, knowledge that might help future trials. Understanding why things happen, rather than what happens, is more general and more valuable. After a trial’s results are in, deduction and induction are used to help decide what to try next.” Also, interesting that we call it ‘trial and error’ rather than ‘trial and result’ or ‘trial and feedback’.

What does radical collaboration really mean?

I know I tend to get caught up in semantics, so my definitions of competitive (not working together, but trying to achieve the same goal), cooperative (working together but trying to achieve different goals) and collaborative (working together and trying to achieve the same goals) aren’t as helpful to others as they are to me, but Collective Change labs’ post on radical collaboration provides a different focus. It talks about taking the transactional nature of collaboration and changing it to be transformational. In my definition, that means shifting away for ‘working’ and ‘to achieve’ (the transactional parts of the definition) to ‘together’ and ‘same goals’ (the transformational).


Open ideas

Tom Watson’s open ideas is brilliant. This is good compost. It prompted me to update my ideas list, and to ask myself about the difference between a question and an idea; is an idea an answer is search of a question?

Kipling questions

How do we ask better questions? That is the question. It might not be the best question, or the right question, but we wouldn’t know because we’re not very good at asking good questions. What makes a good question needs more definition. From the poem, ‘I Keep Six Honest Serving Men’ by Kipling, we can say that every question should contain only one ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ or ‘how’, and we could start to say that ‘who’ questions are about people, ‘when’ questions are about time, etc. And we could add logic tests to questions, such as is the question ‘concise’, ‘answerable’, etc. Needs a lot more work, but I think a framework for asking better questions could be really useful.

My problem with Think big, start small

I have a problem with the statement and idea of ‘Think big, start small’. I think my problem with it stems from a lack connection between the two parts. Think big with the vision. Start small is the practical actions. But there is nothing to connection the actions to the vision. So, at the moment, I prefer ‘Think deep, start small, encourage emergence’. It says, considering deeply what you understand of the situation, take small steps in that situation, and allow the direction and destination to emerge as you take the steps. No grand vision to head towards.

Trainers or socks

My old trainers wear holes in my socks. Should I replace the trainers or the socks? This is a problem-solving thought experiment as well as my current dilemma. Do you buy more socks, and implement a cheaper, quicker fix but know that the problem will continue to happen? Or do you buy new trainers, a more expensive solution with greater risk of getting it wrong? And more importantly, how do you choose between different solutions, how do you know when it’s best to go with quick fixes or more expensive bigger solutions?

Weeknotes 322

Photo of the week:

This week I did:

Lightweight governance

I did some thinking about lightweight governance models. One of the most interesting elements of lightweight governance compared to heavyweight is the assumption of competent users. It replaces prevention with education. Add a feedback loop to take the strategic into the implementation and the implementation to the strategic, and it starts to look like a usable governance model.

The app-ification of work

This week’s irregular ideas email was about how organisations use technology to mediate their relationship with those who work for them.


20 things I read about governance, canvases, temporal knowledge graphs, alt-text, inequality and innovation, APIs and product management, platforms, content and design, communications, inclusive research and management.

And I read:

Putting the ‘S’ back into ESG

NPC’s briefing on how charities can ensure social issues are considered in environmental, social and governance (‘ESG’) frameworks talks about how charities and companies can work together. It fits in the second means of effecting change that charities use, influencing others to help those that need it.

And thought about:

Integrative goal-setting

The Rotman School of Management defines integrative thinking as: “…the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models, but is superior to each.”

I’m really starting to like the idea of using integrative thinking for goal-setting where multiple outcomes are all positive and you work on all of them, but as they are conflicting goal only one can be achieved. It embraces uncertainty and increases success.


Of everything I’ve read and thought about in the last year or so, the parable of the blind men and an elephant has had the most effect on my thinking. It reminds me that all perspectives are equally right and wrong, and we never really get to the ‘truth’ of the thing.

It tells me that different people understand different things in different ways, and rather than arguing for a single view or trying to get a holistic view, we should embrace the differences even if we think it causes tensions.

Maybe the parable of the blind men and an elephant is the first of the uncertainty embracing product management thinking tools I’ve been looking for.

