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Innovating to Stay in the Game – Older Media in the Digital Age #58 #cong17

By Cian Connaughton.

There was a time long ago when you'd find it hard to buy a newspaper with a photo in it, such was the old print media's preference for text. Those days are long gone and soon the challenge could be finding a newspaper at all.

This is because the last decade has seen the rise of a number of existential challenges for traditional media. If they continue, many of our traditional media will be forced to close. 

The challenges vary but almost all are linked in some way to the growth of the internet. 

Google and Facebook have provided by far the biggest challenge. Both now relieve traditional media of billions of dollars, euro and pounds each year in advertising revenue. The pull is because both Facebook and Google allow advertisers to target their key audiences significantly more accurately. Who wouldn’t use a more cost effective and exacting tool when spend a marketing budget – I know from professional experience.  

Another issue is that consumers are no longer buying newspapers in anything like the numbers that they used to.  Most Irish newspapers have seen falls in their print sales of up to fifty percent since the new century started. 

Selling significantly fewer printed papers at the same time that advertising revenue has fallen means revenue has been hit on the double.

Directly linked to this fall in paper purchasing is the rise of online-only media. I’m thinking here of pioneers like Ireland’s online-only news site Journal.ie and the international Huffington Post. Both provide consumers with quality daily news and analysis for no charge. 

Faced with this challenge, traditional media have responded in lots of different ways. 

While all have embraced online, the big variable is the speed of their move and the resources they put behind it.

The innovative responses of two stalwarts of traditional media have stood out and are worth looking at in more detail.

The UK-based publication The Guardian has taken an innovative approach to generating revenue from its readers. It has meant that the paper now has more paying readers (800,000) than it did in it its heyday as a leading newspaper in the 80s (500,000).

So, how has this been achieved while the paper has steadfastly refrained from introducing a paywall for readers?   

The first group of readers who make payments are the most traditional “subscribers”. They pay €19 each month for a digital issue of the paper each day, as well as additional premium content on the website. Their number stands at around 200,000.  

The next are “supporters”, who pay €4.99 each month. Though they’d get access to most of the news on the Guardian website without paying this amount, they are making a conscious decision to financially support the paper. 

Benefits of being a supporter include exclusive emails from journalists and avoiding pop-up ads on your mobile device. There has been a huge jump in the numbers of supporters from 75,000 to 300,000 in the last year. 

The final, most innovative category is “donors”. These are individuals who make one-off payments to The Guardian website. This involves making a direct appeal to readers at the end of online stories, asking for support. Crucially, this new approach has produced over 300,000 one-off payments. This has produced millions in new revenue for the media group. 

The big mark of success is that the media group now has a greater income from this mix of readers than it does from advertising. 

Another accolade is the fact that this approach has been followed by News UK, publishers of The Times and The Sun. You can read the full story here. 

Another legendary newspaper that has successfully innovated its way to a stronger position is The New York Times. 

It too has seen a big turnaround in recent years. The group lost $600m in print advertising between 2005-10, placing it in a very tough position. Contrast this with the fact that it has doubled its digital subscribers from 760,000 in 2013 to 1,600,000 in 2016. It has also grown its digital advertising revenue by almost 20% in the last year.

The secret of its success has come in part through two innovative approaches. 

The first has been a focus on creating video content. Reports, anaylsis pieces and reviews have all started being published in video form.

The second has been the adoption of a digital-first policy that sees content published online before it appears in print.  

Both of these approaches have been copied in Ireland. Without a doubt, the Irish media has been facing a similar challenge, so it makes sense to try out approaches that have worked elsewhere.   

Both the Guardian and The New York Times have innovated to stay in the game. How successful these approaches will prove remains to be seen. 

One thing is clear though, when faced with the biggest challenges to their survival, they’ve had to radically change their approach.


“Hello Ambulance Service…” – Innovation in Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine #57 #cong17

By Niall McCormack.

