Also published: Of 2021 Experiments and Ruminations
This has been an interesting year in regards to various experiments. In some respects, these experiments are a testament to an ongoing curiosity that drives this initiative. But in other respects, there’s a little bit of looking back to see what could’ve been, something like regret but not as strong.
Last year, did a similar roundup of various experiments.
So what about some of these experiments for this year,? What has worked out? What hasn’t? And what still gets to get some time?
Apple’s Scribble for iPadOS (in-progress) has been a really interesting workflow enhancement. Whereas there are some moments (like writing this article) we are typing or dictation takes president, have a finding many more opportunities to use scribble. And especially the ink written notes within iMessage. Those of added a type of humanity to this technology space that’s often missed. Still, would be nice to see more apps for iPadOS updated to not only support scribble, but also bend to an interface more around writing than typing.
Astropad’s Luna Display (concluded) is a very neat experiment highlighting some significant challenges and changes within my workflow compared to others in the design/development space. Not that it was a bad experience, in fact, it was actually quite well. However, most of the reason for using macOS was tied to workflows that I did less and less of. In a very real state, iPadOS is more than enough to get a majority of work done. In the places where it wasn’t, using the LunaDisplay was insightful to the types of interface design that macOS isn’t really fit to support (touchscreen or 10 foot). Things might have been able to progress a little bit more, but the attending macOS computer needed to stay a little bit clean for the type of work which was being done. I no longer have that computer, but I still have the display, and wonder what other possibilities may exist in the future.
Building A Secure Store/Wallet via McLear’s Omni NFC Ring (concluded, for now) is probably the most disappointing in not being able to complete. Besides the significant investment in research around identification protocols, hard wallets, and data formats, this is just been a slightly frustrating thing to try and get off the ground. One significant struggle has to do with using iPadOS. Currently, there are no tools or hardware which enable the ability to deploy JavaOS code to the Omni ring. Recognizing that, moved to a slightly different solution trying to embed a data URI into the OPN NFC Ring, which was met with a little bit of success, and some new understandings on the differences in treating packet data between iOS, Android, and Windows. The Omni ring will stay around, but being able to leverage it will have to wait for a shift in hardware access, or something else.
Bitcoin, Ethereum, and IFTS Domains (on-going) is another project which has seen its bit of success and challenge. However, there’s still a whole lot more to explore here. First, some of the lessons of just simply understanding what bitcoin and other alternative currency can do has been fruitful. Also, playing with the idea of a hard wallet (see above) as well as different exchanges, has been pretty insightful to the workings of what people are emotionally attached to, versus what trends might be happening. One of the more interesting plays has been to just simply get a few domains sitting on L1/L2 blockchains. For Avanceé, picking up avancee.crypto wasn’t too hard (via Unstoppable Domains). There’s a thought of doing similar via the Ethereum Name Service but am holding off for the moment while looking at other happenings. That said, an NFT play would be something to come. Working on details of that also. Maybe next year’s report chats on this.
Helm Personal Email Server (TBD) was going to be the most positive-sounding experiment. However, it is currently having some issues; so an opinion on Helm needs to wait until a solution comes and emotions quell a good bit.
Muse for Weekly Links Share (on-going) has been an intriguing and insightful twist. Originally, the idea was to share both the links and the image of them, but quickly turned to just the images. The earlier shape of shares which also included art and writing were good, but time got away from doing these without feeling forced or rushed. Still, have been able to maintain sharing and posting. If there’s anything which could improve, it would be to share directly to Micro.Blog as an SVG so links could stay live/embedded. It has been a solid item nevertheless, with a few comments here and there about the shape of the shares. An interesting by product of doing this has been taking notes of the Metamuse podcast, there’s a shape here which can be explored further.
Looking at this year’s projects, compared to last year’s, there’s a sense of being slower and more deliberate. But, also of diving deeper into implications of trends which are coming quickly.
And despite this am still not quite satisfied with the overflow and alchemy from this year. There’s been a tick too much time spent on items which cannot be controlled. Hopefully, the shape of next year’s alchemy bends better in that direction, while also being attentive to the webs connecting these experiences to outcomes for Avanceé and it’s clients.
In the recent attention towards Avanceé, one area of interest has been in shaping “fractional executive services.“ Thought it would take a little to understand, but am finding the curiosity of what is possible needs to also be tangible to what is delivered. So this will lay out that offering as conceived so far.
