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Here’s to the weavers

Enough, I say! Enough with the hacking, already. Enough with being so enamoured with the term ‘hacking’. Let’s pause and remember that hacking is not the only successful mindset to have. Let’s take a moment to show gratitude to the way of the weaver.

Back in 2010, Sean Ellis, Hiten Shah and Patrick Vlaskovits coined the term growth hacker, which Mr Ellis then used in his piece Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup *. Back then, growth hacking was (and still is) an effective marketing strategy to iteratively build a customer base for a product or service, often in unconventional ways.

It was (and still is) absolute catnip to any entrepreneur, intrapreneur, progressive manager or product manager; the very idea of attracting people through cheap guerrilla tactics is damn sexy. Thumb your nose at The Man, leap ahead of all those regular slobs who are waiting in line for a lucky break, grab someone else’s coding framework and get some hot salty goodness out into the world as fast as you can! Get rich quick, and let someone else worry about when it all falls apart.

Since then, usage of the term has ballooned to cover anything vaguely related to that sad old baggy cardigan of a word: improvementLifehacker is practically a religion. You can get a short-cut to success for anything: your brain, your company, your garden, and oh most definitely your cooking. There are even hacks for your cat (actually, don’t watch that video, it’s pretty underwhelming).

What’s the opposite of ‘hack’?

Am I a hacking hater? No, not at all; the business benefits of working that way are indisputable. But in amongst all that A/B testing and bell-ringing, let’s not forget that there are people (as the most excellent Dr Jason Fox says) willing to do the complex, paradoxical, non-linear, failure-rich, ambiguous, challenging and thorough work, that is the opposite of hack.

It’s the other way. The way of the weaver.

Take time to weave as well as hack

To weave is to interlace two or more strands of material together to make a fabric, or a basket, a fancy hairstyle, or any number of things that are certainly stronger, more attractive and more useful than single strands of the material could ever be. To me, ‘weave’ is a yummy parfait of layered meaning. Rather than slapping a patch on fraying fabric and calling it fashion, to weave is to think ahead about the final shape, the intended use, the long term.

Weaving takes time. Weaving can also blend different types of fabric (unless you follow the Old Testament of the Bible), which is a nice metaphor for combining different talents, cultures, times and perspectives. Weaving means working with others’ strengths, exercising patience and fortitude. It means weighing up a quick-win to make sure it’s not outsourcing debt to the teams that will have to tidy it up down the track.

Weaving doesn’t mean being slow, either. Part of the marvel and magic of weaving is the skill and grace which comes with dedicated practice. Weaving can be automated, like ye olde Jacquard loom right up to the Tsudakoma Airjet loom (it’s the Formula 1 of loomy things; this video is a thrill to watch). But the thing is: loads of thought, problem-solving and design has gone into that automation.

Are you a weaver?

Are you a weaver? Do you take time to think about the long-term? Do you practice your craft and create things with pixels, people, or whatever materials you work with, for lasting improvement? Do you bring different materials together, and different perspectives together in the way you work?

Then hats off to you. You rock. You have our admiration and gratitude.

Here’s to the weavers amongst us!


[Jeans image hacked with gratitude from Chicwe.com ;) ]

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5 questions for making a better video

I’ve been helping a government department and a host of service NGOs with some service prototyping lately. There’s a veritable cafeteria worth of plates spinning in the air at the moment, and somewhere in there we suddenly needed to brief a video production freelancer to help us make an explainer video.

So how do you brief someone to make a video for you?

I knew a lengthy exhaustive (and exhausting) form wouldn’t be right for this small job. But at the same time, I didn’t want to fly by the seat of our collective pants either; I’ve been burnt by flimsy briefs before (pardon the pun). I treated this a design exercise in itself, and thought: what is the minimum number of questions I would ask to generate the maximum clarity and direction for a video?

Based on several other projects I’ve done, I wrote a list of 5 questions that would really help me if I were to make a video, and we ran with that. So I thought I’d leave them here in case it’s helpful for someone else.

Purpose of the video – Why do you want a video? What is it meant to achieve? How would you know it’s successful?

Audience of the video – Who is the video speaking to? What is their understanding of your video’s domain? What do you want them to think, feel, and do?

Voice of the video – What is the main message you want the video to say? What’s the story that you want to communicate? What’s the tone that you want to capture?