Weeknotes 321

This week I did:

Getting ready

Quite a lot of this week has been about getting ready for the next quarter in two ways; one getting to information we need about the work we could be doing so we can make the right prioritisation decisions, and two deciding which process experiments we want to do, documenting our hypotheses and how these experiments fit into our overall system. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed in this is more of a shift towards problem-oriented thinking, which is great to see.

Building on top of what went before

This week’s Irregular Idea was about how we probably don’t think about what we build nowadays in ways that mean we create something others could build on in the future. We tend towards replacing things, but maybe that’s because those things weren’t built to be built upon.


This week’s reading list included things about the Internet, social capital, digital reading, artificial intelligence, innovation & waste.


I’ve been gradually working on developing a canvas for exploring opportunities for charities and am now starting to put it into action. If anyone wants to use it, give me feedback on it, adapt it, please go ahead.

And I read:

The Invidious Hand

James Plunkett’s essay on social justice in the age of control is a really interesting look at platform products and how they have a different set of rules that we aren’t entirely familiar with yet. There isn’t much to disagree with, but something I strongly agree with is that the current institutions based on centuries old thinking, and the mechanisms they have for controlling companies, aren’t fit for purpose when it comes to regulating platforms. It makes me want to get back to my thinking about charity-as-a-platform to resolve the conflict of how platform business models don’t fit charities so those models are about reinforcing growth and charities are trying to reduce the problem they are tackling.

Agile comms

I started reading Giles Turnbull’s Agile Comms Handbook about faster and more flexible ways to communicate. I know I over-think and over-write when I’m communicating so maybe this will help me learn some other ways.

The third Climate Change Risk Assessment

I stumbled onto this report when looking for other things on the Internet, but it’s a really interesting read. The upshot of it is that, based on earlier plans, the UK’s response to climate change was to adapt (rather than act to reduce climate change) but this report shows that the national adaptation plans are failing and the gap between the gap between the level of risk we face and the level of adaptation underway has widened. My conclusion? Put your own adaption plans in place.

And thought about:

Who’s objective is it?

Where there is any tension between how to achieve a goal, the question shouldn’t be, ‘Who is the decision-maker?’ but ‘Who’s objective is it?’. Asking who the decision-maker is, is vague when the decision relies on expert knowledge from . For example, a product manager working with an internal stakeholder should either be trying to achieve their objectives or the stakeholders objectives. They should present all the relevant information, make recommendations, etc., but if it isn’t their objective to achieve then it isn’t for them to make the decision. They should disagree and commit.

How long is data useful for?

The cells of our bodies are replaced every seven years, and yet in some database somewhere is a record of something I did on the internet twenty years ago. Is it still relevant data? How quickly does data go out of date? Temporal knowledge graphs are a way to think about these questions.

In the future, when we have digital twins in the metaverse, how the data stays up to date is an important question. We can’t even explain for ourselves how our current decisions are based on past experiences, so it’ll be interesting to see how our digital twins maintain an up to date representation of us.

Long-term incentives

I had a brief chat about the issues with how companies approach talent acquisition, and after giving it some thought, I think the root of the problems is short term thinking on the part of the company. When hiring, the aim is to find the person best suited to the role. But being best suited comes from systemic privilege, which means the person who isn’t best suited has fewer opportunities. And we know that privilege is more available to certain types of people. So, the more companies focus on the short-term benefits of hiring the person they think is best suited to role, the more inequality they drive in the labour market and the smaller the pool of people who are judged to be best suited becomes. Perhaps, companies that are able to, could do more to recruit people that they judge to not be the best suited and help them develop to become better suited in the future. The more companies that take this long term view of creating a better future labour market, rather than the short term view of what’s best for them in the present, the stronger the labour market will be in the future. Viewing talent acquisition as a competitive advantage is harmful to society and increases inequality. I want to reread the literature on the Resource-Based View of the firm and see how that does or doesn’t fit.

Weeknotes 320

Photo of the week:

I wandered lonely as a cloud.

What I did this week:


It has been an interesting week learning lots about what it means to work in agile ways, what that means for other teams that work with us, how the different understandings make it hard to work as one team. Lots of figure out in the coming weeks.

To whom am I speaking?

