TACSI Design Interns talk about how TACSI is a safe for innovation

From the blog

The cohesion of the multidisciplinary team was inspiring. Radical Redesign is a worldly place, team members have been sought for their speciality. Chris and Sarah’s design curriculum has been integrated within office practice-resulting in a team that runs like a fine tuned machine. We were encouraged and excited to see that design thinking was used to overcome the boundaries that may be found in a multidisciplinary environment and that design tools (storytelling, photo journey maps and ethnography) were used as foundations for the team to form innovative solutions. At the same time we were inspired by the openness of the team to shift and rethink roles and share new skills. This translated to an office where everyone can design, not just the trained designers.

TACSI is a safe haven for the staff to let loose their most radical imaginings and embraces failure as part of the process. This is something many organisations hold back on, putting time and money into keeping and updating old methods instead of risking something entirely different and new.  TACSI understands the value in quickly learning from what doesn’t work and undertaking many iterations of a radical proposal, testing each out, before landing upon the one that suits best. The team’s unabashed approach to trailing hunches alongside researched solutions leads to leads to long term rewards and greater innovation.


Efficiency and care are not the same

Great post by Mark Addleson on the problems with efficiency:

Put these problems down to the desire for greater efficiency, rather than better care.  Efficiency and care are not the same.  At best there is a weak correlation between numbers and care.  One is a technical consideration (How many patients do medical and administrative personnel see or talk to each day? How long do patients have to wait for an appointment?  How long does a doctor spend with a patient?) the other is a matter of human feelings, attitudes, emotions, relationships, including the capacity and desire to do good work.

Short of keeping a very close eye on what is going on between administrators and patients and doctors and patients, and asking patients about their experiences, there is no simple, and certainly no unambiguous way of assessing the quality of care that veterans receive.   Under the misguided assumption that a few numbers will convey to people ‘higher up,’ who are not involved in the work, whether the those doing the work of providing care are doing it efficiently, someone sets performance targets.  This puts the ‘machine’ bureaucracy into motion and initiates a bureaucratic response.  (Remember that bureaucracies, where employees follow rules and cannot use their initiative, are archetypes of efficiency.)  Employees tasked with providing the numbers (mostly clerks and administrators) are going to be judged not by the quality of the care they provide and not by their patients, but, based on data they receive, by their superiors who are also administrators.  Neither health nor care really feature in this process.

Sir Jonathan Ive on Design process in Apple

From his interview:

However, he remains in awe of the process. “If you step back and you think about it in a very objective way, it is a remarkable thing that as we sit here right now, there’s not an idea. It just does not exist.

“And you can have this barely formed thought and then suddenly something does actually exist. Then that thought that is so tentative and so fragile normally becomes a tentative discussion and you’re trying to bring body to the thought with words. Generally what happens is that’s a conversation between a couple of people and is exclusive.

“And then you start to draw to try to describe and develop this fragile idea. Then a remarkable thing happens at the time you make the first object, the time that you actually give form and dimension to the idea. In the whole process, that’s the one point where the transition is the most dramatic and suddenly you can involve multiple people. It brings focus and it can galvanise a group of people, which is enormously powerful.”


“Sometimes we’re very close to a problem and we’re investing incredible resources and time trying to resolve the smallest detail that is way beyond any sense of functional imperative… and we do it because we think it’s right.

“It’s the ‘finishing the back of the drawer’ – you can argue that people will never see it and it’s very hard to, in any rational sense, describe why it’s important but it just seems important. It’s a way that you demonstrate that you care for the people that you are making these products for. I think we see ourselves as having a civic responsibility to do that. It’s important. It’s right. It’s very hard to explain why.”


There is within Apple a strong belief in people focusing on their area of expertise, says Ive, but when a product is being developed the process can be quite fluid. He says: “As we’re sitting together to develop a product you would struggle to identify who the electrical engineer was, who’s the mechanical engineer, who’s the industrial designer.”

Teamwork is an important part of the process. “One of the things that is particularly precious about working at Apple is that many of us on the design team have worked together for 15-plus years and there’s a wonderful thing about learning as a group. A fundamental part of that is making mistakes together. There’s no learning without trying lots of ideas and failing lots of times.”


The last year has been one of significant change for Apple. A new chief executive, Tim Cook, took over just months before the death of Steve Jobs, the former chief executive and co-founder of the company. The absence of Jobs has led some analysts to predict an inevitable decline for the company.

As you would expect, Ive disagrees: “We’re developing products in exactly the same way that we were two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. It’s not that there are a few of us working in the same way: there is a large group of us working in the same way.”

