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.
Article: Ambient Computing Canvses
What if tablets are the canvas for ambient computing behaviors; not an analogous replacement for laptop/desktop/mobile’s client-networking shape?
There was a context, a little more than a year ago, where our workspace evolved from one tablet and a mobile to a more expensive, multi-modal experience. The workspace, (meaning really, the hardware being used to work on) expanded because there was a need for more screens because of the lack of mature development (justified?) in augmented/virtual interfaces. And so where virtual interfaces could not compensate, or extend productivity, there was the addition of various screens made ready at the point of context.
It’s interesting what contexts look like now… a larger tablet as the primary, occasionally offloading work to a stationary desktop (software reasons). In the second context there are two tablets, where luxury/recreation is the primary driving focus. The mobile and wearable are the accessories to this. Occasional camera and accounting agents, they sit in this space mostly because the table’s software has not matured such to get rid of the phone, nor is it as personalized as the wrist wearable.
All of that said, there are now three tablets in rotation. One for work, one for recreation, and the oldest one now playing duty as a recreational and beta workspace (currently iPadOS 15 Public Beta). This is not to dissimilar from what is seen from Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST-TNG)… or is it?
In ST-TNG, tablets extend a readily-available ambient computer. The concept of mobile, or desktop, doesn’t really exist. At least not in that function in ST-TNG. There’s the ambient system or platform driving the ship or campus, and tablets of various sizes are utilized for the kinds of input, analysis needed when micro-level tasks or decisions need to occur. For this to work, users of the platform need to have a macro vision of what they would like to do, but also a framework that allows the smaller, more mobile tablet to extend how they get there. Their ability to be agile is more (?) valuable than their tool. One could imagine some lower level of “the prime directive“ is the enabler to such macro knowledge; which later becomes codified, or at least provoked code and tools which enable platforms for supporting learning, enabling, and connecting with groups far outside of your own.
Within such a thought, we can probably see how the idea of desktop and mobile become antiquated if the tablet truly does connect to a platform which has all that is needed to develop and deploy. In this context, several tablets connecting to a platform don’t need to be a computer in and of themselves, but merely an enabler for what the person who wheels them is trying to enable the ambient platform do.
The challenge here is now answering the question, “what exactly does a tablet enable?“
Been chewing since this listen earlier // If the uniqueness of the iPad were pushed // Would the table fail // Not because it isn’t worth it’s expansion of computing // But because it exposes // How much hasn’t expanded // Within and outside of ourselves (tweet)
If the perspective is somewhere along side “deep thought“ or “metamorphic tablet canvas“ then we probably get to an aspect of computing that is one part logical, but a greater part subjective to the user/composer of the thoughts on the screen (does it even have to be a screen to be a tablet). Or, if the perspective is that a computer has to equal some sense of calculation or productivity, then is the tablet doomed to be perceived as a failure unless it completely usurps the desktop and laptop, it makes itself more “at the moment“ then a mobile? Or, is it possible that the tablet can live in the middle of all of these questions, skillfully being exactly what is needed, get exposing the edges for what is not? Is the better question about a tablet that it actually sits in such a space that it causes the nuances of mobile and laptop/desktop (keyboard/mouse) computing to be exposed?
Using the framework that an ambient platform can enable a tablet to be a lot more, one could probably perceive the services arm of Apple becoming something more like the computer in Star Trek the next generation. Not necessarily something that knows everything, or leaves the human contemplating, interpreting, and solving out of the equation. But, with the appropriate and contextually relevant piece of technology in hand, enabling that human to literally reach to the outer edges of their own universes.
With that said, let’s come back to the question: “what exactly does a tablet enable?“ Well, the answer is actually almost as simple as the tagline that went along with Star Trek: “to boldly go where no one has gone before.“ And if that was something already imagined and executed with a laptop or mobile, then the tablet doesn’t so much fill a gap as much as it exposes that we’ve not been using the mobile or the laptop as good as we should have.
One of the challenges found when involved in transforming organizations is this analysis of the friction, or speed, which comes with changing behaviors and perceptions. Often, this can be perceived as remarkable because of the lack of speed activated, the immense depths of structures, or even an admission towards entropy (ignorance?). Nevertheless, ‘competence’ is a challenge one must bear record and determine success or not-quite-as-successful. Otherwise, what passes as competence when change agents are present, merely shows as a memory of what shouldn’t be not long after they have left.