First, it makes sense to start with what Avanceé already is, taken from the description here:
Avanceé articulates the value of systems and design experiences, then (re)engineers complexity alongside individuals, teams, and/or small businesses through tailored coaching, management, and consulting
Or, to say it another way: empowering individuals/teams to take their next operational step(s) forward by reducing complexity in process, tech, and/or behaviors. Implementing this and guiding best results is where a fractional executive comes in.
Pulling from Wikipedia‘s definition, a fractional executive is one _ who offers their management services to organizations on a for-hire, part-time basis. These executives typically have experience in a business environment in roles such as chairperson, owner, CxO, senior vice president, vice president, or director. Their skills can be focused in one discipline or be more broad-based, depending on their experience._ in the very clear case of Avanceé, this shape of a fractional executive fits within the vertical of design and research strategy operations, which is commonly an office held by a chief experience officer, chief design officer, or director of user experience.
##So then, what does a fractional executive do?
At its most basic level, a fractional executive is a stand-in for that specific executive role enabling an organization to craft strategy, management, or operational governance in such a way that does not disrupt existing daily operations, but enables crafting paths for future scaling and success. Somewhat less expensive overall than having them full-time, the fractional executive has a higher initial cost with a greater return because they are supporting internal structures to develop and mature personnel and processes, rather than just be the figurehead themselves.
This is not an uncommon arrangement in some mid to large- sized organizations, though it is a newer one to the better understood consultant-model. It makes sense because it gives time back to business operations to concentrate on other areas of maturing finance, security, or even project management, without the extra overhead of looking for executive leadership (for a time). At the same time, this arrangement is also time bound. Meaning that measures of success have to happen quickly, within a specific time period. This time period leaves a little room for wasted meetings, bloated integration of software or processes, or even extend it resource allocation cycles. More than simply supporting company growth, The right approach for a fractional executive embraces and fosters organizational maturity.
In the role of a fractional executive, Avanceé comes into an organization with an open mind and clear focus about driving specific outcomes. Those specific outcomes are going to be driven by being human-centered in research, embracing friction-lessened design, and demonstrating an ethical approach in behavior enabling intuitive workflows. These tenants support outcomes bolstering organizations for their expected growth trajectory, allowing agility and resiliency within their organizational character to be cultivated healthily. Deliverables may vary; but are always tailored to the needs of the organization.
##What sectors are being targeted for this service offering?
Initially, civic tech, health/finance operations, and distributed commerce groups (i.e., chambers of commerce). These sectors have existing connections, and primed for exploration and maturity our experience sees happening nationally and internationally. In addition, as Avanceé scales, it’s resulting structure will enable several of these engagements concurrently, where each fractional executive and/or consultant doesn’t just add value to the attending company, but also creates artifacts and behaviors of increasing value between its members.
If that sounds good, schedule some time to talk and see how Avanceé might be able to help your organization move forward.
Also this week: Expectations and Boundaries
_Responded to an insightful post on LinkedIn which Dr. Richard Claydon asks about challenges related to going back to the office/remote work as normal (for knowledge workers)._
What’s the biggest challenge of the various return to office models being suggested to the markets?
Many having difficulties reconciling professional and personal expectations regarding “what has to happen” vs “what is happening.” Some are finding the loosening of expectations as giving them room for a framework they’ve long wanted to explore. Others finding their frameworks for productivity and living are bound to those expectations. And the speed of their change breaks them (identity) down, not just the culture of work they upheld.
Boundaries are the fun one. The power dynamics some knowledge workers have wielded aren’t too different than the sprawl which defines too many “homes” and “commutes.” No longer being able to give space to the boundaries between work and home, folks are finding their locus of control or management challenged. Maybe also can call this a “lack of framework,” but also a lack of a psychological skeleton to deal with resettled boundaries without first dealing and healing thru various traumas. Those who take up the challenge to heal seem to be able to deal with the resettled boundaries differently.
There are a few more thoughts regarding this; which may come forward in some articles being currently worked on regarding design/research operations and team maturity building. Expecting some boundary-stretching bits? Yep.
Also this week,
Dark Patterns Are Decisions.
Dark Patterns Are Decisions
In a recent conversation regarding design governance and operations, the topic of managing design debt came forward. This was great as there was another convo (panel) regarding dark patterns on deck. A chance to get some symmetry and homework done at the same time.