Innovation is the lifeblood of many industries. It is the key driver that enables companies like Tesla, Facebook and Apple to continue their dominance of the tech scene. New innovations are heralded, branded and sold as soon as possible to stay ahead of their competitors. However, some industries, while still reliant on innovation, can be very slow to introduce these changes. A perfect example is healthcare. Any new drug or procedure must be tested, retested and tested again to comply with strict regulatory guidelines. Historically, change has always been quite slow in medicine, even when the change can lead to significant improvements for patients. There is a fear that changes that at first appear beneficial, may prove over time to lead to worse outcomes for patients. There is also another factor to consider. The medical profession has a long and proud history. Unfortunately, the weight of history can often stifle innovation. One area that has cast off the shackles of history, embraced innovation and undergone major changes in Ireland, and around the world, over the past few years is the area of pre-hospital emergency medicine. For this post, I will focus on one area; the response to cardiac patients. 

For many years in Ireland, a heart attack was a death sentence for many. Because of our desire to own a house on our own piece of land, it often meant that our nearest neighbour was a few hundred metres away. This is a major problem for the provision of an ambulance service and results in long waiting times and stress for both patients and responders. When the ambulance arrived, the main treatment included oxygen for the patient and diesel of the ambulance. If things worsened, the patient could stop breathing and their heart could stop beating. The only treatment for this is CPR and defibrillation. If either of these treatments are not given quickly, the person will die. Quite simply, this is the sickest patient you can get.

So, a quick bit of history to set the scene. In May 1967, 24 men gathered at Ratra House, Phoenix Park for the first ever ambulance training course in Ireland. Up to this point, "ambulance drivers" were selected from a pool of local authority drivers and had no formal training. They would drive to the local hospital, collect a nurse, then drive to the scene of the emergency to collect the patient. For the following 30 years, progress was slow. While ambulance crews changed to two ambulance personnel, without the need for a nurse, and some additional training was given to staff, the focus remained the same; attend the scene, give first aid, collect the patient and bring them to the local hospital. To the general public, the staff of the ambulance service were still largely regarded as “ambulance drivers”, not skilled pre-hospital practitioners. Indeed, some staff in the health service held the same view. We needed change. Thankfully, major change was on the horizon. This piece would be much longer if I went into detail on all the various changes we have seen over the past few years. Instead, we’ll look at 5 areas of innovation and change. Some are small, some are major government policies that were implemented, but all resulted in huge changes on the ground.

1. Creating a vision and a plan

The word quango has become a dirty word for many in Ireland but the advent of The Pre-hospital Emergency Care Council has revolutionised pre-hospital care in Ireland. For the first time in this country, we had a vision for the future of pre-hospital care in Ireland. The government realised that the status quo was stagnant and leading to poor outcomes for ill patients and needed urgent change. Dr. Geoff King and his team at PHECC set about changing the archaic system that we had into a world class, lifesaving system. If they were going to succeed in making their vision a reality it was going to require courage, determination and innovative thinking. Over the past 17 years, the skill sets, medications and scope of practice of pre-hospital practitioners has vastly increased. We have gone from lagging at the back of pack, right up to competing with the best in the world. 

2. Centralising cardiac services

If you want to provide the best possible service, in any industry, it makes sense to centralise your service. If you try to provide a great service to everyone, a range of different offering, in multiple locations, at the same time, with the same team you run the risk of your system collapsing. The same is true of healthcare. It does not make sense to have every hospital in the country trying to provide all possible services regardless of location and population. Many governments and Ministers for Health in Ireland have been ridiculed for attempting to centralise services such as cancer care, coronary care and now trauma care, but for the most part it makes sense. There are 5 PCI centres in Ireland that provide emergency catheter labs on a 24/7 basis. If you suffer a heart attack, paramedics can transmit a trace (ECG) of your heart to a PCI centre where they can discuss your case with a cardiologist. If you need emergency stents inserted, the ambulance service will bring you to one of these centres even if it means bypassing your nearest hospital. If they can’t get you there within the designated time frame, you can be flown by helicopter or they can stabilise you in a closer hospital before continuing the journey.

3. Empowering the community

Volunteers and community groups are often the central pillars of a community. This is even more true in rural areas. The community council, the youth club, the Tidy Towns committee and countless others provide services that the government simply cannot provide. During the mid 2000’s, communities began to form responder groups to respond to cases of heart attacks and cardiac arrests in their communities. The groups were registered with the National Ambulance Service and alerted when a 999 call was received for someone in their area. Because they are responding to calls in their community, they often reach the patient ahead of the ambulance service and can begin treatment, or provide lifesaving CPR. This movement has grown over the years and there are now 135 volunteer groups around the country providing this service.