Change agents, when they are analyzing the friction that new behavior or perception cause, can often be their worst enemy. How? Because the speed and adaptability that makes this change agent appropriate for the task, also puts them ahead and behind the group that they are in charge of fostering towards that behavior or perception. Those folks who have been around long enough will realize that they are both ahead and behind at the same time; and have to navigate communicating while also not thinking for their customer.
On the other hand, change agents are also adept at recognizing the immense depth of workflows and structures that prevent actualized change from being recognized. This ability to perceive the depth and width of structures is another challenge for this change agent. Not so much because they speak with depth and accuracy, but they need to realize a means to curtail that depth and accuracy in order to steward change in a language best received by their client.
Lastly, this change agent has to be honest with what is being told to them. For many organizations and teams, they often evangelize change, innovation, or modernization. But, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of who they are, they will often admit that their success is due to accident, or to ignorance or two some kind of uncontrollable luck. This should not discourage the change agent. In fact, this should encourage them that they are indeed competent enough to follow thru with the desired activities. How they do this… a bit of self-awareness, a bit of self-marketing, and other items outside of the frame of the client-customer. Only, then can they find just the right tonality with which to engage not only the journey at hand, but have something left to record the lessons for the next moment.
To these points, competence it’s a slow burn. It’s very quick to be described, very quick to recognize the lack of it. But, to become the thing that happens after the change agent has left (“the person who puts down the gravel after the change agent has cut the road“), is to become hewn and sharpened for other journeys, other environments. Slowly. Deliberately. Intentionally.
Well, that was embarrassing. Trying to post directly from Muse via screenshot didn’t seem to work
Looking at the notebook, the calendar Blank slate
Am comparing to the previous endeavor maybe a bit too much. Used to write, produce, and travel to share. Haven’t dont thst as much since tuning things here. And yet, there’s still a want (not always need) to sharpen the palette thru moments of being exposed to other people, orgs, and contexts.
It is great to come into a space, have an expectation, and a whiteboard sketch or conversation later, it turns into something different-yet-similar. In what had been thought of as this forward pushing space, Avanceé was also a hope to be less chained to the conventions of whatever passes for now.
Looking at the calendar, the notebook Scribbled fate
For as clear as re-engineering complexity can be. It is also a bell-toll for another kind of discomfort. Discomfort with the pace of change. Discomfort with the spaces allowed and pushed. Discomfort. Right up to a point where it’s pressing down hard enough to force a transformation.
Looking for what forces transformations can be worthwhile. It can also be terrifying.
Elements in this come from an existing project; however, nothing from said project or persons involved is directly mentioned or implied to within this story. This is (mostly) a design exercise.
The agent takes a seat near what was once a lake you could barely see the far edge of. You can see all of the shorelines now. Today looks like it’s going to be hot, just like previous days. And with the diminished quality of water in the region, it’s going to be more important they are able to connect their clients with the new state mandated resource measures in addition to the usual check-ins. As the agent puts themself in position to receive updates to the new mandates, their communicator signals another change in policy.
“Those who were previously vaccinated against the 2020/21 strains of the corona virus must revalidate their vaccination status with their closest insurance carrier.”
Since the nationalization of medical insurance, it has been a pretty common occurrence that those persons who have previously had checkups, vaccinations, or even a change of family status, have had to re-validate in order to continue receiving national and state support for medical needs. CMS has become a challenging, but fruitful partner with these endeavors. Often, their agent’s ability to not only navigate the regional policy changes, but also quickly identify and connect with those to whom those policies would have negative consequences has been a beacon in these challenging times. For example, national and state measures such as the recently updated license for manual control of automated driving and transport vehicles have made it difficult for some of CMS’s clients to meet with the best insurance carrier for their needs. CMS agents have become threads to these benefits for many, especially those in aging and recently-isolated communities.
The agent finishes the mandated 10 minute meditation session before reviewing the days client itinerary:
The good thing about this list, the agent knows only two of these will be long conversations - likely the Clarks. But, they have to travel to some of the most extreme ends of the region. This state in particular has recently enacted travel and automated speed restrictions. The agent usually doesn’t have to worry about the tolls, but the speed restrictions do hinder timeliness. At least one of these meetings might slip in the recommended appointment window. There’s also a potential for electrical outages. The last time they traveled across this region, they were in the middle of a data transfer when an electrical storm stifled connections. It took four hours, plus a few quick classes in SQL-for-Gov to work out a solution with OIF (the Office of Information Facilitation). The agent checks their communicator for the backup readiness, and sets up an additional battery bank, just in case they need to “go manual” and connect using the less secure cellular option.