What are dark patterns? Well, they are essentially methods found as a result of a design asking a person to do something that they would not ordinarily do, or outright deceiving the user (several types of them). As a matter of preference, I’ll try not to use the word “user“ because it’s not just a pattern that results in something bad for the person that’s using the system, but often result in a pattern of thought or activity or measurement that often serves to be a black hole to the company/organization as well.
One of the areas of conversation that is worth diving into when talking about dark patterns happens to revolve around the decision that causes these dark patterns to come about. You see, not everything that a developer or designer does is malicious from the outset, but often has its grounding in another decision that happened before it got to the designer or developer. These are decisions such as “move quickly and iterate later“ or “we will get the requirements after we designed the thing.“ These kinds of decisions, and others like them often set fertile ground for dark patterns to arise out of various behaviors.
How do we prevent these decisions that foster, nurture, dark patterns? One Of the first things that we can do is to think thoroughly about the entire course that a product or service needs to take. Meaning we don’t just think about it from the lens of the business, or the lens of the person consuming the product or service. We wanna take a look at every decision which needs to be made, which may include looking at platform limitations. It may be the case that we have to add a form in order to collect a certain amount of information, but because of the platform that we’ve chosen, we need to collect more information in order to kick off workflow to do what the business needs to have happened, so that we could ensure a better customer experience. The decision to use that platform, or decision to not customize that platform is what nurtures the dark pattern of asking for too much information.
Unfortunately, this type of thinking, decision based design, is not the norm for many programs and projects. Because of other decisions which may need to be made, or other fires, we often find decisions, made or not, as the fertilizer to what ends up being the experience regarded as dark, light, illuminating, or defeating. Those persons who are not in the decision making capacity can assist in making sure that the right decisions are made by introducing the right kind of friction to their respective projects. Instead of simply “just making the thing,” the designer offers outcomes as a result of the outputs (“if we design this, here’s what our outcomes are projected to be; if we don’t make this decision here, this is the kind of design debt/fractured experience/etc which will develop”).
Fortunately, dealing with dark patterns is a lot easier than many people give themselves credit for. You have to introduce just a little bit of friction, slow down a little bit, so that the thing that you are designing truly gives both the business and the consumer the best experience. And from that, you’re no longer looking at design as an output to support your business, but good design is going to be what’s understood because your business supports the outcomes that a person/team/organization most needs to happen.
Also this week: Structuting and Shaping DesignOps
Over the past few months, a series of conversations regarding design operations (DesignOps) has been gaining steam in some local channels. While many organizations, and even smaller teams, understand the need, many do not have a framework or structure within those organizations to produce operational structures for actively maturing design and research needs. Mostly noting these gaps due to a lack of senior experience, consistency in design/research credentials, and/or metrics befitting the business’s specific ROI rather than “design vernacular.” Developing or maintaining a structure for applying repeatable, profitable, and professionally traceable design operations is quite similar to discovering business models inside of a (hopefully, currently successful) business. However, upon such a structure, many businesses might find these structures also invite the prospect of what specifically disrupts their business model.
What follows is part of a series of notes speaking to structuring and shaping design operations.
The Organizational Structure
The challenge for design operations, and research operations, doesn’t simply come from lack of a framework, but just a lack of attention to shepard its development. It is It’s more possible therefore that organizations wishing to implement some framework should probably start with a two-pronged approach: understand the needs on the project level from a macro standpoint, and then from the executive standpoint create structures that allow for validation, continual discovery, and the shaping around such framework skeletons.
Each of these areas have a specific shape. However, structure is going to depend on the ability of the organization to capture quantitative and qualitative activity in consistent manner. It’s possible that this comes from an executive facing posture. In this way, governance and deliverables for current projects are disrupted in a minimal manner. At the same time, activities happening on the project level are where task, drivers and delivery get their validation.
This list is conceptual, and mostly aspirational, but could also factor into what organizations want to put together in a near-immediate fashion.
This list also lives in a little bit more detail for some of the projects that we are looking to be engaged in. So some of the secret sauce will have to wait until a few case studies, or other future articles.
Chief Design or Chief Experience Officer
The executive office needs to be fully invested in this. This might not where the vision comes from (thinking: vision might be generated a level below, but the executive support is what drives org investment) but this is experience — measured, maintained, and design/research understood as a profitable member of the organization. And as such, the executive sponsor takes a three-headed view of operations, each sufficient on their own, but hooked into one another for the entire story.
