Just call me "Mr. T"

There’s a seduction to being an expert, an assumption in society that credibility relies on deep (and narrow) expertise. However, for people operating at the edges, interesections, and overlaps where innovation thrives, being a generalist is far more powerful.” bplusd: On being a generalist

Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo, writing in Fast Company, had the following to say about putting design at the heart of your organization’s storytelling:

Organizations need to take design thinking seriously. We need to spend more time making people conscious of design thinking — not because design is wondrous or magical, but simply because by focusing on it, we’ll make it better. And that’s an imperative for any business, because design thinking is indisputably a catalyst for innovation productivity. That is, it can increase the rate at which you generate good ideas and bring them to market.

Brought to You by the Letter he more real you make the story for yourselves (he recommends using rapid prototyping), the easier it is for everyone to stay on the same page. …And what kind of people does he look to get into his organization to make the stories real?

T-Shaped People

Tea Set, by Rob Ireton

Mr. Brown goes on:

We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they’re willing to try to do what you do. We call them “T-shaped people.” They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T — they’re mechanical engineers or industrial designers. But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need.

Rollin' in the Fog

One Letter / The world is so broad now, and the interactions between things so complex and unpredictable, being too specialized can slow your forward progress. When putting together productive, innovative teams, finding the most effective blend of individual strengths and propensities, while ensuring that they elemental skills native to the domain are present is the challenge. Not quite brain surgery (more like writing a symphony, in my experience), but I believe it may be the most important managerial skill for an entrepreneur to develop.

Mr. T Wants You!

As an aside: I’ve noticed that people use “Brain Surgery” and “Rocket Science” interchangeably as metaphor for things that are too complex to understand, but I tend to see them as two ends of a continuum. Brain surgery is more of an art: we really don’t know how the brain works exactly, and math doesn’t help you that much. In contrast, rocket science is largely newtonian, and rewards proficiency with math. I recognize this is a gross oversimplification, but I suppose that’s the point of the metaphor.

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Manualizing your business processes

Breakthrough, by The Forrest aka/klepto

What’s the opposite of automation? Manualization? What I’m referring to is deliberately engineering humans back into processes that were formerly automated. Why? Because making it faster, or making it cost less, is sometimes too expensive.
Sure, it’s faster for me to “press 1 for tech support” to get put in the queue, but maybe having a human answer the phone puts the value in the right place, rather than just in the place where it’s easiest to count. To quote John Thakara we need to “deliver value to people – not deliver people to systems”. The first time I read that, I had a flash of insight (it’s rare, but it happens):

Hand Squircle, by The Forrest aka/klepto

Why shouldn’t we be able to design a call centre system that a) is financially progressive, and b) is enjoyable to work in? Let’s design people in and create new opportunities for meaningful, interesting, fun work to be done.

It’s mythology that machines are more efficient than people. More efficient for what? With all due respect to our local telecom monopoly, having people greet other people is a much more efficient way to be friendly, as people are simply better at it than machines. Exception handling is usually the single greatest expense in any automated system. It also happens to be what people are best at — in fact, (surprise, surprise) it turns out that they enjoy the variety.

Resources :

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This is going to be fun…

The beginning of something wonderful, by Oi Jimmy!

So this is my first blog post as the Chief Products and Innovation Officer of Uniserve Communications Corp. I suppose I’ve been putting it off for too long, as I search for just the right topic to start off with. I hope you can forgive me :-). As an aside, before I launch into it, just a quick note as to why I accepted this position, which on the face of it probably seems like an odd choice, given my background and personality. Three reasons:

  1. Will Spratt, the CEO. This is a man who knows how to do deals, structure businesses, and make money. Even more importantly, he is a person of the highest integrity.
  2. $25M in revenue, growing quarter over quarter for years now, and generating profit, with over 110,000 customers coast to coast.
  3. The competition is fat and slow, and complacent. When was the last time your telco/ISP did something innovative for you? Press 1 for never, press 2 for a long time ago, and press pound to get put on hold with torturous easy listening versions of songs you didn’t like even in the original version.

So there you have it. A great opportunity to build something very interesting on a great platform. Onward!