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Many good and distinguished people and organizations I respect highly describe design thinking as a process.

I disagree.

As someone who’s been a practitioner of design thinking for over 5 years now, I’ve come to understand design thinking as an orientation to encountering the unknown and solving problems through an iterative process of creative exploration, fast prototyping, and rigorous testing directly with users.

While it includes a number of tools, techniques, and approaches that could be collectively described as a process, design thinking is fundamentally distinguished not by actions but in the belief that users ultimately hold the answers we seek as designers, planners, managers, and leaders, but only partially. As practitioners, facilitators, and conveners, we must collaboratively combine each piece of this puzzle each participant carries into a holistic understanding of both the problem, firm in our belief that a solution will present itself after we put these pieces together. …


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Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

As instructors, we create the culture of a class from the moment a student steps into the room. How we greet them speaks volumes about what kind of experience they can expect. It’s not to say people are a blank slate and don’t come in with their expectations conditioned by their many years in classrooms, but it’s our opportunity to help shift the environment towards one that better supports open conversation and vulnerable learning than might exist in other classrooms.

Being intentional about this work of creating a supportive environment in our classrooms, we started several years ago using ground rules to help set the social contract in class. …


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Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Yesterday, I had the great honor to teach a two-hour workshop on QGIS to people working for local non-profits, city agencies, and universities in an event sponsored by the Dallas Public Library.

Most of these professionals had no experience with maps or mapping other than using Google Maps to get around town or seeing maps in the newspaper or online. They hadn’t made that transition to creating their own maps, which is what a GIS allows you to do.

But they were motivated to learn and excited by the possibilities even if they didn’t fully understand how to harness those possibilities. …


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Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

This morning, O’Reilly touted their inclusion in the list of Top IT Training Companies for 2019 in Training Industry magazine.

I love O’Reilly’s books and tutorials, as well as their frequent blog posts and other articles. As someone who has provided technical training for over 5 years now, I was a little jealous of their achievement and started wondering if Datapolitan would ever be included on a list like this.

Then I thought more and realized, we’re not an IT training company.


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Innovation by Thomas Hawk, CC BY-NC 2.0

Two items came into my inbox this morning that accurately reflected what I see is the two faces of innovation in the public sector.

The first was an article in THE CITY describing how New York City’s embattled public housing authority (NYCHA) spent $3 million for a report that largely echoed the same points made in a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report they’d spent $10 million for 7 years ago. …


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Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

When I took my first (and only) GIS class about 15 years ago, the class was structured around a basic pattern:

  1. Help with any issues following the instructions
  2. Ask for any questions and promptly move on to the next activity

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Gabriel Matula via Unsplash

You’re probably coming to this post and thinking “He’s going to talk about how hard it is to do a VLOOKUP or mash data into PowerBI…”

I’m not.

What I am going to talk about is the extreme discomfort of trusting something outside yourself as a source of knowledge and (dare I say) truth for how you’re doing in the world.

Most of us got to positions of authority and responsibility because we are good at what we do. We have the knowledge, skills, and experience that make us capable of handling a variety of situations and personalities to achieve success. …


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Photo by salvatore ventura on Unsplash

In a recent meeting, a client of mine expressed their desire to “future-proof” their infrastructure, making choices about technologies and architecture before anything meaningful had been done to develop and test how the system will operate.

Maybe it’s my overdose of Pema Chödrön, Seth Godin, and Jerry Colonna, or my belief in agile for everything, but I find it hard to buy into the belief there can be any guarantee about the future other than constant change. We can only do our best with what we have and trust in our ability to adapt to whatever future situations we find.

In our spiritual life, this is trusting ourselves to adapt to whatever situation we find ourselves in by staying aware of our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. This is using any difficulty as an opportunity to grow and cultivate new abilities (Jerry would call them “superpowers”) to meet the challenge and discover our authentic selves. …


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IBNS helm controls on USS Dewey (DDG-105). US Navy Photo

It’s easy to see some new technology and get hooked into thinking it’s the solution to all our problems. When I first saw the Philips Hue Smart Bulbs, I was enthralled and wanted to replace all my lights with Hues. But they didn’t work with my lifestyle. It’s not fun to fumble for your phone in the dark to turn on your cool lights when you’re drunk.

Having followed the twin tragedies of the USS John S. McCain and the USS Fitzgerald in 2017, I was interested this past week to read one of the culprits (despite the many systemic flaws) was the adoption of touch-screen controls to replace the physical control throttles. …


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You hear stories about what’s in the data. Someone thinks they saw this value being recorded in your data warehouse. Someone else is sure there’s a column that has the value you’re looking for.

But no one knows for sure. They think it’s there. They think it’s being recorded.

But there’s no documentation.

Even if the data you want is there (it isn’t, it never is), because it’s not documented, it’s like it doesn’t exist. If no one is working in the data, there are likely errors, omissions, and other failures to accurately record the information. …

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Datapolitan

Data-driven solutions for the modern metropolis.

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