4. Taking flight

Aircraft were first used to provide medical evacuations during World War 1. Injured soldiers were flown to hospitals on fixed wing planes that reduced journey times from days to hours. Modern HEMS services rely mostly on helicopters. Again, the history is rooted in combat medicine where the United States used them extensively in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Ireland was a bit late to the party in this case and our first official, dedicated HEMS service started just a few years ago in a joint venture between the HSE and the Dept. of Defence. Today in Ireland, there are 5 helicopters available as resources to the ambulance service; 1 provided by the Irish Air Corps and 4 provided by the Irish Coast Guard. Plans are advancing for a charity funded service based in Cork and a similar service was recently launched in Northern Ireland.

5. Bringing the resus room to the patient

The resus room, or resuscitation room, is an area in a hospital Emergency Department where critically ill patients are stabilised. As we have seen, the amount of procedures that can now be carried out in an ambulance or on the side of the road has drastically increased in the recent past. There are some skills and procedures however, that remain beyond the scope of practice of even the most educated and experienced pre-hospital practitioners. They require the skill set of an emergency doctor and once again, the community delivered. There are currently 5 schemes operating in Ireland where highly skilled doctors respond to life threatening emergencies with the ambulance service on a voluntary basis. Doctors in Mayo, Dublin, Wicklow and Cork volunteer under the Irish Community Rapid Response charity and drive response vehicles capable of bringing the skills and equipment of the resus room to your home, your work or the side of the road.

The future…

I believe the most exciting and innovative changes in this area are yet to come. We have enormous untapped potential in our communities in the form of responder groups. These will be the key to increasing survival rates from cardiac arrest and heart attacks. Other resources in communities such as fire fighters, members of the Gardaí, voluntary ambulance crews and GPs remain relatively untapped but with a bit of thought and effort, we could add thousands of additional responders to the mix. The scope of practice for pre-hospital practitioners in continually expanding with new skills, equipment and medications being added every 2-3 years. One very exciting area is Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS). Like many medical devices, the size and cost of ultrasound scanners have reduced dramatically in recent years while their power and functions have increased. With this, ambulance crews could diagnose a range of illnesses and injuries and begin treatment before getting to the hospital. In terms of education, paramedic programmes are trending towards university degrees rather than vocational training. This will bring challenges, but also huge opportunities for specialisations in the area such as Community paramedics and Critical Care Paramedics.

Recap:

So, in a relatively short time, we have gone from a very basic service comprising of picking up a patient and driving them to hospital, to a complex, integrated pre-hospital system made up of volunteers, highly skilled pre-hospital practitioners and emergency doctors. It is often said that it takes a system to save a life and I am sure that I haven’t done the system justice in this piece but I think it is clear to see the vast leaps that we have taken in this country in the recent past. Let’s look at a realistic scenario to see how all of this has affected patient care:

Jim, 67, wakes up at 5am, alone, in his house outside a small village in rural Ireland. He has a crushing pain in his chest and he feels weak and nauseous. He calls for an ambulance but he knows he lives 40 minutes away from his nearest hospital. 

If this had happened Jim 20 years ago, the prognosis would not be good. However, let’s see how this could theoretically play out with today’s system:

The dispatcher knows that Jim is very ill and dispatches an ambulance straight away. The ambulance is 20 minutes away from Jim’s village. Looking at their control screen, they see that there is a responder group available in Jim’s village and a rapid response doctor in a town 15 minutes away. Both of these resources are also activated. Within minutes, there is a knock on Jim’s front door. The local responders arrive and assess him. They relay his condition to the dispatcher and begin treating him. 10 minutes pass and Jim is deteriorating. He suddenly stops breathing and his heart stops beating. The responders get to work quickly, performing CPR and using a defibrillator. The rapid response doctor arrives and performs their assessment. They give emergency medications work alongside the responders. The ambulance crew arrive and work alongside the doctor and responders to get Jim’s heart beating again. They give additional drugs and intubate him. After a second shock, Jim’s heart begins to beat again. The team work to stabilise him and assess his heart. They see that Jim has had a heart attack and that he needs urgent transport to a PCI centre. They transmit his ECG  to the cath lab. After a brief conversation with the cardiologist on duty, they both agree that Jim needs stents.  The closest centre is almost an hour and a half by road so they request a helicopter. They make sure he is stable and transport him to the local GAA club where a helicopter from the Irish Coast Guard lands. Jim is flown to the PCI centre in just 20 minutes. At 6pm that day, Jim is sitting up in his bed, eating toast and drinking tea. He is the proud new owner of a heart stent.