The OIF has been looking forward to getting more reports from agents. Since the major reorg a few decades ago, an increase in the ability for agents to address issues in the field has led to a total reshaping of how CMS measures success. Before, there was a harder line of operation between departments. Groups such as CMMI, OEDA, and OIT knew there needed to be more connective measures between their groups, but the shape of the org made that difficult. A radical idea - an adaptation of Rendanheyi - changed not only how CMS worked, but how CMS shaped Medicare and Medicaid as a necessary and fulfilling part of the nation’s new definition of wellness. On a day like today, the OIF is getting a chance to see yet another agent be a manifestation of this new posture.
The agent is part of OIF’s class number three. What OIT used to called NEO, the OIF has resorted to a simple numbering system. They are running concurrent tests of a few proposed career tracks, alongside a new distributed communicator. This communicator combines the security of the gov ID card, along with a feature adapted from Estonia’s cephalopod framework. Essentially, each time the agent passes thru certain frequencies of light, it squirts “ink” into that frequency. That “ink” validates the agent’s status, traces their location, and also ignites a bilateral org skeleton - one half which manages client data and interactions, the other half which manages the agent’s employee information. Neither of these halves touch. The “ink” is the only tonal record and that too is temporary. Much like any radio frequency, it dulls over time, can be mixed with others, etc. OIF believes they have developed a means to capture the most important tones of an agent’s ink, and is able to use this within the bilateral-like platform to learn and improve operations at nearly the speed of the agent making connections with clients.
The agent has made it to the first client. The weather is still holding well, but the time it took to get to this client is concerning. The communicator is already showing recommended movement for the upcoming appointments. One of them is already blinking, indicating that the appointment window is not favorable. This might not look good to their management profile. But, this is the human side of what’s been automated. perhaps the agent will have a few minutes to call that client and maybe they can quickly find another window before the day closes.
The OIF has been working hard on understanding these scenarios. The software has been restricted from making too many decisions for the agents (it has been described as “aggressive” by several information officers). There has been some early data from class number one towards the empowerment of agency when needing to reschedule or adjust appointment windows. However, this change in the analysis of “ink” has been a hard one for some of the contacting groups to adopt. When OIT broached being human-centered in the early 2020s, it was these kinds of revelations which opened CMS’s eyes to what cannot be so easily programmed. Since the inception of OIF, the philosophy of being life-centered has taken this approach to levels not previously dreamt. Contractors working with “ink” not only need to consider the wants of policy, but also the wants of the agents, clients, and even client’s living arrangements. The amount of data is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Procuring the services of contractors who don’t just understand being life-centered, but actively do it themselves (this is a contract requirement for both primes and subs, which must be proved by “ink” of their own), has been a tough adjustment for an industry which has also had to learn how to lean on technologies and services no longer sparked by Silicon Valley and MIT - now it’s Nairobi, Singapore, and LaPaz showing embedded systems which live with humans, not dictate them.
The communicator buzzes again. Another policy change. This one effects the agent’s family directly. A new enhancement to the message allows the agent to forward this change to the affected family member, but not in the same language they are reading it. Along with the OIF’s knitting information and operations, there’s also been a significant upgrade to communication practices. Policy notifications to agents are immediately ready for multiple audiences outside of CMS to read, hear, view, and touch (smell-based messaging was used for a while, but the use of some scents created undesired side effects for some population groups). An impressive adaptation of what is left from Facebook’s messaging API, CMS is able to take a policy, and have it transliterated in real time for agents (including their recommended actions), insurers (along with APIs for near-immediate integration), and citizens (across 60 languages and dialects). CMS, as with other resilient government programs, moved slowly-then-quickly to pick up the pieces from the past years of regulatory changes to many of the vendors they utilized. Probably more luck than talent, CMS didn’t just pick up people, but also learned new skills. Rendanheyi showed CMS how to be a different organization, and every level rose to the occasion to become it.
The agent’s heart rate rises, this isn’t good news. Their communicator signals that it’s time for another meditation session. However, a 10min session isn’t in the cards with the movement of appointment windows. They opt for the 2min session (a 6-count in/out versus the 10min visualization session). While their heart rate doesn’t return to normal, it does come closer to CMS’s range for agent work allowing them to continue with client appointments. CMS is trusted by these clients, not making a best effort to meet with them would betray that hard-won trust. The agent understands this. While also noting the serious conversation which awaits them once their workday ends.
