Strategist, Speaker, Designer, Instigator

Introducing Superventions

Over the past several years, I’ve been engaged with the startup community on a bunch of levels – mentor, interim C suite, sounding board, product/experience/design consultant. At the same time I’ve been honing and documenting the Superhuman toolkit, which contains frameworks for addressing a range of issues that most (if not all) businesses face at some point. And since I see a lot of startups in need of these kinds of tools, I’ve been doing a good bit of thinking about how to get this stuff out into the world and make it more accessible to those who need it.

At first I thought the answer would be a how-to book around the toolkit, but as I’ve begun to work through the actual writing, I’m no longer convinced it’s enough. The tools are simple and the outcomes straightforward and clear, but getting from the blank framework to the usable outcome doesn’t just take time. The process needs to be approached with a different frame of mind, and that usually needs some hands-on guidance. So I’ve been experimenting with ways to streamline the consulting process to make it more affordable for business owners with smaller budgets. The outcome is Superventions.

Superventions are packaged mini-engagements designed specifically for startups. They contain, in the words of one client, “everything you need to frame a business” and you can get results in as little as a week.

The trick to making this offer affordable has been sharing the workload with clients, which also has another benefit – by collaborating, clients learn the process on a deeper level than if I simply went away, did the work and presented the final outcomes. It helps ensure we’re all on the same page and everyone’s thoughts and ideas are included, because we’ve both put our input and expertise into the process.

So have a look at the Superventions (there’s also a downloadable PDF here) and tell me what you think – does this resonate with you? What would you change?

Looking forward to working with you!

[NB: the tools and process used in these engagements also scale for our work with larger corporations]

Messy relationships [living with AI]

Artificial Intelligence is all over the news these days, and now even the Big Boys are talking about how important it is to consider the social impact. Obviously I agree, but I think there’s still a big fat chunk of that impact that nobody’s really considering yet. Back in April, I helped facilitate a couple… Continue Reading

Sharing, shmaring [part 2/2]

In my last post, I went on about how the ’sharing economy’ is a misnomer that distracts from what’s really going on. This time, I’m going to talk about the impact that distraction can have. Businesses that enable peer-to-peer commerce can have a huge positive impact, as I wrote last time. They enable people to… Continue Reading

Sharing, shmaring [part 1/2]

Happy New Year, people. I’ve got a backlog of partially-written pieces from 2015 that I plan to foist upon you in the coming months, on a somewhat more realistic schedule than the long-abandoned ‘100 posts in 100 days’. They’re likely to be mostly long reads, so settle in and make yourself comfortable. —— I’m generally… Continue Reading

Little mysteries [post 47/100]

This morning I updated my iPhone to the latest version of iOS. About an hour later, I left for the airport. My phone was in my jacket pocket, as usual. My headphones were in and I was listening to music on Spotify, as usual. Only this time everything got a bit weird. First, the music… Continue Reading

Conversing with ghosts [post 45/100]

Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned sometimes. A friend who’s got teenage daughters tells me that these days it’s considered ok (by some) to carry on a conversation while fiddling with one’s mobile. This still is definitely not ok in my circles, and no matter how much I apologise I always feel terrible when something comes… Continue Reading

Bring on the noise [post 44/100]

How many questions a day is the average human prepared to answer? When I was in school, days when we were asked loads of questions were scary – they were exam days, or worse, pop quiz days. Most questions were asked person to person, and were related to events that were shared between those people… Continue Reading

FOR SALE: Me. Good condition. Convenience ONO. [post 42/100]

[This article was written for Prophecy and is cross-posted here with permission.] We are addicted to technology. Literally. Cognitive scientists have found the same kind of dopamine response in smartphone users checking Facebook as in gamblers pulling the handle on a slot machine, or junkies getting high. And we know it. We now have resorts… Continue Reading

Statistics: the why behind the what [post 41/100]

It’s all about the numbers, right? This is how we are supposed to make decisions or justify them, how we evaluate our success, how we understand the world around us. Everywhere you look these days, there’s sexy new infographics showing, e.g., which percentage of us are jealous of our parents’ lifestyles, or prefer 70s retro… Continue Reading

You can’t always get what you want [post 39/100]

Since I’m at MIPTV this week, I’ve got media on my mind. Thus, the next couple of posts are going to be focussed on the television world… I’m pretty sure most of the people reading this watch movies or TV series online, right? You’ve probably got Amazon/LoveFilm/Netflix/something else and you stream the content. They’re really… Continue Reading

The Internet of No [post 37/100]

I enjoyed Nick Sweeney’s post from last month about motion and rest and how much of the technology we’ve been inventing recently, including the Apple Watch, is focussed on keeping us in perpetual motion. He muses about its technological antithesis, the ‘Internet of Rest.’ While I concur with his point – a life of perpetual… Continue Reading