The week’s Irregular Idea was that the online disinhibition effect, the idea that when we feel anonymous, or even just hidden behind a screen, we feel less restrained and more able to express ourselves in ways we might not feel comfortable doing in person, is becoming more and more a part of online communication.

A short history of blockchain in charities

Following the trend of interest in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, the charity sector’s interest peaked in 2018 and settled into being mostly about crypto donations, and with the future looking less decentralised than previously thought.

Read Recently

This week’s reading list was about agile, moral norms, neurodiversity, innovation, systems, accessibility, collective behaviour, money, process design, company wiki’s, Critical Theory, collaboration, and empowered teams.

What I read:

The Internet We Could Have Had

This brilliant piece by Christopher Kelty looks at some of the many things that the internet seemed to promise but didn’t deliver. I wonder if it’s more to do with human nature of always wanting and idealising more, and that those that get out there and build things are usually those with something to gain from it. You can’t fix things humans build until you fix humans.

Reading between the highlights

This article about how the Kindle turns reading from a “solitary activity into a collective experience” but one “without context, highlights are often always misinterpreted as endorsements”, is really interesting. It suggests a future for digital ready where ebooks are passed down from parents to kids and serve as ever-growing body of knowledge. The idea of multiplayer reading is also interesting, but Kindle dating… not so sure.

No Floor, No Ceiling

Another interesting article about what it might mean to live in the internet-era. It mentions the point that some look to the internet as a way to escape working for an organisation but end up working for the algorithm. (Not sure the analogy makes complete sense to me; there’s a limited downside and yet there’s no floor?)

Social capital

I read a few of Dan Ramsden’s posts, but this one on social capital was particularly interesting, partly from an ASD perspective but also because I think I’ve read about the concepts of bonding, bridging, etc., before.

And what I thought about:

Product thinking needs more tools for uncertainty

Most of product thinking tools are designed around creating certainty from uncertainty. The scientific method (which is one of my favourites) starts with questions about unknown things and tries to reach a conclusion to answer it with some certainty. But, in increasingly complex and uncertain situations, trying to get to certainty isn’t helpful. We need thinking tools for embracing uncertainty.

The difference between governance and bureaucracy

Following on from my thinking about ‘just enough enough’, I’ve been thinking about ‘lightweight governance’ or ‘just enough governance’ that doesn’t tip over into heavy bureaucratic process. Thanks to some smart people of Twitter, we can think of the differences as, “Governance is overseeing the strategic direction of a project or organisation and bureaucracy is filling out lots of forms!”, “Governance is a role/responsibility and bureaucracy is a process/system”, “Governance moves us forward, bureaucracy almost always drives us backwards.”, and “Governance is outcome-focused, bureaucracy is process-focused”

Managing and coaching

I’ve been thinking about the differences between managing and coaching, and managers taking a coaching approach, as is the trend. I think the difference is in the nature of the relationship between manager and managee, and coach and coachee. In coaching, the relationship is voluntary, the coachee seeks out a coach and engages in a coaching relationship because they want to. They have a choice. But the managee doesn’t have a choice about whether to have a manager or who that manager is. That relationship isn’t voluntary. So, the question is then, if/how a manager can use a coaching approach with a managee when coaching depends on the voluntary nature of the relationship which doesn’t exist between manager and managee?

Wasting away

Wasting what? Wasting time, effort, money? Andy Tabberer started an interesting discussion on waste in organisations which got me thinking. Is waste considered a bad thing because of how we think about work? If work and organisations that coordinate work are thought about in the ‘factory’ mindset where efficiency is of the utmost importance, then waster is a bad thing that should be minimised. But if we think about organisations more like biological organisms, then producing waste is a sign of a healthy functioning system. The organism consumes resources from it’s environment, e.g., a new management technique from a book, processes it to extract the valuable nutrients, in this case trying to apply the technique but finding it doesn’t work. The time and effort put into that process is waste, because it wasn’t ultimately of value to the organism, and that waste has to be disposed of, by learning from the experience maybe, but if the learning was that the organism shouldn’t do those kinds things because it was wasteful, then it stops consuming. The organism starves to death in an attempt to not produce any waste. So, maybe waste is a good thing.