Location of the video – Where will the video be watched? Desktop/laptop screens, smartphone screens, noisy environments, high/low-bandwidth connections? How will people find it?

Timing of the video – When does it need to go live? What other factors need to be lined up to complete the video, e.g. talent, animation, locations, audio, music, products, screenshots

So there you go! Purpose. Audience. Voice. Location. Timing.

Have you ever had to take a brief for doing a video? What works for you?

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Inky fun with the #Inktober challenge

Setting yourself challenges — and sticking to them — is a sure-fire way to get better at something. And let’s face it: unless you have a personal trainer or you’re a student in something, it’s pretty rare that someone is going to set a challenge for you. I don’t know a single project manager who puts a few extra days in their Gantt chart for you to exercise some professional development time.

You have to set them yourself. But then, that’s more gratifying anyway, isn’t it? And so, when Inktober floated past in my river of social media stuff, I grabbed it with both hands. Inktober is simple: do an ink drawing every day for the month of October. People have been at this since 2009, and it’s growing every year.

A huge thanks to Jake Parker for starting it! I had loads of fun with this. Here are all mine for 2016:

Oct 1 – Fast

I was a day late when I started, so I didn’t end up following the theme of ‘Fast’ for this one:


Oct 2 – Noisy


Oct 3 – Collect


Oct 4 – Hungry

This was a quickie I did on a whiteboard at work:


Oct 5 – Sad


Oct 6 – Hidden

I’d been itching to a bit of fantasy sketching…


Oct 7 – Lost


Oct 8 – Rock


Oct 9 – Broken

Cats started to become a bit of a meta-theme in my sketches…


Oct 10 – Jump


Oct 11 – Transport


Oct 12 – Worried


Oct 13 – Scared


Oct 14 – Tree

I’d also been itching to try different sketching styles during Inktober, and using colour in a different way. This one was particularly fun to do.


Oct 15 – Relax


Oct 16 – Wet


Oct 17 – Battle


Oct 18 – Escape


Oct 19 – Flight


Oct 20 – Squeeze

For ages I couldn’t think what to do for this theme, and then this idea came to me first thing in the morning. It looks better with my hand over it (below) ;)



Oct 21 – Big

This was just a chance to play with Copic tint markers…


Oct 22 – Little


Oct 23 – Slow

All the hype about Agile and Lean has always bothered me a little bit, especially the promise of SPEED that seems to tag along with it. Neither mindsets/ways of working are actually about speed, but that’s what people seem to latch on to. Some things really do take time.


Oct 24 – One dozen


Oct 25 – Tired


Oct 26 – Box

This was actually drawn on a placemat from a hotel restaurant I was at for work.


Oct 27 – Creepy


Oct 28 – Burn


Oct 29 – Surprise


Oct 30 – Wreck

I guess something from Star Wars had to make an appearance somewhere ;)


Oct 31 – Friend

The final Inktober sketch coincided with more news about the cruel mistreatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention, so this seemed pretty fitting.


See you for Inktober next year!


sketchnote - Design as Strategy Forum 2016
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Design as Strategy Forum 2016 sketchnotes: stories and wisdom from the front line

Yesterday I stepped out of the trenches to go to the Design as Strategy Forum, hosted by Good Design Australia. There was a broad spectrum of views, stories and wisdom coming from the front, all fuelled with plenty of great food and drink, and great Q&A.

I sketchnoted most of the talks I heard (below). My main take-outs:

  • Many businesses have done the toe-in-the-water with design thinking, but struggle to roll it out across the organisation… which begs the question: is it actually OK for it not to be, yet it still be effective…?
  • Bottom-up intrapreneurship is looking relatively easy, but top-down management struggle to convert great design thinking messages into directives and KPIs for management to act on

On with the sketchnotery

Professor Ian Harper spoke with much energy and melodrama about how designers and economists past buddy up to bring more innovation to the business sector, because productivity. He seemed to put ‘creative people’ at the ‘design’ end of a scale, and economists at the ‘innovation’ end of the same scale… which didn’t make much sense to me… but his message about no longer chasing models of scale made a lot of sense.

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Stuart Anderson’s talk about his Flow Hive was great, as always. I thought I’d go with the hexagon as a layout motif throughout these sketchnotes… not sure if it worked that well!