Innovation does not always look the same in different industries. Sometimes it is quite a small change, an out of the box thought, that can have the biggest impact. The group of volunteers, living in a rural community, that decided they wanted to help their neighbours in the event of a medical emergency. The doctor who wants to use their skills and give something back to their community in their spare time. The cardiologist that wonders if they could remotely do an ECG on a patient in an ambulance. Sometimes, it’s a major cultural and political change. The Minister who authorises the centralisation of cardiac care services. In all cases though, you need that initial person to start the innovating. Someone to ask the question, “what if…?”. That question, if followed through with by an enthusiastic and energetic group of people, has the power to save lives.


Alignment: The Oxygen of Change #56 #cong17

By Morgan McKeagney.

Alignment - getting people agreed and pointing in the same direction - is the oxygen of getting stuff done. 

With it, small teams can move mountains, get incredible things done. Without it, nothing happens. Lack of alignment is a poison gas: a silent, odourless killer of good ideas and positive change. 

So how do you know if you’re stakeholders are aligned? And what do you do to create and maintain that alignment? 

Identify & map your stakeholders

It may seem obvious, but before you can bring people on a journey, you first have to identify who they are. 

Not all stakeholders are created equal. Some are more important than others. Different people understand, need, want different things. So a critical job is identifying who's who, and mapping where they're at, so you can hone your message and approach accordingly.

Morgan McKeagney #56 Engaging Stakeholders - Google Slides

Fig 1: Engaging Stakeholders: 2x2 Matrix, from Framlabs


At Framlabs, we use this simple 2x2 matrix to map stakeholders. Try it yourself. Draw the matrix out on an A1 sheet, grab your colleagues, some markers  & a bunch of stickies. As a project team, identify all key stakeholders, with one name per sticky. Now place each name / sticky on the appropriate quadrant, according to whether or not they UNDERSTAND and AGREE with what you're planning. 

Mapping your stakeholders is a great starting point. First, it clarifies who's impacted by your initiative, and what their attitude to it is likely to be. Second, it will highlight gaps in your own knowledge: do we really know who we need to engage and what their attitude is? Third, it's a great way of starting a discussion and sharing information across a project team. 

In an ideal world, all your stakeholders will be in the understand / agree quadrant. But in reality, things are never like that. In our experience, the most lethal combination is agree / don't understand: people who say they agree, but don't actually understand the implications for them of what you're proposing.  

So your mission, through a process of engagement, listening & communication, is to move as many stakeholders as you can up into the top-right quadrant, while keeping the detractors engaged through the process as best you can.

Tell a good story: Burning Platform & Lands of Milk & Honey

People hate change. We're built that way. It's self-preservation, encoded deep in our lizard brain. Here we're safe. Over there, we'll be eaten by savage beasts. Let's stay where we are.

Why change? It's a simple, but profound question. To get people engaged, we need a compelling reason for change. An urgent narrative that makes it clear that staying where we are is really not an option, that the risks of standing still outweigh the risks of moving forward. 

Stephen Elop understood this when he took over as Nokia CEO in February 2011. The Company was haemorrhaging market share to Apple and Android and floundering badly. To wake people up, Elop wrote his blistering "Burning Platform" memo (read the full memo here). 

Nokia was a man on a burning oil platform, he said. It didn't have the time or luxury for traditional responses. It needed to jump into the icy water, embrace the unknown, move faster than ever before. Its new reality required radical change and an embrace of new behaviours.

Of course, it didn't end well for Nokia. The diagnosis was solid (they were on a burning platform), but the cure (selling to Microsoft) failed, and ultimately killed the patient.

So an imperative for change (a burning platform) isn't enough. Your narrative also needs to create a credible picture of a better life beyond the burning platform.

Moses, that wily Old Testament prophet, understood this. He knew he couldn't just focus on burning platforms (or bushes). Negativity alone won't move mountains or part seas. 

He needed some positivity: an upside, a vision of a better future, to sustain people through the turmoil of change. 

The Moses story combines both beautifully: the Egyptians hate us & want to kill us (burning platform). But, just past that sea, there's a promised land waiting just for us (milk & honey). So let's get moving, part the oceans, and embrace change and the unknown.

