Discipline makes Daring possible.

A bit of R and R – and R

A bit of R and R – and R

2020 has been a year that has forced us all to adapt, sometimes painfully.

These books are already helping me to head into next year ready, willing and able to adapt consciously and on purpose:

  • To work a level or two up from recipes and procedures, but still with intention and process.
  • To create space to make and take offers with generosity and gratitude.
  • To respond with ‘Yes and…’ instead of ‘Yes but…’
  • To play with change instead of resisting it.
  • To act before I know everything.

I think you might like them too.

Happy Christmas, and here’s to an interesting 2021!

I’ll be back on the 4th of January.

Thank you for being there. How can I be more there for you next year?

Order without control

Order without control

“Improvisation is what life does.  Nothing living, from a bacterium to a blue whale, has a script for their life.  This includes you.  Somehow or other every living being copes with untold complexity without a plan, and always has.” Robert Poynton ‘DO/IMPROVISE’

‘The counter argument to that’, my husband replies, ‘is that these are the result of millions of generations of evolution and dead-ends.   You and I don’t have that much time, which is why we plan and design’.

I agree, and to be fair, Poynton isn’t recommending that we improvise our way through life and business (although it would be interesting to explore how far we could go with that, like lilies of the field). And living things aren’t improvising randomly.   That ‘somehow or other’ is underpinned by a set of simple rules for responding to things you can’t control.  The driver is a process that leads to a single outcome, reproduction.   The result is ‘order without control’, a self-organising system for delivering an outcome.

But without the capacity to improvise, all you have is a machine.  Inflexible, slow to change and ultimately fragile.

You don’t need to build a business as a machine, with every thing designed precisely down to the nth degree.  Get the driver right, then let improvisation keep it relevant.   Create a process for delivering the right customer experience, driven by your unique Promise of Value.  Use the process as a framework for action, that empowers your people to see the offer in the unexpected or exceptional and act accordingly.

The discipline that makes daring possible leads to order without control and a business that truly lives.

Forever if you want it to.

Actually, it’s not quite as simple as that

Actually, it’s not quite as simple as that

Of course life isn’t really an improv show.

In business and sometimes in life we have an idea of where we want to go, where we want to end up.   What ‘Everything’s An Offer’ really means is that you should take things that happen outside your control (Covid-19, Brexit, losing a client or prospect, that unexpected pregnancy) as a potential gift, rather than a threat or a thwart.

You probably already do this on holiday, when you’re playing.  A few years ago my husband and I were in Graz, having a few days off.   We were headed to a particular part of town to see something, but we decided to wander ‘in the general direction’ and see what we found.

We smelt the offer first – a lovely, fruity, alcoholic whiff from what what looked like a garage at the bottom of a block of flats.  Then we saw the stills it was coming from.   We stopped and looked into the door of the ‘garage’ to see if we could make sense of it; spoke to the guy loading up a van.   He pointed us across the road to the distillery shop.   Hazelnut schnapps (among several delicious flavours).  An offer we couldn’t refuse.   We bought a bottle, then carried on wandering towards our destination.

Nassim Taleb calls this being a ‘flâneur‘, someone who walks, not aimlessly, but open to deviation that has no downside and might lead to an upside.  Its a crucial element of being antifragile.

You don’t have to to take up an offer, unless it helps you get to where you want to be, or to somewhere more interesting that you hadn’t foreseen, but it helps to tell yourself “Here’s an offer.  Could it help or hinder?” before you decide.  The answer isn’t always obvious.

Everything’s an offer

Everything’s an offer

Yesterday I started reading ‘DO/IMPROVISE’ by Robert Poynton.   It starts with another of those lovely diagrams that you only have to see to be changed by:


It’s the bit in the middle that’s powerful.  ‘EAO’ stands for ‘Everything’s An Offer’.

An improv term, an ‘offer’ is what a fellow actor or audience member gives you to build on as you improvise a scene or story together.   It doesn’t matter what it is, or how random it is, your job is to take it and use it to build your next offer, so that everyone can keep the scene going to a satisfactory conclusion for all.  None of you know what that conclusion is until you find it.

The only part of the process you control is your own ability to spot offers, see their potential and react in a way that increases that potential for someone else.

After what 2020’s thrown at us, that might just be the attitude to cultivate for 2021.


Taken as read

Taken as read

Clearing out my inbox today, I found an email I’d missed from Dale Carnegie with this headline:

“Research reveals importance of honest leaders to UK workforce  – Read the full report!”

What else needs to be asked that we used to take as read?

She changes

She changes

“Good Services” principle number 13: “A good service should respond to change quickly”

The key here is ‘respond to’.   This is about reflecting relevant changes in the user and understanding the implications of those changes for the user.

A simple example: I’ve just had a call from my insurance broker.  They wanted to speak to my husband about renewing his car insurance.   He was insured with them, until he got rid of the car a couple of years ago.   Somewhere that change has not been propagated through the system.   Of course that doesn’t mean that they should never call him – he may have bought a new car since – but it would be a different, more appropriate call, that doesn’t start with “We see your renewal is coming up…”.

Automatic propagation isn’t always appropriate of course, so the best option might be to let the user notify a change then let them also specify where it should propagate to, perhaps with the least contentious options pre-checked to make the ‘usual route’ easier.

This could have an interesting side-effect of making people more conscious of where their data is held and for what purposes, putting them even more in control.

Giving back control – there’s a thought.

Them and Us

Them and Us

Here’s a scary set of statistics from “Good Services” :

A 2014 study found that up to 60% of the cost of UK government services arose from calls and casework.   Not that surprising perhaps, until you delve deeper and find that of those calls, 43% were chasing the status of a case, 52% were ‘how-to’ questions, 5% were complaints, and only 2% were to do with complex cases that needed human intervention.

In other words, at least 95% of all calls received were unnecessary – should have been unnecessary, either for the caller to make or the responder to handle

That’s a lot of wasted effort, that could have been better spent designing systems that helped people get what they needed.

Designing and implementing good services is not rocket science or cutting-edge, or even particularly expensive.    All it takes is empathy and care.

Putting yourself on the side of ‘them’ instead of ‘us’.



Every year my insurance broker calls me up to remind me that I need to renew.   This is good.   I … Read More “Prompts”

Coming unstuck

Coming unstuck

Our new extension has been the cat’s favourite place to be for several weeks now.  She’s refused to move for any reason – hoovering, sanding, cutting and painting leave her cold.  She’s loved tucking herself in between bags of plaster, or atop bumpy piles of tools, or inside empty boxes.

So far, she’s stayed safe.  Over the last week we have cut and laid over 20 square metres of flooring.  She did pretty well at keeping out of the glue we spread down – until the last 1/2 metre.

It was at this point I was grateful to the chemists that designed the glue.  I grabbed her and simply wiped her gluey paws with a wet J-cloth.   Job done, minimal fuss, no repercussions.

It’s a reminder that when you design a product or a service, you have to assume that one day, someone or some thing, who doesn’t know what you know, with no clue about what it is, or what it does, is going to encounter it.   And in that case ‘do no harm’ has to be your watchword.

What would happen if a cat metaphorically traipsed through your nicely laid glue?

Do you even know?