Weekly musings, wk4: Feb 8–12

This week : Asking for feedback, research analysis, serendipity, how to be lucky, resilience, shoplifting, gritter trucks and failing

Frosty hedgerow with houses in the distance
It has been freezing in Bristol this week

Archive : Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

What have I been doing this week?

Analysing research

I’ve been really enjoying working with Julie to analyse the findings from our research looking to evaluate the service that provides physical health checks for people with a diagnosis of severe mental illness.

I’ve found solo analysis of research insights very isolating and inefficient during COVID so we’ve been combing through our notes together via a slack or phone call and recording quotes, insights, patterns etc in Miro as we go.

Once grouped it’s starting to go into a long form report which will hopefully paint a clear picture of the reality of life with a sever mental illness and how that relates to their experience of the service we are evaluating.

Asking for feedback

Prompted by our weekly stand up to ask for feedback I knocked up a quick survey in Google forms and asked various colleagues and clients on what I should stop, start and continue to do.

I think the secret to good businesses is continual improvement so it stands to reasons that we should also be trying to continually improve too.

It’s always feels a bit risky and exposing but is a great way to learn about the stuff you do that causes problems elsewhere that often goes unspoken.

It’s also nice to get good feedback of course and it’s always good to learn what people particularly value in what you bring to projects (as often you might not realise what your super powers are!).

Creating a continuous improvement ‘to do’ list for FRANK

I helped to run a planning workshop to determine the work we’re going to do to help to continually improve the FRANK drug information service.

It was a real highlight of the week and I feel we made huge progress in a really short and enjoyable session.

The format of the workshop was super simple and felt like it worked well(so steal it and improve it).

  • Pull together recommendations from research and other sources that identify elements of the service that need to be improved
  • Add any other issues that the team know about
  • Make sure everyone understands them
  • Discuss each and put each in a ‘do now’, ‘do next’ or ‘do later’ bucket (in Miro)
  • Write up and share as a simple to do list google doc (so deliberately not in some fancy roadmap/ Gantt chart format)

Teaching people how to see the world through the eyes of their customers

The lecture I gave last week aimed at helping startups to learn more about how desirable their business ideas were for potential customers is now available on YouTube (thanks to James Branch at Falmouth Uni for sharing it publically).

In it I cover how to adopt the right mindset when conducting research, key research principles to follow, how to find people, what to show them and what to ask them to help you to learn whether your business idea might solve their problems and meet their needs.

I’m always up for sharing my knowledge and experiences so if you’d like me to speak at an event then do get in touch.

I realised afterwards that I had been presenting to the faces I could see on the Teams call and not to the camera on my MacBook.

Schoolboy error!

I was kicking myself because I’ve already worked out how to fix this problem thanks to my daughter but had completely forgotten about it!


My best fail of the week was when I mentioned in a email to a client that I was planning on setting up a Shopify site. Unfortunately my autocorrect changed ‘Shopify’ to ‘shoplift’ and I received a fairly swift (and confused) reply asking what a ‘shoplift shop’ was?!

Amusingly/ awkwardly this was just after I had asked for some professional feedback.


What has inspired me this week?

Serendipitous discovery & how to be lucky

Our current lockdown enforced home working situation drastically reduces opportunities for serendipitous discovery. Those chance conversations in the kitchen at work that lead to breakthroughs on projects, the random encounters with old mates and seeing and hearing things when you are out and about that make your day.

I’ve noticed you can still encourage this can still happen when working remotely but to do it you’ve got to get involved with stuff and proactively put yourself out there to maximise your chances of benefitting from serendipity.

It reminds me of this wonderful episode of ‘The Life Scientific’ podcast with the brilliant psychologist Richard Wiseman who talks amongst about the psychology of luck.

He talks about how being lucky has a lot to do with the way you think, behave and how you see the world in general.

People who saw themselves as being unlucky typically have the same experiences as ‘lucky’ people, but don’t notice and act upon the opportunities that present themselves to them, often because they go unnoticed.

There’s a lesson here about the stories we tell ourselves “I’m an unlucky person” and how they become self fulfilling prophesies.

I’m reminded of this quote which I often think about;

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

Henry Ford

We can make a huge impact by changing the stories we tell ourselves. Lucky people are typically open to opportunities and make the most of them, are optimistic, resilient and trust their intuition.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to do this more and see what happens!

Serendipidy in design

On the topic of serendipity I was fascinated to read the story behind the design of the table saw that has a unique safety feature designed to reduce common hand injuries. (HT @Fabien_UX)

The inventor, Dr. Steven Gass, talks about how the idea came to him

“I was out in my shop one day, and I looked over at my table saw, and the idea kind of came to me. I wondered if one could stop the blade fast enough if you ran your hand into it to prevent serious injury. I didn’t really have a compelling reason why that question came up — it just happened. Serendipity!”

It’s a great example of how products are born from people with enquiring minds who notice problems in the world and ask themselves the simple question “I wonder if?”….

Creating a ‘user manual’ of me

My colleague Claire Barrett has been doing some excellent work developing tools to help people to work remotely more effectively.

Her ‘user manual of me’ approach provides an excellent and simple way of communicating to your team how you like to work so helps people to do their best work while protecting their mental health.


Work and life are tough at the moment and I’m hearing a lot of chat about the importance of resilience. This short video from ‘BBC ideas’ to boost resilience really helped me to reframe what’s going on and to keep on trucking.

How to learn

I stumbled across this brilliant quote recently that I think is so true, particularly given the amount I’m learning myself from writing these weekly summaries.

The teacher learns more than the student. The author learns more than the reader. The speaker learns more than the attendee. The way to learn is by doing.

Excellent communicators

I’ve been an fan of Rory Sutherland after seeing him speak at an event at Channel 4 years ago. I love his communication style.

He’s a true raconteur, character and a brilliant writer.

Check out some of his recent Spectator articles for a masterclass in writing and his TED talk to see him in action.

What fun stuff have I been up to?

Sweet Child O’Brine

I particularly enjoyed the punnery involved with the naming of these Scottish gritter trucks .

Lockdown sanity

Project nested plywood coffee tables is coming together. It’s amazing what you end up learning from the unknowable problems you need to overcome on these projects.

Prototype foam board design for a set of nested coffee tables and the final design made in plywood
Prototype foam board design for a set of nested coffee tables and the final design made in plywood
How it started, how it’s going…

My mind is now drifting to the next project. Garden table? Desk?

For those of you who are similarly inclined check out this workshop of dreams.

I will have one of these one day!

I’m looking forward to spending a large part of tomorrow chewing the fat with an old mate while walking along the Avon towards Bath.

Good weekends all!

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Experience Director @cxpartners | UX | Product | Photography