Maintain Engagement: Communication & Clarity

The future is intangible and unknowable. Like Moses, you can tell a great story about a future state of milk and honey, but the here and now will always poke it's head back in. 

It's a long march from the present to some better future. There will be long periods where not a lot seems to be happening, and outputs are negligible. It's in these long gaps, that you can lose even the most committed stakeholders.

Regular, consistent communication is critical for maintaining engagement beyond that initial rush of excitement. 

Keep people informed, even if there's not a lot going on. Reiterate the mantras that made the initiative worthwhile in the first place. Showcase any progress or fresh insights. Share stories that reinforce your narrative. 

Recap: Herding Cats & Leading (Wild) Horses to Water

Hell is other people, says Sartre. As a promoter of change, your success or failure is completely dependent on other people. If you manage to engage your stakeholders, you have a chance of success. If you don't, you will most certainly fail.

Here, we've focused on just three things that can help create alignment: clarity about who your stakeholders are, telling a compelling change story, and regular, consistent, authentic communication.

But human engagement is complex and messy: like herding cats, or leading (wild) horses to water. There's no silver bullet. And there's lots of critical stuff we haven't touched on: purpose, shared goals and values, culture, empowerment, incentives. 

So this is just the start of a dialogue. What's worked for you in your organisation? How have you failed? What else can we do? We’d love to hear your war stories and experiences.




Computing in Irish Schools - Where is the Innovation and Creativity to Come From?

By Richard Millwood.

I have been teaching computing since 1976, and seen the history in the making as computers became widely available in society and schools were able to introduce even 5 year old children to programming. A challenge is how to construe the subject discipline and where to find the teachers to teach it. Unlike any other subject, few teachers have had the opportunity to study computing in depth in their own schooling. So in September I made a presentation with Mags Amond at the Art Teachers Association of Ireland‘s 2017 Annual Conference in the National Gallery of Ireland. I spoke a little about technology & learning, technology & art and then gave some examples of our own experiences and thoughts. You can follow our presentation ‘LED by the heart’ here:    

Included in the presentation was a slide showing a somewhat cubist picture of a landscape, which I had painted myself in art class in school back in 1971, following an algorithm given to me by my art teacher. I remember being satisfied with the constrained process which guided my creativity and choices, and the colourful outcome, which brought aesthetic pleasure that never went away. This was what the teacher asked me to do:

  1. Draw a steep zig-zag line to make a mountain range
  2. Draw a less steep zig-zag line to make a range of foothills
  3. Draw a smoother zig-zag line to make rolling countryside
  4. Extend the lines thinly to divide the space into geometric sections
  5. Paint the sections using sky, mountain, hill and field colours

To bring this up to date, I have more recently written a computer program using the jigsaw-programming language Snap to do this automatically and generate any number of such random landscapes. The thought processes to make this work took me beyond the simple algorithm above as I formalised the details for each step and introduced the random elements which nevertheless produced pleasing outcomes. I have since created an embroidery with my program to echo the cubist landscape using a programmable embroidery machine.

Mags and I demonstrated some other art and craft activities that were founded in technology and computational thinking, including the design of wearable electronics and the control of the lights on a building.  It is quite clear that computational thinking can be a source for artists, particularly those like Vasarely who invented an 'Alphabet Plastique' in the sixties to generate unique prints according to rules through his assistants following the 'programs' of his invention - all this from reading about the ideas of computing, since there were very few computers available to use in those days. Other artists since have created programs on the new, cheap computers that became available.

Our proposition to the art teachers, was that computational thinking and computing is a part of the world they inhabit and might be something they have the aptitude for. Only the week before the presentation I had discovered a Masters dissertation that evidenced this claim.

We also proposed that STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics) might better be written ASTEM, putting the art first, and art teachers taking a lead in developing computing in their schools. The fact is that Ireland faces a huge challenge to innovate the curriculum, and the computing & computer science specifications have been made with collaboration, creativity and 'making' at their hearts and addressing the new knowledge, craft and dispositions demanded for contemporary life, leisure and work. Who better has the perspective, phiosophy and practice to deliver this?


Build It and They Will Come, What's Your Superpower #54 #cong17

By Hassan Dabbagh.

Have you ever thought about where this learning space we call the classroom came from? To truly understand where the classroom as know it came from we need look at the flow of knowledge.