That team is the reason that Ive believes Apple will continue to succeed. “We have become rather addicted to learning as a group of people and trying to solve very difficult problems as a team. And we get enormous satisfaction from doing that. Particularly when you’re sat on a plane and it appears that the majority of people are using something that you’ve collectively agonised over. It’s a wonderful reward.”

All models are wrong, some are useful

Going through the Complexity Thinking presentation by Jurgen Appelo I kind of had a small epiphany.

One of the challenges that I have had over the past years is to use the MBA and business thinking in the social sector. The language is different, the models cant be copied; they need to be “localized” and at the same time we need something to make sense of the complexity.

I started to see that some models are useful in some contexts. For example, Rumelt’s model of the strategy kernel as he described in Good Strategy/Bad Strategy is quite useful in a public sector or public policy setting whereas Roger Martin’s inter-related set of strategy questions are useful for the environment The Australian Center for Social Innovation (TACSI) finds itself.

It is the usefulness of the model to the context that is critical.


  • Have many models in your arsenal
  • Understand the context (situation, environment, people, language etc)
  • Match models to context
  • Make models useful
  • Get things done

Review of “How will you Measure your life?” – Introduction

Clayton Christensen is known more for his business books then as a life coach. He is a award winning author of many books on disruption, how to see it, how to overcome it and where next. He has continued that work with his team to use them in the social sector, including healthcare and education. And now, we find that having gone through many life threatening illness (cancer, heart attack and stroke) in three years he comes out strong and comes out with his new book, How will you Measure your life?. His co-authors are James Allworth, a consultant and Harvard MBA, and Karen Dillon, former editor of the Harvard Business Review.

I am going to do two things. One, summarize and review the book in this blog and two, connect the learning to my life and to the other part of what this blog is dedicated to – the social sector. How can business tools be used in the social sector?

The book is an extension of his work with this Harvard MBA Class where he prompts them to use the theories they have learned about in business to their life. And this consists of three questions.

  1. Finding happiness in your career?
  2. Finding happiness in your relationships?
  3. Staying out of Jail.

What can business theories do for our life? Does it even make sense to think like that? Christensen wrote a much sought after HBR article which is the basis of this book. If you have read that, you know that this makes sense.

He starts the book with a Prologue on the difference between “what to think?” and “how to think?”. This book is about “how to think?” and using that knowledge in your own life.

He goes on to explain the power of a theory. He explains the theory of flying and how we originally confused the idea of flying with having feathers and only after we understood the theories of “lift” and “gravity” etc we had human flight. The main takeaway – understanding the difference between causation and correlation.

Some takeaways.

For myself

The biggest takeaway for me is that we need a very well thought through and grounded theory for our life. I do not have a theory or set of theories for my life. Yes, I do believe in some things, I have principles, I like somethings and dislike others. But do I have theories that guide my life? No. If they are, they are very loosely set in my mind and they do not guide my thinking always.

If I can take one big learning out of this, it is that I need to start explicitly putting together the principles and theories that make sense for me. Theories that are put to test and work. Principles that I want to stand by. And these will have a effect on my family, my relationships and especially, my daughter.

Social Sector

Drucker talked about “Theory of the Business” and that article in HBR stands as one of the most critical pieces of thinking that any organisational leader need to understand. What is the theory that drives your business? I have seen many leaders in the government and not for profits who have two issues 1) they do not know the theory or 2) they have an outdated theory of the business and it does not work now.

Ofcourse, working with human beings mean that “theory of change” is not that easy however, we need to think through and understand what is our theory of the business.

Facebook’s business model – Chris Dixon

The key question when trying to value Facebook’s stock is: can they find another business model that generates significantly more revenue per user without hurting the user experience? (And can they do that in an increasingly mobile world where display ads have been even less effective.) Perhaps that business model is sponsored feed entries, as Facebook seems to be hoping (along with Twitter and perhaps Tumblr). The jury is still out on that model. Personally, I have trouble seeing how insertions into the feeds aren’t just more prominent display ads. You still have to stoke demand and convert people from non-purchasing to purchasing intents. A more likely outcome is that Facebook uses their assets – a vast number of extremely engaged users, it’s social graph, Facebook Connect – to monetize through another business model. If they do that, the company is probably worth a lot more than the expected $100B IPO valuation. If they don’t, it’s probably worth a lot less.

via Facebook’s business model – Chris Dixon.

I don’t think facebook is worth $100B.