Early thoughts have these being led by a single individual. Directly reporting to this person should be a team who are the vision makers, and who also hold the most responsibility and accountability for research outcomes, design experiences, and user/consumer safety. In the notes, leaders in these departments/practices are described as:
Now each of these roles seem pretty similar at one view, but they are definitely different and the arrangement of them should indicate this. Specifically for those folks who are call advocates, you could think of them as director-level, but with evangelist/principal influence (indeed, inspired by this tweet thread). This would be the non-management direction for those persons who are mid-level who are looking for senior-level roles.
On the other hand, vice presidents are to be more responsible for handling the business — governance, yes, but also the business. In order to make sure things do not fall away from the development needs, having liaison roles makes a good deal of sense, or at least it did when initially writing notes on this.
Connecting to thr Rest of the Org
Alongside those three would be a series of liaisons and advocates from other parts of the org which shape how design integrates into the rest of the business. These are described as:
There’s a bit more to this, but the shape of this team more or less looks like the top end of a professional ladder for those persons who are within design and research professions who end up becoming either managers or principals that have an influence on the operational aspects of design and research (that tweet thread again). A working assumption is that many organizations who work in unstructured spaces, or who are looking to leverage digital transformation (whatever that supposed to mean), could potentially use a model like this to not only improve design and research outcomes, but also create a path for maturing their people to be able to fulfill those operational goals.
What else is possible with this? Maybe a part two, maybe just let loose on a few orgs to build it (wink).
Our friend at Tymbals has been back at it, (re)publishing a series of posts on the impact of AI, Blockchain and Digital Marketplaces on professional services with a specific focus on the future of advertising. For those looking into the intersection between blockchain, trust, and professional services, this is a series worth chewing.
Missing the Reddit convo about NPM being compromised, but all the other fun reads are as normal
There are many terms and fads which make their way through enterprise conversations. And for the most part, it’s very hard to ignore. Mostly because knowledge of those terms is what allows conversations for productivity or profitability to be anchored. If you will, it’s not so much that these terms have value, but the terms are signal to what somebody else (might) values and how they may or may not decide to engage in a business relationship.
Unfortunately, these terms, and the resulting transaction, often point to a less-sustainable (disruptive) change — innovation. That term innovation is filled with so much context. For some organizations it means transformative. For some organizations it means business as usual, just with a different set of clothes. For some organizations it might even mean shifting cultures, without shifting responsibilities. Innovation is one of the points of value in conversation where posture is affirmed — whether one does or does not engage in a business relationship.
Which is why it is probably not the best self-described term to use. In some recent conversations, teams and companies who are talking about being innovative end up reducing the posture to “how do we stay the same but have the appearance of transformed?“ Or, how do you take advantage of the new thing, without moving so far off the Lilly pad of the thing that has gotten you to where you are? Innovation, in this context is merely a token. Merely a signal that someone should want to engage them because they do speak the language of the age, even if they do not practice the behavior of the next one.
Now, it is not true that every business relationship needs to pass these tokens between one another. Innovation, for all of the crud that is packed into its context, can truly be a good thing. An organization who is looking to transform the culture of their industry might engage in truly innovative practices. They may actually engage in truly disruptive, sustainable, and accessible methods that look nothing like the current business campus. And this is where innovation should live. It should not be possible for everyone to attain this. As a matter of fact, this token (innovation) should actually be so valuable because so few people can even utter what it means to exist in such a context.
So then, should an organization or a team or an individual describe themselves as innovative? Probably not. Maybe, similar to the characteristic “humility,” this is a characteristic that is best described by a third-party perspective or point of view. Innovative should be the thing that’s recognized by those persons who are outside of the affected space. Calling attention to those persons who should be aware that disruption, sustainability, etc. is happening; but also giving value, giving weight to the fact that it’s not something so easily carried by everyone who wants to be in the conversation. Innovation carried well is really gold, and all persons should be able to recognize it versus pyrite.
However, we do find innovation passed around as if it were pennies found on the ground at a café. Sure, we can talk about this thing that shines in the sunlight, present at a place were similar transactions occur. But it’s not really disruptive except for being out of place. And when it’s even handed, or put into a position where it has more visibility, it’s nothing more than a token of something greater that’s happening in that space. Somethings stable, something disruptive, something that deserves more value ascribed to it than simply posturing “I’m innovative.“
Also published Wellness As Future Value
For the past weeks, have been staring a friend’s business card who is involved in the wellness sector. What’s most interesting about their practice is they are in a part of the wellness sector which also serves government customers. A space where you don’t usually think of contracting entities having influence. And yet, for some of the projects and trend-spotting which happens as a result of this initiative, one can almost see that they are very well positioned for the next version of what constitutes enterprise value.