Education: To be Educated is to be informed and to learn of new facts and skills handed down by others to you in to make our lives or the lives of others better.  This is my understanding of education. This was the case until recently, now we learn to pass exams and get good jobs.

Rightly or wrongly our classroom structure comes to us courtesy of organised religion, “lets learn about God and how the world was created then we’ll learn about Maths and science. Evidence of this is in every town in Ireland. I was asked about how I find schools in towns in Ireland PRE-google maps, I said simple, look for the church and you’ll find the school. Try it, unless the national school is a new building it will always be near or even part of the church, remember, I’m not here to talk about how right or wrong it is just simply to look at the flow of knowledge. So, if we look at the church, which is a classroom, we see and hear the priest educating us from the alter about ………. Stuff……….. - its been a while -  same happened in the classroom. Knowledge/information & Learnings that needed to get out was passed from the teacher / priest onto the students.

That’s well and good but what about in today’s world of instant information, the teacher doesn’t have to know everything anymore, the teacher doesn’t have to me part of the knowledge pipline but rather a facilitator, the old structure needs to be dismantled, I’m not saying get rid of schools, that’s just silly.

Let’s not be afraid to learn, lets not be afraid to say I don’t know. Lets create learning spaces where people can pass on skills to each other, let open-source learning in the community.

I’m in the process to creating a learning/makerspace, I want to offer a space to people (makers/hackers/inventors) who need a space to create and as payment I would like them once a week to pass on their skills and knowledge to anyone that wanted to learn something or learn a new skill.

So, if you need a space to create an “automated curtain opener” OR a “YOKE” that uses triggers to work then I can offer the space, with this hope you would share your knowledge with someone is willing to learn a new skill and maybe they are the internet marketing guru you need to make you “yoke” the best “yoke” in the world.

What’s your superpower ?


Bridging the Gap Between Communication and Connection #53 #cong17

By Robyn Hamilton.

The impact of digitalisation on the craft of copywriting

Back in 2016, I researched and wrote my Master’s dissertation exploring the impact of digital on the craft of copywriting in marketing communications. Fast forward a year and a half, and I find that many of the resulting insights from my study are having a direct impact on the work I’m currently carrying out in the communications department of personal finance website, bonkers.ie. 

In pre-digital days, the copywriter’s primary role was to write marketing copy that engaged the consumer’s attention in a creative way, to leave a lasting and memorable impression - and preferably drive an action. These remain the core duties of a good copywriter but the role now also entails a whole host of other skills. It’s no longer just about the ability to write creatively; nowadays to write effective copy that engages, encourages and enables sharing, the copywriter has to consider communication objectives, online platforms, digital devices, keywords, plus social media formats, and data analytics in addition to being able to write to entertain and inform. And let’s not forget that everything now also needs to be done in half the time or less - digitalisation has dramatically sped up every part of the marketing communication process; including research, production, processing and dissemination.

New media means new ways of communicating

The introduction and mass proliferation of a new kind of interactive marketing communication model, made possible by the rise of social media networks, means that marketing messages are now a two-way street. Interactivity between brand and consumer means tone of voice and the ability to communicate ‘with’ rather than ‘at’ the consumer is key. Copy needs to be less imperative and more conversational, friendly and approachable in tone. In other words, it needs to speak in the vernacular of its various audiences and be open to response and dialogue.

We are well and truly past the birth of the digital era, but there can be a lag in implementing new theories and models of communication to effective use, especially considering the light-speed at which technology is progressing when it comes to online marketing messaging. This, indeed, is where innovation is required. 

Implementation in action at bonkers.ie

Hired as a copywriter and online content creator for bonkers.ie back in March of this year, I am very proud to have played a key role in the ongoing development and innovation of our online communications strategy, with a particular focus on social media. 

When I began working for bonkers.ie, there were a number of elements to our communications strategy that remained constant and had been so for some time. Between the members of our team, we aimed to write and publish at least one post to our company blog per day. Said post would then be circulated on our primary social media channels including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. We would then respond to any questions or comments made on those posts. Once a week we would host a live round-up video on Facebook, summarising the main news in personal finance for that week. Finally, once a month we would send out an email newsletter to a list of subscribers, rounding up the month’s news, including relevant links to blog posts written throughout the month. 

