Weeknotes 393

This week I did:

Opportunity is the mother of innovation

Necessity isn’t the only mother of innovation, opportunity is too (Greenbaum, et al. 2019). Sometimes an opportunity comes around that is worth dropping everything else for. So I spent Friday investigating and spec-ing a new product. This is good in so many ways; it’s great to be able to reprioritise work quickly and jump on new opportunities, there’s short and long-term financial benefit, and although I’m the only one who is interested in this part, there’s a shift towards digital business models. I’m on leave next week, but I’m keen to get this built pretty quickly the week after.


I completed 36 tasks this week. That’s an average of 7.2 a day and sticking below my target of 10 a day.

I completed 47% of my weekly goals, bringing my average goal completion to 44%. I might have done better, had opportunity not come knocking.

I interacted with 24 people 58 times.


I started setting up my second brain spreadsheet for my next role. It’ll include all the good stuff I’ve learned about task tracking, linking to other files and websites, etc. But I’m most interested in how I can set it up to help me document my mental model of how things work and what things interact with what.

Played with Wandy

I saw Wand.ai on a list of LLM’s so signed up to play with it. It allows you to do things like specify websites or datasets for the AI to use, but it isn’t clear how much it uses that in its answers. And it allows you to create a chatbot and drop it into a website pretty easily, which I didn’t finish playing with so can’t say what it’s like (but of course, all the usual safety, privacy, ethical and sustainability considerations apply).

And I read:

Transforming your organisation for AI

You don’t need AI transformation: you need to transform your organisation for AI. I mean, yes! Two years ago, every company was a technology company even if they didn’t know it yet. In two years time, every company will be an AI company even if they don’t know it yet.

What’s interesting about the analogy with electrification that the article uses is how long it took for electricity to change business models. The first generation of factory managers used electricity to light their stream-driven factories but didn’t do anything to fundamentally shift their business model. It took future generations of managers to see the potential of electricity to change how factory machines were powered, that it made smaller machines possible which changed the layout of the factories, and changed the skills people needed. Electricity created wholesale change in manufacturing, but it took decades. Today, we’re those first generation of factory managers applying AI to how we currently work to be a bit more efficient. It’ll be the next generation who create entirely new and as yet unthought of ways of using AI.

This pattern tells us that changing people changes organisation (more on this thought below). So, if you wanted to optimise for change, when hiring you might ask the interview question, “What did you do differently in your current role that you didn’t do in your role before that?”. That might help to identify people who make change happen. For me, the answer would be, “Talk to more people.” In my previous role, I pretty much only interacted with the people on the project team, so maybe twenty. But since I started tracking in my current role, I’ve spoken to 53 people (about a third of all the people in the organisation), and many more from before I started tracking. As an autistic introvert, this isn’t the easiest thing for me, but it’s the most impactful.

Neuroinclusive workplace

Neurodiversity is a feature not a bug. That seems to be the message in this article about creating a neurodiverse workplace. It talks about some of the benefits from having neurodiverse people, including enhanced productivity, better overall management practices and increased innovation. Then, unfortunately, it goes into the usual boring change management stuff. The disappointing narrative is that all the leaders already in organisations with the power to make change aren’t neurodiverse (myth, although obviously a small minority), but if they can be convinced of the benefits of hiring neurodiverse people then they can reap the rewards (how heroic of them).

Acknowledging the feelings

Sam’s weeknotes are some of the bravest you’ll ever read. I can only aspire to this level of openness and honesty. Sam talks about acknowledging her feelings about some difficult changes at work but, for me, the message is simple: leaders, responsible for people’s health and wellbeing, careers and livelihoods, do better.


IF’s catalogue to help teams design trustworthy services that work for people is pretty great. And so is Rob Whiting’s bookmarks for things like error messages and mobile accessibility. One day someone is going to create the ultimate catalogue of these kinds of catalogues (because intermediation).

And I thought about:

IOOAI game

Mapping impact, outcomes, outputs, activities, inputs is one of my favourite techniques for creating shared understanding (second only to user journey mapping). I really like how it reinforces a causal connection from the impact you want to achieve, which outcomes might do that, what outputs will achieve the outcomes, etc. But, without the rigorous, rational thinking it can easily be misused to justify doing what you wanted to do in the first place.

So I started thinking about how a team game might work to develop more rigorous thinking for connecting impact all the way down to inputs. It could be like a card game where the team shuffles and picks an impact card, and eight outcome cards. Then they have to discuss and justify which of the outcomes would lead to the impact. Once they have their outcomes, they shuffle and pick some output cards and have to figure out which ones will achieve the outcomes. And so on down to inputs.

Maybe the last round is with blank cards and the team has to create their own causal connection from an impact they define down to the inputs needed to achieve it.

If any of those card-maker people want to steal this idea, please do. I’ll never get around to doing anything with it.

Understanding the internet-era

What would you teach someone to help them understand the internet-era? Maybe the transition from the mechanical to the information age, feedback loops, agile and lean, kaizen (continuous improvement) and kaikaku (radical change), the information goods problem and the economics of digital goods, Schumpeter and the first mover advantage approach to innovation, network effects and lock-in, algorithms and long tails. What else?

Mechanisms of change

There are only two mechanisms of change in organisations; people and process.

From memory of the strategic HR management module in my MSc, there are only two ways to change people. The first I’ll call, “Who’s involved?”. In HR terms this is hiring and firing, but for a product team it makes us ask who do we need to make this work a success. The second is, “Who knows what?”. This is learning and development in HR, but for a team it covers the competence, character and confidence of those who are involved (team, stakeholders, subject matter experts, etc.).

And from ISO90001, there are three parts to any process; inputs, activities and outputs, or “What do we put in? what do we do with it? what do we get out?”.

So, if you want to change an organisation, changing process inputs is the lowest impact change, and changing people’s knowledge and skills is the highest impact change. So, why then, do we focus more on making process changes? What’s going on there? Does it just seem easier than doing the messy work with people? It’s a genuinely fascinating question.