Shifting course in search for better
Greater Than X is shifting course. This was always the plan (the services business was designed to be a learning engine), but the timing has been impacted by a variety of factors, COVID included.
Leading Greater Than X has been my every day life for five years. Although there’s a lot that can be said, I’ll keep this post reasonably brief. I’ll attempt to narrate a very high level story of what we did and the impact it had. I will continue talking about lessons learned and next steps over the coming months.
Thank you to everyone who supported us on the journey. We quite literally couldn’t have done any of this without you.
A brief history
I co-founded Greater Than X to help demonstrate that organisations could consistently and effectively design trustworthy product and service experiences. It was an experiment. My wife, life partner and co-founder, Bianca and I self funded it. We gave ourselves 12 months of runway to ‘prove’ that there was a propensity for organisations to put their money where their mouth was by paying for this specific expertise.
Although this was tough, we got off to a great start. We were hired to design and deliver a series of workshops throughout Europe for the Data Transparency Lab. Telefonica Alpha’s Strategy Director and Head of Ethics, Ollie Smith brought us into help the organisation strategically ‘embed’ data ethics and trustworthy design practices into the organisation’s incentives, metrics, functional workflows and outputs (their product).
We then moved back to Australia in preparation for our tiny human’s arrival.
This was a bit of a pain (work wise, I’m a big fan of my daughter 😜) because not much was going on. It felt like the market was years behind. We’d lost our direct access to the EU and North America. We experienced a lull.
If you’ve gone through this, you know it’s shit. You feel like giving up. You feel like no one “gets it” (even if the no one getting it is you…). It’s hard to push for progress.
But, it all began to pick up, particularly in Financial Services later that same year.
We helped launch Australia’s first new bank in a very long time. Frankly speaking, most of what we did had little impact. I could dive deep into the cause of this, but let me simplify by saying it was deemed “too hard”, particularly in the face of competing priorities.
During this Mat joined us. I’d been trying to convince him for 18 months, so this was a very feel good moment. The main focus of Mat’s role — above and beyond the bloody brilliant work he’s led for clients — was how we might transition to a platform offering of some sort. More on that later.
We were then hired by the Data Standards Body for two projects. The first helped establish a consent design system based on our Data Trust by Design work. The second focused on the implications of consent management and revocation. We conducted research to help better inform how the Consumer Data Right could come to life.
We then did a very similar thing with the Open Banking Implementation entity in the UK. Miles Cheetham and I later presented this work at Open Banking World Congress.
Although I’d argue it had a reasonably short term impact, it’s only now that we’re seeing the broader implications of this work come to life (we remain hopeful plenty of progress is yet to be made).
We built upon this to develop a vision and strategy for a humanity centric digital economy. We actually delivered this to Treasury (via folks at the Data Standards Body). There was support, but of course, they had their own strategy. To this date it’s yet to be published… I’ll leave it at that.
In and around all this we did a bunch of super cool work. Our collaboration with the Consumer Policy Research Centre being a notable example. We also did some incredible work with Suncorp (bank and insurance). We supported other startups during this time too. Some of that has been great. Some of it has been disastrous (not getting paid and all that jazz…).
We then did some of the most exciting work we’ve ever done thanks to Mike Hayley and a bunch of folks at Autodesk. This was all about developing an operational data ethics system, based on our definition of a Data Ethics Framework (few organisations have committed to approaches like this, which is why Autodesk was and is so impressive. In one instance we actually had a signed contract with a big tech company to help “operationalise the OECD’s AI Ethics principles”. Post contract being signed we kept trying to get started. We worked hard on this work. It has incredible potential for impact. We never heard back from them again… I get this requires commitment, accountability and a bunch of stuff that seems scary, but fuck me, this isn’t how we should be behaving in modern business. More on that over the coming weeks).
We published about this and are happy to say that the fruits of this labour are only just beginning.
This is but a snapshot of what we’ve done. I haven’t mentioned the ecosystem design work with Cuscal, the Data for Good work with TELUS and a bunch of other stuff that has been humbling, exciting and an incredible learning opportunity (including our research with Kent Greyson from Northwestern). Heck, I haven’t even mentioned the blow you away work we did with Regional Australia Bank on Consumer Data Right and Better Disclosure (for CDR and loans). All the CDR related stuff is now open source, thanks to Rob Hale and a lovely bunch of people.
I’ve learned a heck of a lot over these years. I’ve grown a lot too (not literally, that would be lovely though). My worldview has evolved. I’ve experienced first hand how different ways of thinking, doing and being can have a positive impact. I’ve come to believe that the bull shit tradeoffs we’re told must be made between privacy and other stuff we value are just that.
We, as a species, have an incredible capacity for kindness, compassion, empathy and courage. We are unique in our ability to imagine a world that doesn’t exist, then work together to create a version of it.
So although I look at the world some days and basically think, “FUCK.MY.LIFE”, I’m skeptically optimistic (I build optimism through validation. I like my views to be empirically grounded). I do believe we can make better. And I believe we have the capacity to do it together.
Thanks for asking. Greater Than Learning. This is what Greater Than X always existed to help us achieve.
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Making it easier to design products and services that are worthy of peoples trust. Join today and get started making…
We’ve spent a little over two years trying to figure out how to design a better model. We think we’ve kicked that off with this initiative, a community governed social learning platform and community of ethical change-makers learning to design trustworthy organisations that deliver positive social impact.,
Yes, a mouthful and a half.
There’s a heck of a lot to all this, so we’ll work to progressively disclose more and more of it.
Mat has been doing a genuinely stellar job on everything from platform ecosystem design through to data mapping and LxD. He’s effectively a one person startup. Incredible! Stay tuned for plenty more from him.
We’re also transitioning towards a platform co-op. We think this entity structure supports our purpose, values and principles. Member owned. Member governed. Incentives aligned.
On a personal note, I’m also going to be spending more time focusing on impact investing. I’ve been playing around with this for 4.5 years and feel there’s a lot more to it that I want to be involved in.
UPDATE: I’m actually stepping back from Greater Than Learning. Mat will continue to steward.
With all this out of the way, I’d like to end with a thank you. As I said at the start, none of this has been possible without the people who’ve trusted us, supported us and challenged us.
I’m excited about what comes next. I hope we can spend more time together in the near future.