These were our three main methods of community management and communication, and though effective in their own right, like any ongoing process, they warranted continued monitoring and development to work towards a goal of amelioration.  

We knew that our content was adding value in the short-term (when the content was published), but we began to consider ways to build long-lasting relationships through ongoing interaction and engagement. We were very focused on volume output and not enough on community engagement to ensure that our messages were being heard and engaged with; in other words we were talking ‘at’, but now it was time to talk ‘with’ the consumer, as discussed earlier. 

Developing a new tone of voice

Noting this, we decided to overhaul how we approached our communications, with a particular focus on social media. In terms of copy, the first thing we decided to change significantly was the company’s tone of voice. Up until this point we had endeavoured to sound authoritative, informative but friendly and fairly approachable. With our primary goal to increase community engagement, we decided to adopt a more familiar and conversational to encourage interaction. Consequently, in addition to familiarising our language with colloquialisms and occasional slang, we began capitalising more on topical hashtags, as well as using popular emoji shorthand or gif reactions where relevant or appropriate. In conjunction with this move, we began to invest a lot more time interacting with customers in comments sections, via retweets and in direct/private messages. 

Adapting content to new environments

With a new video production assistant joining the team in August, we also began looking into ways to innovate and dramatically improve our video output. Taking into account today’s average newsfeed, cluttered as it is with videos all demanding attention, we moved focus away from long live videos and towards shorter, pre-recorded, edited and overall better produced segments. Many of these pieces are more ‘evergreen’ and less topical in nature, and consequently have a longer shelf life in terms of relevance to our customers. To maximise views and engagement we also adapted video output formats; opting for a square portrait view (as opposed to landscape) for Facebook videos, which makes videos easier to view on smartphone screens and also adding subtitles to all videos, taking into account that the majority of videos watched on social media are watched with the sound off.    

The results 

So, you must be wondering? Did all, and does all of this ongoing innovation have a significant impact? Well let’s take a look at some examples. Below you can view a snapshot of our Twitter analytics for the month of October 2016 as compared to October 2017, which more or less speak for themselves: 


Despite the fact that the volume output of tweets did not largely change; impressions, profile visits, mentions and new followers dramatically increased. In the two further examples below we’ve taken our top tweet from October 2016 and our top tweet from the same month the following year. These examples demonstrate perfectly the contrast between our old strategy and the new one. 


In the 2016 example, the language used is friendly but somewhat formal in nature, lacking personality and the tweet itself is fairly functional. In the 2017 example, we have utilised a few of examples discussed earlier. First of all, we capitalised on a trending hashtag of the day #Ophelia, which of course referenced hurricane Ophelia which was battering the country that day. The tone is familiar and somewhat cheeky, utilising emojis to suggest that people use their downtown at home sheltering from the storm to switch their gas and electricity and consequently drive traffic towards our website.  

Robyn Hamilton image 3


Conclusion

When I began pursuing a career in copywriting and content marketing, I didn’t anticipate just how much innovation goes into the daily upkeep to stay ahead of the curve outside of the ideation process for content creation but I can’t deny that I relish the opportunity to greet new challenges every day. I can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner.   


 







Innovation As A Lifestyle #52 #cong17

By Kelsey Roberts.

It all began with an introverted, sentimental, but determined me beginning a job with a big multinational that I knew would require me to move to four different locations for six months each, changing jobs within the company at each new site. The thought of this both scared and excited me, I knew I wasn’t fully comfortable with it and I set out to attempt to increase my personal tolerance for change. I put on some sappy songs on the car stereo and cried throughout the drive leaving my then home, Atlanta, Georgia, and driving away from the closest friends I had made thus far in my life (and fortunately many of whom remain that to this day, even many miles and time zones apart).

My first new home was Columbus, Ohio – a place I knew little about other than the religious-like following of their prized college football team, Ohio State, fresh off the win of a national championship the year before. That excitement aside, it took me months in Ohio to figure out how to not only support a college football team that wasn’t my own, but also find and create friendships within a working life structured with defined hours and business trips. I spent months being lonely and missing Atlanta, but over time I found some groups to fill my time and that void with. I learned how to be content with loneliness and gained the self-awareness to acknowledge that it’s a natural feeling, and I innovated to find coping techniques to deal with it.

