Thursday, May 31, 2007

What could we do differently?

Here’s a quote I like from Peter Senge:

“Effective leaders know that it is tempting to say this is how we did it over there and it worked. So we should follow the same rules here. But ‘here’ and ‘there’ are never identical and even small changes can alter the outcome of so-called ‘tried and tested’ formulas. If you have ever worked for a manager who knows exactly how things should be done, you know what I mean. He or she is trapped in a futile struggle to make today’s reality fit yesterday’s answers, and everyone suffers as a consequence.”

So how to avoid being trapped into applying yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems?

One way that works for me is to sit down with myself every two months or so and reflect on what I’m doing and how I'm doing it. I always ask myself the question what could I do differently?

Mission statements

In a previous life I worked on a team tasked with defining a new mission statement for the company. Thankfully my work on this has long been consigned to the corporate shredder and is now hopefully enjoying a new life as several boxes of Starbucks cups.

Meanwhile, I reflect on why there are not more user-centred mission statements out there? For instance when did you last read one that started with users or customers?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Coffee Table to Change the World

I think that one of the major barriers to making significant progress in healthcare informatics is the human-computer interface. Healthcare professionals often do not have the time to even learn new interfaces let alone become comfortable enough to embed them in their workflow.

So when I saw Microsoft Surface I immediately began to think of healthcare applications....

Imagine a Doctor and a patient sitting at the table. The Doctor pulls a "book" down from the "shelf" on the display. She thumbs through it, finds the page she wants, turns it around for the patient to look at. The patient puts their PDA on the table and the information transfers to their device for offline reading.

Or suppose a team of radiologists is studying a case. They pull images
of a patient up, enlarge and reduce them, change the contrast. Then they drag in reference images from books to compare them against and to help the team make a diagnosis.

If that sounds far fetched take a look at this video from Popular Mechanics

E-Paper coming soon

John Blossom has a terrific blog that also includes selected content-related headlines. I spotted this nugget on paper thin E Ink displays a while back

I first saw this E Ink technology at the end of the last century and thought it had a “wow” factor even back then. If I recall correctly the first use was for electronic signage since the displays only required power to change the display. Once the E Ink pixels are set on the page, they stay readable without need for power.

I've been looking forward to electronic paper though. Just think: a single E Ink page attached to a “spine” that contains the book files. At the touch of a button on the spine the old page goes and is replaced by the new page. When you’re finished reading you simply roll up the display around the spine and put it in your pocket.

The first eBook readers using E Ink (from Sony and iRex) aren’t flexible at all. I gather that manufacturing the flexible polymer displays is tricky but the good news is that someone is working on it.

L.G. Philips LCD have just announced that they have developed the world’s first 14.1-inch flexible color E-paper display on metal foil. Samsung and Primeview International recently showed a plastic version.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My favourite joke of all time

What does an occasional table do when it’s not being a table?

This was written by Barry Cryer who must surely be one of the most unsung heroes of comedy.

Don't ask me why I like this joke so much; maybe it's the same reason I find Steven Wright's daily Twittering amusing


I grew up in England in a house full of books. For as long as I can remember I have known the poems and stories of A.A. Milne. As a child my favourite poem was one called JonathanJo, who has a mouth like an ‘O’ and a Wheelbarrow Full Of Surprises. Well this is my wheelbarrow and my hope is that you’ll find something you’re looking for here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Systemic Change

By nature I am a restless person, never really satisfied somehow. I'm sure I drive people crazy at work - when asking the question "how can we do it differently" there's an implicit criticism that somehow the way we do things now isn't good enough. And I have noticed that as a rule people don't like criticism.

That’s why I love this Hugh McLeod cartoon

I didn’t really have a name for my permanent state of dissatisfaction until I met Steve Harrison years ago. He calls it systemic change – change in the whole system, change that sticks. His simple but effective starting point is “why do we accept the concept of high performance teams in sport, yet in business we are all too often happy with good enough?”. So he reasons what can we learn from coaching in sport?

Coaching high-performance teams means recognising and celebrating how far a team has come, then moving on to help them do even better. It’s about being never-satisfied with current performance. The day you’re satisfied is the day you retire. Or as Hugh puts it in his own inimitable way "If you can't re-invent yourself, you might as well be dead".

BTW Steve has some fantastic exercises for showing how this works – but I’m afraid you’ll have to hire him to experience them!

Do you care who gets the credit?

At a recent company meeting our Chairman quoted Harry S. Truman: "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." It really stuck in my mind.

It is amazing that I've lived almost 45 years and never heard this quote before. Mind you I guess it's not so common in business. I mean it's the kind of thing people say and no doubt aspire to, they probably even buy inspirational posters of this quote and hang it in their offices; but I wonder how many corporate environments are really conducive to this kind of behaviour? And I wonder how one would go about creating a corporate culture that encourages selfless leadership?

Maybe a better question is what does a company with such leaders look like?

Happy Towel Day!

I think Towel Day is the right day for me to start this blog.
What on earth (sic) I am talking about?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy teaches us that a towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. I was at school in England when the radio series that launched the whole thing was broadcast. I loved it. Of course I loved it, its creator Douglas Adams went to my school. Sadly Douglas died in 2001. Towel Day (May 25th) is a galaxy-wide tribute to the great man.

Still wondering what I'm on about? Go here:

Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)