How many bags do you think that is?

I’ve noticed that there’s a fascinating little exchange at the end of the Ocado process. After you’ve received all your shopping, the delivery driver will ask ‘have you got any bags to return?’. It’s the bag recycle scheme they’ve been doing for a few years, where they give you 5p for every bag you give them back. After you hand them the pile, they ask ‘how bags do you think that is?’. You then say a number – you might know, or like us you might guess.

‘About 12?’ I offered today. “Ok, I’ll call it 20” said the driver, and off they went.

And it’s not just one or two drivers in particular that rounds up the number in this manner, but all of them. It’s so consistent, in fact, that today I started to wonder if it was designed as an exchange, as part of the service.

Because it’s such a simple, generous idea, to leave a customer at the end of the interaction feeling like the representative in the company has just given them something back.

It’s not really about the amount, the 40p extra refund. It’s the gesture that makes it work. And the fact that it’s a gesture from a person, rather than a discount figure that appears on an app, powered by an unseen algorithm. In comparison to other service companies who send people to your door, that projection of autonomy in the job is interesting.

During Natalie Kane’s presentation on the IED Innovation and Future Thinking course last month (yes, I will write something up, promise), she showed the class this, the Amazon warehouse picker wearable. It’s the antithesis of autonomy in a job – it is telling you what, where, when, and how, and your only job is simply to comply.

What struck me as the class was discussing it was that, yes, this is a wearable, but not in the way that you think. It’s not a person wearing a device, it’s an algorithm wearing a person.

Yet if the Ocado ‘how many bags?’ exchange is ‘designed’ and instructional in some way, then it’s merely just the allusion of autonomy. Is this worse in some ways?

A thing, in a shop

Look here; it’s a thing, in a shop:

Yes, that’s right, the new Artefact Cards are now available to buy in the Somerset House shop. They saw them at the Makerversity Christmas Fair and said “well, what are those, and can we sell them in our shop..?”

Which was good, because a big part of the Artefact Cards redesign was to make something people could pick up in a shop, and play with a bit, then either a) buy or b) put back in the same condition so the next person could try them.

Whilst you still still buy them online, of course, the goal this year is to get them in 100 shops around the world, as we start our retail world learning curve.

So if you’re passing, pop into to Somerset House, and check them out.

On not writing books

“You should write a book.”

Sometimes I say this to other people, sometimes other people say this to me.

It came up again this week. Anjali and I had lunch, and spoke of our mutual delight on Neil announcing he’s writing a second book.

The first book is a super useful read, a manual to keep dipping in and out of. In fact, I have it in my bag now, as I’m rapidly scanning everything I can to get further into the deeper backstory of John Boyd’s OODA loops for various projects.

Like many folk, I’d perhaps only scratched the surface of OODA. I started using in in workshops and teaching back in 2015/15, but only lightly as part of the metamechanics collection, basing work on the elements of movement, maps, loops and layers which help people think about their work using the qualities and power of information in the internet age, rather than fighting against it.

But in wanting to delve deeper into the OODA loops, I found this, which contains Boyd’s original 327 slide briefing document, and an introduction from Dr Grant T. Hammond, in which he writes…

“In introducing the 327 slides of “A Discourse on Winning and Losing,” I am hesitant. Boyd’s briefings were never meant to be a compilation of doctrine or dogma about how to fight and win wars. They were meant to be conversations between him and his audiences.

He never gave a briefing in which he did not learn something. He might have poorly conveyed a particular idea or skipped a step in the logic trail. Alternatively, perhaps, he forgot something or someone had added to the examples he used, the references he had consulted, or provided a different interpretation that he should have considered more deeply.”

“He could not bring himself to publish anything because it was never complete. Coming from an essentially oral culture of briefings in the military, Boyd put carefully chosen words on view-graphs, but never in print. The “Discourse” was an unfinished conversation with each audience, part of a perpetual learning experience. He learned every time from each discussion with his audiences, and this necessitated changes for the next iteration. There was a succession of unfinished OODA Loops.”

I’m totally going to use this as my excuse for not writing books from now on.