It’s so what does it mean to use wellness as a transactional value item within a sector that usually he sees wellness described as “living long enough to get my pension?“ One can imagine that this can be solved, or at least alluded to, by looking at some of the wellness programs which have sprouted around government entities over the course of the past decade. From many of these groups, they are looking at the cost of health and life insurance, and developing ways to improve risk factors, and the resulting cost, by improving the general health of their populations. Insurance companies have jumped alongside this, doing as much as even helping to kickstart wellness activities for individuals and families, sometimes even tying premiums and deductibles to wellness outcomes.
But what about active wellness? What about that quantitative analysis that is made popular by devices such as the Apple Watch and Woop. What about the type of analysis or activity that can be found in groups on Strava who may work out as a part of taking a break between meetings, but there is still information that is of good value. What about these activities that can point to wellness?
Taking that a step further, you have some practitioners of various management philosophies who use wellness scores (not often called wellness, but they may be agreed of how you feel on that day and either a number or a set of words or even in emoji family), and then track that information to better understand the state of being psychologically as well as physically for a team. Such information points to a little bit better understanding of what it means to be healthy, well, versatile, etc. And also points to what can be calculated as another point of value for these enterprising teams and their respective organizations. If you will, if you’re not measuring it, then are you really getting well? And if you’re not getting well, does this point to other failures in business or project management which could’ve been mitigated by doing something as simple as taking a few of the meetings during the week and turning them into walking meetings?
My friend is looking at what it takes to be a profitable player in the wellness space towards government agencies. A posture is a very appropriate one given the last 24 months of lockdown, quarantine, and remote working. However, for enterprises to take advantage of what wellness programs like theirs offers, they may also need to re-allocate or re-designate value is something more than just the bottom line in profits. It may very well be the case that a certain number or percentage of profits might point to a healthy business, but a sick body of people working in that business. What if wellness were actually part of this measure of value? And what if moving forward didn’t mean having the most profit possible, but the best balance of profit and wellness?
Remnant Fitness did not compensate Avanceé, nor was consulted before the publishing of this piece.
Today seems to have been a continual gospel about sensemaking. In its most basic definition, since making is the method or process that one uses to make sense of the world around them. Often, we have these frameworks and many of them quickly become unconsciously driven. However, when they become consciously driven, we describe a different word to this: culture, regulation, policy, process, etc. no matter how you describe it, this tends to be a very common artifact of those persons who take whatever they learned and move forward. Knowledge transfer, and it’s very core is the realized opportunity of sensemaking.
One thing that you may realize quickly, if you take a look across an organization, is that there are often individuals whose ability to make sense out of data or structures tend to go very far beyond, or lag very far behind, the mean. The company, or team, or department, figures out what this mean is, and then tries to put in place other methods of making sense out of their environment in order to get everyone on the same page. Agile methodologies are one artifact of this type of normalization. However, not every sensemaking method or behavior can be normalized. Creativity in thought is a uniquely humane condition. What might be normal to one person or group, is now a conscious effort to be simply understood by another.
As a part of what this initiative puts forward, since making is something that all teams in groups can I scribe to. But it has to be done under a framework or a structure that allows the group to discover their own methods. When is successful, it doesn’t look like work on our side. It looks more like “simplified miracles.“ It looks a little bit less like magic, or unique understanding, and begins to look a little bit more like “oh, this is possible for us. And if we… then we might also leverage similar artifacts.” One could argue that one of the great failures of the design profession is that the focus on deliverables or outputs has dulled the ability for others to make sense of their own worlds — restricting their ability to be creators of their own environments. Sensemaking, if done well, offers a chance for a framework for the co-creation to actually take place, and be welcomed as a part of transformation.
What does our sensemaking framework look like?
Simply speaking, it’s just a funnel with an intention on leveraging the technologies at hand (analog, digital, and collaborative) in order to make sense of items and put them in a posture for others to be able to add them to their own frameworks. So far, it’s been a pretty successful framework. But, it could use some more exercises. All senses should be exercised. And what works gets evangelized until others remix to their needs.