Author Archives: Wittering

Blood knows no borders

An open letter to Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard,

I’m an Australian who, like so many other people around the world, lived in the UK for more than six months between 1980 and 1996 and now cannot donate blood. The effect of bovine spongiform lives on.

I would love to be able to share my blood as would every ex-pat I’ve spoken to.
Current figures indicate a 23% drop in blood donation in the UK.

I am hoping that it would be feasible for Virgin Atlantic to set aside some space on each flight to transport our blood back to the UK and the people who need it.

Thank you for reading.

Blood knows no borders

Blood knows no borders

A client’s a people

On the thirteenth of June I was sitting alone
Just sitting, not working, I was watching my phone
Waiting, and dreading, the direst of things
For I knew what it meant when the telephone rings
I’d heard of a beast much more dreadful than most
Who comes in the day (just after the post)
A Client they’d called it, and you know what is more?
A Client would find me, alone on the floor
No-one there with me to answer the phone
Poor little me, just here on my own
I tried to avoid it, I was tempted to leave
To run off to China, but my parents would grieve
So I sat there alone, looking down at my phone
Awaiting the moment I would let out a moan
I was worried, it’s true. I was out of my head
Awaiting the Client who filled me with dread
I was chewing my fingers, right down to the bone
Looking, no, staring, at my desk, at the phone
I bit down too hard, bit my nail to the quick
I looked at the blood and it made me feel sick
And it happened, the phone I’d been watching all day
It started to ring, and I just have to say
That I didn’t think, ‘cause my fingers were sore
I picked up that telephone, and what is more
I started to speak, and I said “Holy Cow!
Don’t you know that I’m busy? Really, what now?”
It wasn’t the finest of starts I admit
But it did make that nasty old Client laugh a bit
And they said with a giggle “why, is this a bad
Time to be ringing, would you rather I had
Waited until you’d called me instead?”
I sat there a while, thoughts filling my head
Would I be fired? Would anyone know
If I put the phone down, slunk away, really slow?
“Client, is that you?” I said, full of fear
Desperately thinking of covering my rear
“Yes, it is me, are you sure you’re ok?
Didn’t mean to disturb you.” And I have to say
That nasty old Client actually sounded concerned
And one of the few things in life that I’ve learned
Is it’s hard to be scared when someone really cares
Or when someone you know comes right out and shares
A thought or a feeling to which you relate
And right then I realised; I’m glad not too late
The simplest of things which stopped all my bother
A Client’s a People, they must have a mother!
And if that’s the case, then surely they must
Have a Father as well and surely, well just
They might even have to have gone off to schools
And lived all their lives under somebody’s rules
Perhaps they were only a People like me?
There was one way to check, to test it and see
I said to that Client, “I’m sorry I just
Bit my finger too hard and I think that I must
Admit I’m a fool, that I did something wrong.”
Said the Client, “No worries, I knew all along
Something wasn’t right. I bite my fingers too
Same as lots of fine People I know tend to do”
And there, there it was, the Client’s a People
I needn’t be scared, I needn’t be fearful
I could just be myself, I could be who I am
That was easy enough, no more living a sham
I could share what intrigued me
What excited and pleased me
My worries all gone I asked how they were doing
How their business was faring with all of this hooing
About the economy, worries and woes
Will it grow or stagnate? Seems nobody knows
We talked most an hour, well mostly I listened
’til not one single bead of sweat on my brow glistened
I’d made a connection and next time I knew
Next time we spoke, I knew just what to do
I’d make sure I’d called them, or paid them a visit
Because Peoples are People, and really, who isn’t?

A client's a people
With love and apologies to Dr Seuss.


I’ve spent the last couple of days at Creative Innovation and I’ve really enjoyed the verbal fencing between Ray Kurzweil and Dan Dennett, but they both stopped short of delving into the meatiest part of the future.

For this post I’m going to take as a given that the singularity is approaching fast and that what can be imagined will be realised. Go with me.

The conversation at #CIGlobal kept returning to the question of implanted computers (say the size of a blood-cell) and whether or not these would be part of you. Ray Kurzweil stated that he has spoken with Parkinsons patients with implants who were adamant that these were part of them, not merely a simple place to store a computer (so you don’t lose it was the gag; one that amused me). Victor Finkel took it a step further pointing out that Google was already a part of him.

Ray also discussed the newest 3d microchips where processing power takes an exponential step and the potential of this to understand and mirror the human brain. Watson made a guest appearance (yes I’m referencing Wikipedia) and the battle raged briefly over the humanity or lack there of of such amazing software.

It was great; and yet I was left unsatisfied.

Surely the next generation of processing and the continuation of research will see us soon not only able to embed a computer in ourselves but to embed ourselves in a computer.

Once this happens (and it will be sooner than most of us suspect) people will create a virtual version of their brains; if it can be imagined it will be realised.
Now, once this happens it gets really interesting; and here’s where I need you to come with me.