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Dr. Jan Owens, CEO the Foundation for Young Australians, was brim-full of enthusiasm for the many many projects where young people have been involved. I was reminded of something that came out loud and clear for me from Link Festival 2016 conference: today, you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to create your life-changing commercially amazing idea.


Dr Sam Bucolo and Wing Commander Jerome Reid got very real with showing how design thinking was applied to strategic transformation in the Air Force – this was definitely a highlight! When not “doing bad things to bad people”, the Air Force has been busy devising and rolling out ways to iteratively prototype better ways of – well – doing bad things to bad people… but the key idea for me was that there is a space for design as community and organisational transformation, beyond business model design. And all of these orders create demand for the preceding orders.

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Sue Kench (Chief Executive Partner at King and Wood Mallesons), Jacqui Jordan (Strategic options lead at Suncorp) and others held a great conversation about strategy as an object of design. One of the big messages here was the need to demonstrate the mindset and process in action, rather than treating it as a sell-job. Everyone is over hearing all the regular statements, and are hungry for tangible realised benefit.

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Nonexistent 4
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Nonexistent – a sculpture in protest against asylum seeker treatment

When all other channels for change had been exhausted, I turned to art to try to make a difference.

Like many Australians, I’ve been in constant shock, grief and angry bewilderment at the Australian government’s appalling treatment of asylum seekers, imprisoning them in off-shore death camps — specifically Nauru and Manus Island —  at a cost of $1.2 billion a year to the taxpayer, basically leaving them to rot at the hands of belligerent subcontractors and violent locals in failed states.

The atrocities and suicides have been mounting, the whole issue got ignored at the recent election, and now The Guardian has published a cache of documents — the Nauru files — that catalog an horrific string of assaults, sexual assaults and self-harm. Immigration minister Peter Dutton has basically blamed the asylum seekers for this.

There have been two reports by the AHRC, the second one prompting the government to launch a vicious hate campaign against its leader Gillian Triggs. There have been countless petitions, prayer vigils, letters, protest marches… everything a civil obedient society can do to try to stop this horror. But nothing has made any difference.

So I did what any self-respecting creative person would do (prompted by a friend of mine). I funnelled that pain into a sculpture to share with you, dear reader, and the world out there. Just to try to deal.


You see, Dutton’s detention centres have rendered these poor souls with no voice. They have no nation, no names, no rights, no future, and no hope. Dutton and whoever else agrees with him just want them to disappear. To die. To nonexist. Charity workers, medical staff, and others who have witnessed what the inmates are going through face charges if they tell. They have no voice. And we, the ones who cherish freedom, we who believe that everyone has the right to dignity, due process, and a fair go, we don’t have a voice either.

Nonexistent 1

I chose to do this with my 3D pen, since the blotchy black plastic filament has the feel and tone I was after. Two hands reach out, imploring desperately, giving us just a glimpse of the faceless victim, just enough to imagine the pain on the other side of that fence.

Nonexistent 2

I also chose the 3D pen because we live in an age of unprecedented technology and progress, and tech like this is already bringing new bursts of creativity, and disrupting traditional manufacturing business models. And yet we are still so backward and so poor when it comes to looking after other people.

Nonexistent 3

I don’t want to be nonexistent to the politicians in Canberra. I don’t want Reza Barati to be nonexistent. I don’t want Omid Masoumali to be nonextistent. I don’t want our nation’s values of equality and charity to be nonexistent.

And I don’t think you do either.

How you can help



Raining ideas! My sketchnotes from Link Festival 2016

Imagine getting to hang out with the brainiest, zaniest, most purpose-driven bunch of cool people just busting to get to know you, while having your mind expanded in new and unexpected ways with everything from new scientific miracles to timeless quiet reflection. Pshaw, you scoff? It’s all true.

This was my life for 2 – oh so short – 2 days, as part of Link Festival 2016, a conference (ha, the mere word doesn’t come close!) melding design, technology and social change, held by Engineers Without Borders and the ever-perfect Wildwon last week in Melbourne. Plenaries were hosted in the beautiful kaleidoscopic people-cage of Deakin Edge, with various break-out sessions, workshops and panels in the surrounding complex, in which to have your brain and heart amicably and expertly ruffled.

And through it all, I sketchnoted as much as I could, sharing an art wall with the amazing and talented Devon Bunce from Digital Storytellers.

