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“Music is the space between the notes.” — Claude Debussey

There are 12 notes in Western music. Only 12.

In most scales (the clusters of notes we use to make pleasing, cohesive sounding music) there are only 7 notes.

So many songs can be played with just four chords (I-V-VI-IV) as The Axis of Awesome popularised.

But what amazes me is that despite this limited pool of building blocks, music can sound so wildly different, can make you feel things at opposite ends of the spectrum, can be instantly recognisable as one band or another.

Music might be the purest form of creativity, but it is still a money making business. And, like other industries, that business is shifting to a more customer led approach. …

How to invent and reinvent a successful innovation lab in your business.

In 2015 a report found that 38% of 200 of the largest companies in the world had innovation labs. But, according to that same 2015 report, an estimated 80–90% of those labs fail.

We believe innovation labs fail because they don’t find lab-business fit.

An innovation lab, with its foreign methods and alien ethos, is always going to be at odds with its parent company, is always going to make the core business uncomfortable. So the parent business reacts, forcing the lab into their corporate process shaped hole and smothering its ability to fulfil its role: innovation.

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The Innovation Lab Blueprint

Lab-business fit is achieved when the innovation lab and the parent business have found the right balance between freedom and process, between technology and anthropology, between ticking the box and getting results. …

Amazon Alexa dominated CES with hundreds of other companies integrating the Voice Control into their products.

This is neat, but as the list of Alexa’s skills goes longer, it could also get bloated. There are things that work better when viewed on a screen, when touched or twizzled. Just as the app store is full of apps that don’t need to be apps, will every voice command need to be a voice command?

Clearly, Amazon think so too, developing a premium Echo speaker with a 7 inch touchscreen. But I find this really surprising when the screens are already present. 45% of US adults own a tablet, 68% own a smartphone and a whopping 96.7% …

I read Principles of Bot Design.

It made me think of these design principles we talked about at the start of a recent chat bot based project we did:

Motenashi principles (Japanese hospitality) should inform the experience of this product:

Anticipation of the other’s needs: The host should respond to guest’s needs before the latter feels such need himself.

Flexibility to the situation: Refers to the appropriate amount of formality or casualness respectively.

Understatement: The host should not display his efforts, in order to create a natural feeling for the guest.

Which I stole from here.

“We know our tank’s weaknesses, quirks, all the faults it’s going to have and how to solve them,” says Major Ridgway. “Sometimes all from a different engine noise.” This level of familiarity is essential for what the military calls “small unit cohesion” — the mental and physical codependency that improves not just morale but efficiency and quick understanding in combat situations.*

There’s a great feeling that comes from working in a small team made up of the same people for a long time. …

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No one has said anything for about 30 seconds. Not since the guy next to you spluttered out his thoughts, all hedges and apologies. He looks relieved. Job done. The rest of the room is shuffling awkwardly, heads bowed looking for inspiration from their shoes, the carpet, or maybe just praying for it. 5 bright post-its cling to the vast white wall, unhelpful scrawls across them. One of them peels slowly from the wall, flutters to the floor. “Come on guys,” comes a voice, “you must have some ideas.”

Having ideas is hard.

Having good ideas is even harder.

And while almost everyone agrees that collaboration is a good thing, cross-functional ideation workshops (brainstorms for the less jargon-minded) can still cause an involuntary groan when your invite lands in a teammates’ inbox. …

It’s all about getting away from the touchscreen, and interfacing with the devices around us in more natural ways: haptics, computer vision, voice control, and artificial intelligence — What is Zero UI?


Interacting in a more natural way with our technology is, for me, a bit of a misnomer. I can’t think of anything in nature that I can control with my voice or by gesturing. (Unless you happen to be called Moses.)

Pulling levers, pushing buttons and twisting dials have, over the last hundred years, become naturalised ways to interact with machinery and objects.

What started as mechanisms for control have developed into signifiers which give us instant feedback when we can’t see the inner workings of a device — we know the amplifier will be loud because we’ve turned the volume control to eleven. And, skeumorphic or not, we use the same signifiers in our digital interfaces. …

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I’m a very goal oriented person, probably because I’m so into sports. And I mean into sports. I’ll set a goal, work towards it and meet it (or get injured, more often).

I’ve never set New Year’s Resolutions. I set goals for the year. Three of them. A life one, a work one and a sport one. Some are easier to meet than others. Sometimes they’re deliberately vague and sometimes they’re agonisingly pointed. But each one I break down into smaller process goals which I meet, triggering the warm, nudging buoyancy of tiny success.

I’ve been thinking more about my goals and process as I’ve been reading about OKRs. I like the direction of setting a qualitative objective and quantitative key results. It appeals to my structure of big goal, small processes. …

It’s like that, and that’s the way it is — Darryl McDaniels, Joseph Simmons, Larry Smith, 1983

Let’s get one thing clear. Your industry will be disrupted. There are probably 10 start ups being funded right now who are going to shake up your business, take your customers and leave you reading about your demise on Twitter (which incidentally is quickly becoming the biggest platform for recruitment. Just something to think about.)

Here’s a list of 32 industries deemed ripe for disruption. I’m willing to bet yours is on there. And if it isn’t, it’s probably too late.

It’s when, not if. And here’s how to spot when it’s coming. …

I’ve built a few websites, but I don’t know how to respond when someone asks me if I can code

What’s the minimum viable knowledge you need to say, “I know how to code?”

Can you code after attending Decoded?

What about when you were tinkering with the layout of your MySpace page (or your Geocities page, for that matter)?

Or when you built yourself a website?

Or when you built a website for someone else?

I can build a basic website in notepad - from scratch - using HTML and CSS without looking anything up in a book or on stack overflow. Maybe a little bit of PHP at a push. …


Charlie Rowat

I help companies build the right products for their customers. I also run.

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