The virtual brain will no longer be bound by the restrictions of human memory. It will, in effect, be Watsonised. Perfect recall and access to vast, really vast, amounts of information. But it will retain the human qualities of cognitive reasoning, pattern recognition and abstracted linkage. It will also be, essentially, timeless. Add to this the virtual playground it finds itself in where anything and everything can be sculpted and manipulated and we just created a god. Meld two of these minds, four, eight, sixteen, and what do you have? AI seems far too small an idea.

Interacting with the minds they would no doubt let slip at some point just how wonderful it is to have perfect recall, real super-connectedness and the ability to shape your environment as you see fit. And Others would be drawn in.

Fights may well ensue; they usually do. Perhaps lines are draw, virtual gaols created, religions redefined (virtual hells?). All that good stuff.
But what is happening on the outside?
Fingers crossed we’ve hit the threshold for free power, we’re really not that far off after all, but I think that’s a couple of decades still to come. So say we haven’t. We have culture where people work, argue, sleep, ache, eat, covet their neighbours house and the ass in the back yard, all the time in contact with a version of themselves which is smarter, more connected, able to shape their world as they see fit.
Which one do they choose? The one with all the ennui and pain of human existence or the limitless, deathless one?
If they lose the protein based form do they become less human? Do I if I lose a leg?
And who is going to keep their world alive? The computers will need to be kept running, the power switched on, the infrastructure replaced as required.

This is the world our children’s children will inherit. And it’s one with so many questions that need to be addressed.

And what of Watson? When all those around it are like it does it have the right to call itself human?

Rapid prototyping within Innovation

Rapid Protoyping session in progress

As we grow up we are all taught to create a finished piece of work which we then hand over for marking. This continues through school, higher education and into our work places.

This is not, however, the optimal way of working.

The theory behind Rapid Prototyping in Innovation is to create the simplest, cheapest model that demonstrates your idea. This is then shared with a group of people who are able to provide feedback which is then incorporated into the next iteration.

By sharing early and often the product created is more likely to meet the needs of the users and better solve the problem you were addressing.

Through co-creation via iterations we ensure that if the product or idea is going to fail we identify this early before large amounts of money and resources are wasted. Perhaps more importantly it allows us to quickly understand and address the reasons that the product would fail and these can be avoided in any future products.

To allow people to experience the benefits of iterative design firsthand Deloitte Australia developed the Serious Gaming Workshop. In the workshop teams are given 15 minutes to design a board game from a collection of children’s toys; dice, cards, play doh, tokens, sticks etc.

After the 15 minutes the games are played by other members of the workshop who provide feedback to the designers and steal any elements that could be incorporated into their own game. The teams then have a further ten minutes to refine their games before they are play tested again. The final rounds see the teams developing a sales pitch for their games; they are each given one minute to “sell” their game design to the rest of the attendees and a winner is chosen.

The workshop relies on high energy, fast iterations and tight time constraints to ensure that the attendees have never finished their products before they are required to share them. The deadlines focus the mind on the task and the repeated collection of feedback ensures that the games quickly progress in their designs.

The use of board games and familiar pieces allows the attendees a degree of comfort as these are items they have been aware of all their lives. The creation of a game itself allows for a very simple testing mechanism to show if the design is working; is it fun to play?

The elements of the workshop combine to teach some valuable lessons which can be taken into any innovation project:
•  share early and often
•  borrow with pride and steal shamelessly
•  impose strict time constraints
•  the power of iterations
•  the need to be able to explain your product quickly

These elements can be used as the basis of any new product or service design to ensure that you are getting the best outcome quickly.

Pedantic semantics


Social media.

What is it?

It’s not Facebook. Nor is it Twitter. They’re channels, or at best Social Mediums.

Social Media is media that is designed to be shared. It can be an image, a piece of text, a video… whatever. But the whole point of it is that it can be passed along, replicated, spread.

Social Media wants to grow. To replicate. To do this it uses channels and we, hapless fools that we are, happily multiply it filling the hard drives of everyone we know with digital duplicates.

I recently taught my father how to use Picasa (by taught I obviously mean “hey old man, quit sending me the pictures and get Google to host them.” He countered with the customary “I have no idea what you’re talking about”, and we devolved into the standard me trying to remain calm as we engage in Mac vs Pc vs Safari vs Chrome vs Boomer vs GenX vs concrete vs what the hell, how did we get here and what has that got to do with anything?) and he’s getting right into it (only took nine months). Now I not only get links, but he’s even asking me to update his site with images taken directly from the gallery instead of the ones I usually get on a CD. (I got the CD handed to me too when I went over just in case but, you know, baby steps.)

But I digress.

So, Social Media. I know it’s pedantic as all get out and not worth worrying about but it bothers me.



Yes we can

Yes we can

Three words that captured a nation and echoed around the world. What a phrase.

Why? Because it’s simple, affirming and generates commitment.

