Weeknotes 359

This week I did:

The next big thing

I’ve been thinking a lot about product/market fit for charities. Interestingly, the idea I had for a new product looks like it might meet the need a potential partner has previously mentioned was a barrier to change in organisations. It’s nice when some lightweight research, ideation and validation works out like that. It also helped me realise that I definitely like pre-product/market fit and new product development rather than maintenance product management for post fit. It’ll be a few months before we start work on it, but it’ll be good for us to add to our suite with a product that can create change in another of our strategic areas.

AI in the charity sector: getting past the hype

I joined NPC’s webinar on AI in the charity sector. It was really interesting with some great speakers. I think the thing I took away from it was that we’re nowhere near past the hype, in fact we aren’t even peak hype yet for the charity sector (which always lags behind other sectors) because no one even know what the potential looks like, let alone how that potential might be realised. I also wonder if the questions of ‘how AI will affect the causes and issues for charities’ should be thought about together or separately from ‘how can charities use AI’.

I read:

Validating product ideas

I started reading Itamar Gilad’s ‘Validating product ideas’ ebook. Lack of validation for products is a constant source of frustration for me. So, we need a dangerous animal of product to describe this situation. Thank you Chris for suggesting PIG, Premature Initiated Guesswork. A pig is a product that has been launched without validating the idea, understanding the audience, having an acquisition plan, etc.

Design thinking was supposed to fix the world. Where did it go wrong?

This is an interesting article from MIT technology review about design thinking. Obviously, there are lots of reasons why a framework like this (or any other) fails to deliver on it’s promise, from those promises being overly ambitious to the usual implementation issues, but ignoring all those external factors, I wonder what it is about frameworks that makes them work or not. In my experience of using design thinking in innovation workshops, there’s a bit of breaking people out of the need to jump to a solution and a whole lots of theatre for looking innovative. Where they were successful, these workshops had good facilitation, engaged participants, clear goals, etc. It was nothing to do with the framework.

And I thought about:

Is there a metric that matters?

Is there one, or even a combination of, metrics that can actually predict the success of a product. If there is, why hasn’t it been discovered? If there isn’t, why do we bother to measure things? I saw some clips of Moneyball where one of the characters explains his system for analysing and predicting how to succeed at baseball. I guess baseball is closed system and product is an open, complex systems, so we’re dealing with very different things, and vastly more variables, but it makes we wonder about the whole idea of measurement for products.

Information flow

I’ve been slowly thinking about what things make an organisation digital-first. One of them is definitely the mindset of ‘nothing is ever finished’. Change is a constant and digital-first organisations embrace that not only in their products and services but in the entire organisational design.

The second condition is probably something to do with how information flows. Information in silos is generally recognised as a bad thing, but the solution to that is how systems and processes are designed to make the information flow. Information that stays with one team isn’t being used to it’s maximum value. Maybe it goes back to the thinking around the difference between physical and digital assets that are leveraged by the likes of Netflix. Digital assets have near-zero reproduction costs, near instant transportation time, are not destroyed on consumption and can be accessed by lots of people at the same time. But if you think of information in the old physical asset way, like a document in a folder, then it has to stay with one person and it’s their job to guard and maintain it. Digital-first organisations understand by default that all the information they have is only valuable if it flows to those that can make use of it.

I’m pondering how the third condition might be something to do with scalability and using technology so that the number of people isn’t the limiting factor. I’ve seen this problem a few times in how charities design their services.


The systems iceberg is my easy go-to way of thinking about a complex problem. It helps keep my thinking in check by making sure I’m considering all the levels. It’s too easy to get caught up in just thinking about the events we see, but understanding things fully means looking at the patterns, structures and mental models. I started using this when thinking about Alison Lyons tweet about how charities are positioned in an overwhelmingly capitalist society.