Firstly, because I believe it; all of the various theories, models, tools and so on that have developed over eight years of Smithery are not ‘finished’; they work differently every time, and are contextually powerful because of that, and always send me away thinking new thinks.

And secondly, because from the outside, writing books looks hard and often joyless, and my hat goes off to all those who do. I look forward to reading them all.

The Parasite As Host?

I has a DM from Lee at the weekend, after we’d caught up last week for the first time in ages: “…loved your comment re Monzo as an incumbent – smart, in an ‘of course’ way. Might make a nice blog* post…”. So here it is.

I’d mentioned the poster and campaign below, and the weirdness of seeing new financial startups treat Monzo as an incumbent.

Yes, Monzo now have over a million users. Yes, they’re prepping for a US launch. Yes, they’ve raised £85 million to help fund new product development.

But are they the banking incumbent? No, not really.

Perhaps, though, they’re now the incumbent service for a thin layer of people who want banking no thicker than the thin glass layer atop a smartphone, a business that skips along the top edge of the pace layers, feeding on a deeper system below.

They feed off the slower moving layers below to survive; yes, the parasite metaphor has a metallic tang in the mouth, and probably doesn’t reflect intentions, but as a description of how they’ve captured the mobilista section that the market without really contributing to the lower layers is arguably accurate.

And now, we see the emergence of others who try to thrive in the whole they’ve burrowed in the host organism. One question emerges though about the campaign; who is it for?

It’s surely not for people with a Monzo card already, as getting people to switch bank accounts remains notoriously hard work, so why go after a small subset of a market. Viola Black is not going to feed off Monzo in the way that Monzo feeds off the wider system.

And it surely can’t be for those on the verge of making a decision to switch to Monzo, as any quick search on comparisons of the two would bring back unfavourable results for Viola Black; it is just a pre-pay credit card, as Monzo used to be.

It’s perhaps more likely that it is just a market statement, for current investors and potential future ones; ‘look, we’re in this market, associate us with these other players’.

In startup land, you don’t need to live off a real user base, sometimes the fumes of hype will provide enough sustenance for months or years. It’s like vaping success.

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*It’s 2019, so let’s try more blogging, as per this:

Short fast blogging, rather than having an existential crisis when trying to fashion a passable Medium post. Why is it every Medium post ends up as a Large?

Next Gen Artefact Cards

It’s taken a little while, due to longer than expected things (which I’ll perhaps blog about at length at some point).

But the next generation, retail-ready Artefact Cards are hitting the presses this month, to be on sale (and on shelf in lovely establishments) by the end of January.

I have enough of the pre-production prototypes to run workshops with this month, though, which is pleasing.

via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/RWo8uh

The New Twickenham Gates

“The venture, led by London-based architects Wilson Owens Owens, provides a unique focal point when fans arrive and delivers a recognisable starting point for their experience at the world’s largest dedicated rugby stadium.”

So say England Rugby, on their site, about the new Twickenham entrance gates.

In reality, it turns out they’ve tried to send as many people past this ‘focal point’ as they can, and it takes twice as long to get in. Well done, architects.

via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/RJAKTh

Flying The Forge

It seems somewhat fitting that it’s the tenth anniversary of The Do Lectures this weekend; it was there at their fifth iteration I met Fraser Hamilton, and tomorrow is his last day at Smithery.

For five years we’ve worked together, at first with Fraser on an internship, then freelance, then full-time. He’s been a vital companion on the continuing Smithery journey, as it productively picks its way through the sunny uplands towards whatever peaks we next spot on the horizon. At this point in that journey though, there’s a path into a year or two of specialism beckoning, so Fraser’s joining our friends at Adaptive Lab as a service designer…

…I was about to type ‘we’re glad he’s going to a really good home”, but that just sounds like he’s a puppy who’s been mithering the designer furniture, so I’ll leave that there…

Every day working with Fraser has been a pleasure. I’ve never worked with someone before who’s so eager to learn and stretch themselves, to combine their talents they’ve developed over the years with things the’ve never even tried before, to ask good questions that they know need to be asked even if they feel uncomfortable doing so, and to be such thoroughly good company in any situation.

Fraser, you will go far. See you on the mountain paths, my friend.