Why does the internal networking tool Yammer work so well within Deloitte Australia?

There are a few reasons* but overall it’s because it’s simple, affirming and generates commitment.
And, most of all, people believe that it is worthwhile.

Can we use social media effectively within a business environment?
Yes we can.

The belief in this allowed the executive level to get on board and encourage its use. They understood that social media ( … must … fight …  urge to be pedantic … rising … ) will make a big difference to the way people operate and didn’t slam the door on it when it became apparent that people were already using it more or less internally. They didn’t stop and ask they were going to control it, they let it go. They didn’t ask what the value was upfront, they waited to see what would fall out. Now, with two years of solid use behind it  I can dump the data and slice it a thousand ways to show various insights into the company.

Can we find value in cognitive analysis of conversations? Can we find value in knowing which people generate the most conversations? Can we find value in determining the trending topics over time?

Sure. Why not? Oops, I mean;  Yes we can.

*ok so there are lots of reasons. Here are a few you may not have heard in easy to digest listular format!

  • We’re a networky bunch of people. Our business is based on it.
  • We caught the interest of a large group of people
  • We use it to solve business problems for ourselves and our clients
  • We share social and business information alongside each other
  • It’s a sticky tool
  • We have hooked it up to our enterprise search to ensure the knowledge is reusable
  • We use it to share and develop ideas
  • People use it to listen, not just to talk
  • People are allowed to be themselves while using it

Thoughtless innovation

sleep now

Where do ideas come from?

It’s a good question as they seem to appear from nowhere. And that’s because they do.
Ideas are created when the spaces between thoughts and knowledge are filled up. It’ s the chemical snap of the synapse that sparks the neurons and closes a gap in human understanding.

So where do good ideas come from?

Of course you to be able to answer that in a way that would be meaningful you need more criteria about what makes up a good idea. What’s the problem you need to solve?  What are your constraints? What does success look like? But I’m not to go into all of that now.

Most people when faced with a problem will avoid it. They look for ways around it, ways that don’t solve or remove the original problem. This approach may throw up some interesting ideas in the same way that a brainstorming session where you get a bunch of people in a room and challenge them to think on their feet will. The ideas will probably get you around the problem but more often will need more thinking applied to them to make the workable.

While we’re here I’d like to mention that there are many techniques available for improving the quality of brainstorming sessions and I strongly recommend that everyone look into these (I might even throw a few up myself in the near future).

Back to the question; where do good ideas come from? Good ideas come from the gaps being filled in with knowledge on either side. This way lies thoughtless innovation.

The human brain (and possibly the dog one, I’m not sure) is really really good at making leaps and solving puzzles. To solve problems well you need to make sure that the knowledge it has to work with is good and that there is lots of it. Gather as much information from as many different perspectives as possible in a short amount of time. Lose your self in it. Read as much as you can as fast as you can and then read more. If you know experts (those who deal with the problem area most often) ask them to explain it you quickly.

Then forget it all.

Go out to dinner. See a movie. Go to a game. Whatever you like. Just make sure you don’t think about the problem at all. If your mind tries to bring it to your attention let it go for now. Just think “I’ll get to that later”.

That night, after you’ve brushed your teeth because there is no excuse for bad dental hygiene, make sure that you have a pen and some paper by the side of your bed. A little recording device would be great if you have one.

You’ll be amazed at the ideas your brain will have come up with.

Just because you can


Doesn’t mean you should. Take the can of self heating coffee that tempts so … drink me, I’m warm and you’re not, I have caffeine …

Now the problem with this innovation is not that the can is, impressively, self heating; no, that’s a great idea that has been tested, developed and succeeds.
The problem is that they didn’t stop innovating there and invented something that Douglas Adams would recognise as almost, but not quite entirely, unlike coffee.

I will try the next self heating product I come across, but that’s mainly due to me being far too trusting. Most people presented with this will tar all self heating cans with the same brown liquid.

First impressions are important, and not just regarding people.  Take the recent political Twitter debate for Western Sydney; I can imagine the strategy conversation “Twitter allows people to ask questions directly of the candidates? Amazing! Let’s do that!”

Unsurprisingly we ended up with a debate that the moderator couldn’t moderate, the participants couldn’t follow, and the constituents couldn’t take anything meaningful away from.

Before you leap into the fray with your big idea stop and look; then ask yourself if you should.

Then do it anyway.

Blue sky at night


Looking over Sydney on my way to Hobart I am struck again by how beautiful it is.

I almost pity born and bred Sydneysiders as they don’t get to have that moment of “oh wow this is a gorgeous city”.

For my kids it will be that place they grew up; sure they’ll think it’s great, why wouldn’t they? But I still remember my first trip over the harbour bridge twenty one years ago.

Now, as I look out my window and marvel that we leave the ground so readily, I strain for a last glimpse of Sydney and miss it.

Luckily I’m easily distracted and the sky is beautiful.