Day 1

The first day kicked off with a lovely light romp through modern tech advances that signal the potential for various future trends, by all-round Nice Guy and Very Bright Sci-Preneur Dr Jordan Nguyen.  Top fun to sketch this stuff. For me there was a lot of familiar topics, given I’ve just come off a vision project where I spent time looking at future trends, but the point about demystifying the role of robots and robotics struck a chord: robots will not take over the world, but they will take over our kitchens. :)


Eager for more insights into what design could be in the future, I headed over to listen to the panel speak on Design the Materials of the Future. OK, mind blown so much I forgot to sketch. I was rapt. Ferrofluids (brought to us by Leah Heiss) are intriguing, but the practical potential of porous metal structures (by Dr Aaron Thornton) was gobsmacking.

The biggest insight for me from the ensuing panel discussion was that the designers and makers of these fantastic substances are just not the most qualified to know how best to apply them to the real world. Humility and prescience in action. Sure, they have a bunch of awesome ideas, but as I saw echoed several times throughout the 2 days, it’s about matching people with problems with others that have the nascent solutions.


After a hearty veggo lunch (all catering was by Lentil as Anything again), I headed to a panel discussion for a personal favourite topic of mine: bringing the arts into STEM domains, or The Value of Steam. This one was a bit too much show-n-tell by each of the speakers, but I get that we all had to immerse ourselves in the various worlds of the arts, science, invention and education, for us to then be fully primed for the discussion afterward.

There’s something a bit creepy about a large artwork made out of the cancer cells of a deceased patient… it feels like that sort of thing should belong in everyone’s darling gallery, the MONA. The big a-HA moment for me in the very brilliant discussion was that historically we have been trained to keep science and art separate, but both domains are creative in different and complementary ways; both set out to solve different sorts of problems, and both learn from each other.

It’s a long road ahead when the very educational structures we have are passively keeping this divide. BUT there is hope; I had a top chat with Vicki Sowry (apols for misspelling your name in my sketchnote!), and it turns out more and more universities are pioneering cross-faculty – er – faculties? that combine the good stuff from all disciplines, like the d.school (Institute of Design at Stanford).


And so Day 1 drew to a feisty close with Misfits And Unreasonable People, brought to us by Kyra Maya Phillips and the frightfully candid Pamela Hartigan. My, how we all squirmed! at her cantankerous take on “giving back” and doing Masters in social entrepreneurship. Brilliant.

As you can see, I took to the misfit stick-it-to-the-man theme of this session, and ended up graffiti-ing all over my own sketchnote. Take THAT. Er. Yeah.


Day 2

Yours truly gave a workshop session on sketching to explore, explain and envision. Around 60 people sketched along with me, as I went through some familiar material, as well as some new stuff looking at conceptual illustration. It was a delight and a privilege!


Back in Deakin Edge, Michael Bones, Simone O’Connor, Koky Saly and Lucy Thomas took us up to lunch with their experiences on pushing for change in their chosen domains. This sketchnote isn’t my finest hour — I was pretty exhausted and distracted after giving my session.

Biggest truth bomb for me: we have to stop assuming that big worthy ideas only come from Educated Grown-ups. Given the free-wheeling nature of kids, and given that more and more digital tools are accessible to more and more younger folk, we can and should expect more robust ideas and prototypes from people who haven’t even finished primary school yet. Be scared. But embrace it.


The next session I sketchnoted was titled Emergent-Edge Technologies, where I’ll forever cherish and save the best little Impressive Fact to come out with at the next meetup I go to: did you know that 3D printing has been around since 1984? I know, right? I personally think that when 3D printing goes mainstream we’ll have even more landfill on our hands as thousands of people from Wangaratta to Woolloomooloo print their own shoes, stormtrooper helmets and whatnot, thinking it’s oh-so-groovy, only to find that the plastic is kind of icky and dull. And not that durable, either.

BUT hearing the dulcet, smooth and very knowledgeable tones of Oli Weidlich from Mobile Experience brought gravitas to the room, and warmth to my bitter jaded designer heart.


And so, the moment that I’d all been waiting for came upon me: hearing Dr Jason Fox. Yes, Dr Jason Fox, author of The Game Changer and How To Lead A Quest. Author of the best e-newsletters — yes you read that right — of all time. The Thinking Man’s Motivational Speaker. A true titan in the realm of creativity, business canny, and sartorial grace. And I got to just sit there, listen, immerse, and draw. Honestly, the sheer amount of amazing wisdom and whimsy that flowed forth was just completely unfair, but oh we all revelled in it!