Grandma’s internet refrigerator [post 36/100]

Since it’s International IoT Day today, I thought I’d write something about… IoT. The other day, Alex Deschamps-Sonsino tweeted something that’s been tugging at the corner of my mind since I read it: As usual, I agree wholeheartedly (with all 5 of her points), but this one resonates for a reason that might or might… Continue Reading

Unauthorised Agents, continued [post 30/100]

Yesterday I posted about a pretty awful experience that I, and everyone in my address book, have just experienced at the hands of RareBridge. As I wrote at the end of that post, I emailed the CEO, Simon Gregory, to let him know what I thought of his activity. Later last night, I received a… Continue Reading

Unauthorised agents [post 29/100]

Toward the end of 2014, I received an email informing me that a friend and former colleague had joined a new professional networking site called RareBridge. When I clicked through, I found no information was available without sign-up. In a fit of uncharacteristic naiveté, I created an account. The next step was headlined, “Search for… Continue Reading

Uber: another side to the story (part 2) [post 24/100]

Yesterday I started a post about what lies under the usual Uber arguments. Today it continues… 4. Uber shows you (the gaps in) the local market In London, UberEx is almost always a better experience than the local minicab company. Having spoken to loads of Uber drivers, I now know that the best of them… Continue Reading

Uber: another side to the story (part 1) [post 23/100]

I can’t seem to get away from Uber lately – if it’s not another article on its disruptive genius or its double-digit-billions valuation, it’s another article about its equally disruptive misogyny. While both of these are valid discussions, I think there’s more to the picture than I see in a lot of the stories about… Continue Reading

Chicken Little goes to SXSW* [post 21/100]

Have you heard about the anti-robot protest at SXSW? I read about it this morning and it just made me sad. On the one hand, it’s great that people care about how technology is evolving; on the other hand it’s sad that the thinking is still so simplistic and binary. Down the centuries, every new… Continue Reading

Beacon blues [post 18/100]

I’ve been reading an increasing number of articles lately about how the Internet of Things is going to transform the retail industry. the specific thing that gets mentioned most often is in-store beacons that can broadcast offers and purchase suggestions to shoppers’ smartphones. And every single time I read one of these articles, I get… Continue Reading

You talkin’ to me? [post 15/100]

Last week I made mention of poor recommendations by way of suggesting that we should maybe stop trying to draw conclusions about everything all the time. This time I want to point out another facet of the problem. I’ve written before about Big Data and the general meaninglessness of that term. Still one of my… Continue Reading

Aspiration: Master or Mimbo? [post 14/100]

Yes, I know, I missed posting yesterday. I’ll make it up to you over the weekend. Anyway, I’ve been continuing to have conversations with people in the creative and technology industries about avoiding techno-dystopia. And as I was discussing this with a friend who doesn’t work in that domain (yes, I have them, shut up),… Continue Reading

Re-revolution [post 11/100]

Last autumn, some very nice folks from Freunde von Freunden got in touch and invited me to be a part of the Deutsche Bank Stories series. They sent round a very professional and also very fun crew, and despite the fact that I was getting over a bad flu and therefore both sounded and rather… Continue Reading

La la la la la can’t hear you! (or, when personalisation really sucks) [post 9/100]

There’s a bit of synchronicity of ideas going on today. A friend and co-conspirator in Superhuman is working on an interaction model that’s heavily driven by personalisation. And this morning, I was linked (thanks, Tom!) to an article about where the Nest experience went terribly wrong for Kara Pernice, one of its (former) users. These… Continue Reading

Master and servant [post 6/100]

Who’s the boss in our relationships with our technology? Over the weekend I had lunch with a friend, who told me about a client meeting he’d had last week. The client was wearing some sort of connected watch, which kept beeping and flashing alerts at him throughout the meeting, which he kept glancing at and… Continue Reading

Skulduggery: a new frontier [post 5/100]

Next month at MEX, I’ll be doing a talk and some workshopping on designing for the IoT. I’ve been considering ways to get people thinking a bit differently, and one of them is to think about the darker side of connected objects, homes, cars and so forth. And because everyone loves a good heist/thriller/game of… Continue Reading

The root of all evil? [post 3/100]

Reading Tom Armitage’s excellent piece about capitalism and the IoT (go read it, I’ll wait) made me simultaneously happy (it’s not just me!) and sad (oh god, this looks grim). But I still say it doesn’t have to be like that. And I don’t actually agree that capitalism is the problem here, exactly. I do,… Continue Reading

Foucault’s Robot [the digital creep factor, continued][post 2/100]

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past year is why certain interactions with algorithms feel so creepy – not the annoying stuff, like the “you’ve-just-bought-this-thing-so-why-don’t-you-buy-another-one” advertising algos that are all the rage at the moment, but the things that really freak people out. Example (true story): a few years… Continue Reading