A shape of some of the work which has framed what’s become Avanceé includes over a decade of corporate training. This training starts off as a “help this group to lean this tech” but, but has often evolved to being more.As such, themes emerge and shape not just the continuance of this practice, but branches which have led to some experiments and shifts. That said, there’s still a focus on “training” and what takeaways those attend need to take back to their desks. Often, much of this training can be boiled down to three persona intents:
Many times, the groups are made of all of these personas at the same time. This presents something of a challenge in both giving the desired ends (training outcomes) and elevating folks to unlock their own motivations. Not everyone comes to a training to be “taught to think,” and often the marketing of a session or an instructor’s methods often leaves a plate of expectations (right or wrong) to be analyze by the participant.
Some experiments in interaction and feedback methods have evolved from this juggling. In one session, a mix of a handwritten but structured notebook is run in sync with “shared screen” and “practice activities” (the latter more often a bend left fir the attendees’ personal time than the session time as most of these sessions are 2hrs and virtual). In another session, moving to handwriting/ink from typed text draws peculiar interest. Arrows, images, and links looking like a note has invited more “what can I learn” than the usual slide deck. These experiments allow for “edge play” with those personas and their intentions, and often unveils the shape of productivity in a simpler form (we do this because we don’t know why; or, we do this to help/empower decision makers to make decisions I will also benefit from).
These three “personas” (familiar again, optimize me, and learn new) almost boil down to two framings:
Both are noble, but are differently enabled. Advanced tools is a reliance on an external agent to ignite the shape of better, while advanced thinking (or “advancing thinking” as a more active term) feels more if unlocking the agent regardless of the tool. As an instructor, this tension is constant, and likely par the course for such engagements. But most recently, a wonder: is one better than the other? And which one points to the outcomes both fulfilling to the individual, and profit-facing to the org?
Wonder how Muse’s 1.7 Update will affect these shares in future posts
There’s been some decent attention in the past few weeks to Avanceé (for good reason), and some of the resulting conversations have led to a bit of “well yes, this is why this initiative exists.” Maybe a bit harder to frame to some, there is a shape of some of what passes here as both lesson and opportunity worth sharing.
For example, one of the lessons has come as a result of an on-going experiement around rings, NFC, and alternate coin technologies. Was chatting with a friend about his endeavor and he started to get excited about this “new thing called NFC” he came across. Seeing the opportunity to engage fans and promoters more being enabled by this got him talking about and looking at physical artifacts unlocking audial and virtual experiences. More than simply being just another draw to a newsletter or recording, he started going on about what it meant to have folks take a piece of what he’s embedded into his music with folks. Showed him a few things, as well as pointing to how his mobile can program those experiences, and now there’s some neat, magical things underway for LJR Music (you should check him out - @lukejroberts).
With another group, we’ve started a conversation about what it means to co-create organizational strategy in the educational space as items adjust to this new normal. While it is very clear things aren’t going to stay virtual, there’s also a healthier acknowledgment from para-educational efforts of the need to be more agile, humane, and technological in order to continue to meet or exceed community impacts. Suffice to say, the pen cannot sit in the hands of just an executive director or board if an organization is going to pen better opportunities.
Watching one of Natalia Design’s recent YouTube videos (@natalkadesign) also offers some awesome perspective on what it means to follow those lessons and opportunities. For some of the efforts, Avanceé has been a quiet mentor, for others, a strategic lighthouse. Yet, it’s being present in mind, and focused enough with certain actions, to take those lessons and create something which enables others a canvas or pen to draw from.
Where this effort might not sit within the shape of what’s common is in a literal eschewing of conventional signals. There’s no YT/IG channels, there is no book. There’s experiments, a stream not much different than a series of fractal branches. And when a lake/oasis is found, attention is given to the lessons of the collections. Then something either releases, or is branched into something else. Every pen stroke here is valuable, just not each one needs to be of the same tonal intensity.
These are the lessons and opportunities Avanceé continually reveals. Maybe valuable to some (if so, let’s chat), maybe not quite clear enough for you to grab onto and do anything with (that’s ok). What should be clear is that there’s a focus here, and a steadiness. What becomes of it is merely forward.