A big meaty a-HA for me was that collaboration at work is an infinite game. It can’t be thought of as having an end point — that’s an illusion — and as such it should be designed like every other infinite game: with goals, rules and feedback along the way. These mirror Dan Pink’s principles of purpose, mastery and autonomy respectively.

Of course this sketchnote doesn’t come anywhere NEAR doing his plenary justice; I used up so much room just capturing golden nuggets from the banter with Nathan Scolaro from Dumbo Feather before things really got underway. If nothing else, I hope this sketchnote leaves you — as Dr Fox left me — merely hungry for more!

Wildwon’s write-ups of Link Festival 2016:

Art Gallery of NSW - interior
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Art galleries and surveys: 2 things I dig

I’ll admit: I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to surveys. Send me a survey about art and art galleries — ONLY two of my favourite topics of like — and that’s like a moth to an INFERNO. Wrong analogy now, but the point is: I just filled out a survey from the Art Gallery of NSW by Pollinate, and it was the most fun I’ve had filling out a survey ever.

I’ll never see the results of that survey, or what I typed in again, so I just wanted to preserve a couple of things I wrote here.

Why do I like the Art Gallery of NSW?

It’s hard to overstate how much I appreciate AGNSW as a place of reflection, mental and emotional refilling-of-the-tanks refreshment.

I use it as a place to teach my kids about art, and the issues that art and artists bring to the fore. We’ve worked out a lovely routine where I can stand for ages in front of some paintings in an exhibition, and my wife and kids can go through at an — ahem — faster pace, and then I meet them in your café afterward. It’s an all-round relaxing and harmonious experience.

It is noisy, clashy, quiet, calm, fresh, ancient, exotic, familiar… all in the right amounts.

I regularly stand in front of the Arthur Streetons and Sydney Longs, and worship them. I walk amongst the works of art in that section and feel like I’m among friends. There’s dusty greens and parched desaturated fuchsias that quite honestly are like a litre of guarana to my core.

I’m a painter myself, and I regularly go for inspiration, challenging and learning. Each time I want to get into a new area of art — like Asian art, for example — I find that AGNSW has it covered in some way. So your gallery is like my brain laid out in a physical space: there are some parts that have a lot of my foot traffic, and other parts I’ve really yet to discover.

And isn’t that like all of our brains, really?

Ideas for making me come back to the gallery more often?

  • Be open more in the evening
  • One-off painting/drawing/sketching/sculpture/calligraphy/etc how-to technique classes
  • One-off art theory classes, about specific topics/periods/hot issues, e.g. the Big Milk Crate got excoriated in the media, so how about an evening that educates about modern art thinking in sculpture that would have lead to that work?
  • A cruisy evening bar to meet friends at for a drink amongst a rotating collection of salon-style artwork. You could even have theme nights, like French fin de siecle or 40s New York
  • Roaming ‘art experts’, maybe even with an approachable tag on them, to ask questions about artworks. I know there’s a lot of staff around, but they seem to be there to only make sure noone does anything stupid.
  • Pop-up kids activity spots, just like the Chinese New Year monkey craft thing you had, that was awesome
  • Have ‘real live artists’ at work that people can gather around and watch. Watching art in the making is absolutely bewitching and accessible at the same time.
  • The kids’ activity books for specific exhibitions are great; having ‘adult’ versions for the regular exhibitions would be brilliant
  • Have pop-up stands that relate modern topical hot issues to the artwork around them, e.g. imagine having something that draws attention to 19th/early 20th century Australian artists’ (I’m thinking Heidelberg here) appreciation for the Australian landscape contrasted with images of mining companies’ maps of similar places marking out possible deposits of coal/etc to go and frack. It’s not trying to take a moral position, but it’s using different imagery to portray different people’s assessment of value. I’ll stop now… this is getting into the sort of stuff *I* like to create ;)


The aim of the poet is to inform or delight, or to combine together, in what he says, both pleasure and applicability to life.

In instructing, be brief in what you say in order that your readers may grasp it quickly and retain it faithfully.

Superfluous words simply spill out when the mind is already full.

Horace (Epistolas Ad Pisones De Ars Poetica), over 2000 years ago