Arbitrary targets, arbitrary decisions [GIGO is alive and well]

Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times about goal-oriented behaviour and its pros and cons in marathon running and personal finance. It’s a good piece. But this line, toward the end, really grabbed me: “Goals can be useful when they motivate us to perform better, but they’re harmful when focusing on arbitrary targets leads to… Continue Reading

Singularity, Schmingularity

There are those who insist that by 2045 we will have  achieved the Singularity: Artificial Intelligence will have surpassed our own. This may be the case, but then again it may not be. In the 1960s there were those who thought they could crack AI in one summer. What’s interesting about the AI debate is…… Continue Reading

Your life as a cyborg superhero

A few weeks I did a workshop with this title at Frontiers of Interaction. This was not about dressing up as Seven of Nine or the Terminator; this was about getting people thinking differently about technology, design, the things we all make. I’m as enamoured with shiny new toys as the next person (probably more so… Continue Reading

Indispensably Useless (the value of art)

In September, I spoke at Retune13, at the behest of the lovely Ms. Marguerite Joly. My talk was on a topic I don’t touch on all that often but which is hugely meaningful to me: art. Specifically, my brief was to talk about the value of art, to try to address the question of what… Continue Reading

Enforced Thievery (the zero-sum copyright game)

I have been known to rant about the utter insanity of copyright enforcement/anti-piracy action, but it’s been a while. The past few days have riled me right back up. Between Aaron Swartz’s suicide, the ridiculous new ‘6 strikes’ legislation about to go into effect in the US, and the fact that virtually every music video… Continue Reading

Signal emerging

It’s amazing what a few days of near-offline-ness can do. Since the 21st of December, I’ve ignored Twitter entirely, spent very little time on other social networks (maybe 60 minutes in 2 weeks), and engaged in only the bare minimum of emailing. I’ve also thought and conversed very little about matters digital, giving preference instead… Continue Reading

All change, please

The end of an era After 4+ years of working, playing and generally wallowing in the digital world with some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, my time at Fjord has come to an end. I’m proud of all I was able to be a part of – countless client engagements, launching the… Continue Reading

People are people (and data is data)

[Update: NB: this post only addresses one side of big data – the more commercial one – and doesn’t touch on the enormous wealth of other applications of huge data sets (environmental, medical, etc.). I’ll try to cover those in another post soon.] There’s been an enormous amount of talk across the whole of the… Continue Reading

The myth of productivity

Pretty much as long as there have been ways for people to interact online, there have been articles written about how that kind of thing is killing productivity. Email and MUD/ MUSHes were killing productivity when I was at University, then Email and the Web and IMing were killing it at work in the 90s.… Continue Reading

What price success? (a note on corporate ethics)

Last week I spoke at FOM12, and the closing question was a proper BOOM. The questioner asked whether I think it’s inherently wrong for businesses to use personal data to target products, ads and content. I found myself saying, “It comes down to ethics.” It felt a little weird to say that, although I was… Continue Reading

The heart of the system

I spend a fair amount of time at events and in meetings where people talk about innovation – theirs and others – and try to uncover new ideas for business and technology. One of the questions that’s asked rather a lot is, “Where do the best ideas come from?” There’s a preconceived notion, it seems,… Continue Reading

Blinded by the light

This is the less selfish post that accompanies my previous one… and in many ways, the more important of the two. As I mentioned, I spoke at both Picnic and MEX last week. As a result, I came home with a head jam-packed full of awesome, and am only just now able to start sifting… Continue Reading

Me and my (data) shadow

I’ve been on a bit of a speaking tour the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been growing more vested in and impassioned by my current topic every time I talk about it. What I’ve been talking about is how we can become more human, better at being human, using all the richness of data… Continue Reading

Creativity vs. Design (a Q&A)

Every now and again, a student comes to Fjord asking for input for their dissertation. Sometimes, I’m the one they end up talking to. Today, I had an e-chat with a lovely young lady who’s doing her dissertation at Goldsmith’s. She had some questions that made me think, so I thought I’d share an excerpt… Continue Reading

Physician, heal thyself! (on redesigning a design agency)

[NB: This was originally written for the Fjord blog, and is cross-posted here by permission] As most people who’ve worked in an agency environment well know, there’s not a lot of existential reflection in what we do – we spend so much of our time working with our clients that there’s little time left for… Continue Reading

Say what? (Musings on modern-day communication)

When I was growing up, there were only 3 modes of communication in common use: face to face, synchronous (phone), and asynchronous (snail mail). Email started to pick up around the time I started university, and over the next decade mostly replaced snail mail. Now, there’s a huge variety of ways to communicate, and each of… Continue Reading