Weeknotes #236

What I did this week:

New development team

We were joined this week by a new team to support some product development work. It’s been great seeing them quickly learn about what we’re trying to achieve and what progress we’ve made so far, and I’m really looking forward to working with them as they accelerate over the next few months. It’s an interesting skill set for a team to have.

Crossing boundaries

Products built to be used within the boundaries of an organisation don’t work well when they are used to cross those boundaries and allow people from within to communicate with those outside. I wrote abut it a while ago, and the same challenge rose again this week. Products like Microsoft Teams have lots of assumptions built into them about how users are related, and most of those assumption include that everyone knows who everyone else is, that they are bound by the same rules, and that collaborative working relies of openness and transparency. This kind of still holds true for Teams Education where it’s used in schools as the teachers and the students still all belong to one organisation, but the assumptions break down from there and really doesn’t work when some of the people are part of the organisation and some aren’t. It’s an interesting problem.

Innovation management

I’ve been working on my dissertation proposal around how charities approach innovation management. The proposal is only two thousand words but it has required many days worth of reading to get to a point of being able to write a few paragraphs. It’s interesting how helpful it has been in structuring my thinking and I see parallels with things internet writers say about note-taking and how writing is just an expression of the thinking. And it’s interesting how the purpose of the proposal isn’t communicated like that but rather as task to be completed with the suggestion that those that don’t will most likely fail their dissertation.

A capabilities approach to digital transformation

I often think that digital transformation efforts in organisations often fail because they are treated as projects and so utilise the usual processes, whereas what is really needed is to break away from existing process and develop new capabilities in people.

Some things I read this week:

Retrospective and reflection

This is a fantastic write-up on a charity digital team and work.

How digital in the charity sector has changed over the last 20 years

A brilliant look back over what’s changed in digital at charities over the last twenty years.

Building an Idea Factory

Economic theory and its capacity to comprehensively explain the presence of non-profit organisations in society

Although the non-profit sector may seem like an area which defies analysis by the field of economics, there are in reality a wide range of insights which economic theory can offer to explain why a multi-billion dollar third sector has sprung-up and flourished in today‟s global economy.

Some things I thought about:

Neo-liberalism and individualism in a post-COVID world

How society became as individualistic as it is through the influence of a neo-liberal ideology, which depending on what you choose to believe may have been because it’s easier to control individuals than it is a coordinated collective, and how the pandemic may or may not have caused some upset in the notion that individualism is the desirable state for everyone and that perhaps more collective ways of acting in society seems like a fascinating topic to me. I wish I had time to study into it.

How YouTube changed video as a cultural expression

It used to be that watching videos or movies had narrative, they told a story, and held certain cultural significance because of it. Now we regard videos as separate but related objects in a database of videos. These items lack the same narrative. You can go from watching someone playing a video game to watching a music video to watching a compilation of clips from a TV show, all without any cohesiveness to your experience. This is big change in how moving pictures express our culture. There is less cohesion but more diversity. Less of a dominant archetype to story telling and more interjections and immediacy.

What it means to be a product manager

I have a few different ways I try to explain what I do as a product manager depending on who I’m speaking to. Sometimes it’s about problems and solutions, sometimes its about interface, integrate, iterate, sometimes it’s rambling about technologically mediated relationships between people in need and people with something to give. Anyway, I started trying to map all the things that make up the role of a Product Manager, the skills, characteristics, qualities, tools, techniques and methods. I have no idea why, other than to try to improve my own understanding, and I have no idea what sense it might make or not, but sometimes just the act of trying to map something reveals what you couldn’t see before.

Some tweets I saw:

How did you get started working in the charity sector?

Richard Berks tweeted, “Charity folks – how did you get started working in the sector? What was your first job? Did you fall into it or was it always part of the plan?” The stories of people now working in the charity sector, the different jobs they’ve done, the paths they took to end where they are, are just amazing. We did a quick team-working exercise earlier in the week that had people revealing stuff about themselves that they normally never would have. How we be more human in remote digital work is something important to figure out.

Getting into public speaking

Lesley Pinder tweeted “Planning at the very last minute an impromptu session on Monday for colleagues who might be interested in speaking at a sector event or conference but don’t know where to start or if they’ll have anything interesting to say. What would your tips be for people to new to speaking?“. Lots of useful advice about doing talks. It’s also interesting to me because I’ve been thinking about bringing lessons in public speaking, how successful YouTubers edit videos, and emerging practices from online education together to see how we might be able to change the way we deliver training sessions. I’m pretty certain that sitting down and staring at a camera isn’t very engaging. There must be more to online learning than this.

Dealing With Complexity

I found this via a tweet from someone but I can’t remember who. The six ways to make sense of complexity: be curious, deal with ambiguity, see with several lens, experiment, broaden your knowledge circles and share your work, and see these essential thinking skills for the 21st century. The post has links to more really interesting posts about leadership, learning and sense-making.