Only a few months of finally getting settled in to Ohio and my next move was sprung on me – I was given about four weeks’ notice that I would be moving to Chicago, Illinois. The next challenge to tackle in this move was finding housing. Even though I knew the neighbourhood of the city that I liked, seeking out a stranger to live with was a new experience for me, and made me test out a new skill of quickly analysing a personality over a 10 minute chat and making a decision about something as big as who to live with based on that brief analysis. Over my next months, I re-created a new life for myself by making new friends, discovering a passion for tutoring kids, and even learning from some mistakes that involved a few too many pints (well, the American-sized pints). I had not created the perfect concoction of a life yet – but I felt steps closer in my journey by finding and recognising passions and people that made me happy.

As in any true innovation process, my life was iterated and changed as soon as I began testing out one version of it and I was off to a new place – this time to the small town of Altavista, Virgina, a big change from the urban cities I had previously called home. Altavista is filled with Southern hospitality and strong family values, but when it comes to religious and political standings it has a vastly different environment than I was raised in. Coincidentally, this move came in the fall of 2016, just in time for the gearing up of campaigning for the U.S. Presidential Election. A true fish out of water, my political beliefs differed from most of my colleagues, and this time innovating my life meant finding ways to connect with people when you come from a different background. But, this process grew to feel natural quickly and became incredibly impactful as I formed some of the most inspirational connections of my life here. I also fell in love with the job I had here - another piece of my life that brought the greatest professional challenges I had faced to date, and subsequently gave me the greatest reward through a true sense of fulfilment in mastering new solutions to those challenges each day. The changes I went through in my attitude for empathising with others, my ability to relate to and connect with new people, and the revolution of finding happiness in an unexpected job made this stop in my life a true example of innovation hard at work.

Now leaving Altavista was one of the hardest experiences of my life, a new feeling of being utterly unprepared to move on from a phase but being ripped away regardless. But the innovation of life does not stop and my journey was still ongoing – so I grabbed my passport and headed across the ocean to move to Ireland. Clonmel in Tipperary was the last of my four assignments with this multinational company, and met me with another new job role, new colleagues and friends, and a new side of the road to drive on. After making improvements finding personal hobbies and creating friends through my last three moves, the thought of meeting new people was no longer scary and I was ready to embrace creating a new social life in Ireland. What I honestly didn’t expect was to have my accent recognised for American so instantly (shocking that I thought it would blend in, as I now know). Here, no amount of relating to or connecting with the people and culture would hide my forever obvious accent. I had to restructure my own expectations for my identity, again adapting my innovation process and to meet the needs of this new country and how I saw my life here. At this point the challenge of changing my perspective and strategies to fit a new situation was familiar and ultimately enjoyable and fulfilling. I began seeking out new ways in which I could change my life to continue developing and growing in the fastest way possible.

My sixth and final move that I will share with you today (although by no means final in my life), came when I left the multinational I was working for and changed my career to move to Galway and pursue entrepreneurship and innovation research at NUI Galway. Until sitting down to write this post, I didn’t fully realise how fitting it is that my new work involves studying innovation full-time, when innovation has become the biggest hallmark of my life over the past few years. I could not have gone through as many life changes as I have without adopting a mindset of continual innovation on a personal level, and I would not have developed this mindset in the same way without the repeated changes that my life was thrust into. At this point, making changes has become almost addicting in a way, and I know my life is a journey ripe for innovation at every corner. I’ve learned countless new skills and developed my personality along the way, but the greatest way in which I have adapted is simply by embracing innovation as a lifestyle and all the challenges and thrills that come along with that. Here’s to the next changes we will all make in our lives, both big and small, and to keeping the mindset that life is meant to always be innovated!


Me, Myself and the Entrepreneur. #51 #cong17

By Alan Dowling.

Ask someone what they do for a living and they will tell you I’m a nurse, a retail assistant, a salesperson or a marketer. Ask someone who has their own business or trying to start a business and they will say I’m an entrepreneur or I work for myself.

The reason is in most cases they have to be able to do everything and anything and can’t really define the one thing that they do. In actual fact, they may represent 50% of their entire company workforce.

So, what happens when you cannot define what it is you do? Your idea or your business can very easily become who you are. Socially you spend time with other entrepreneurs because they talk shop as much as you do. It becomes your face, your first thought when you wake up and last thought before you go to sleep. Sometimes excitement and ideas, sometimes fear and dread.

So here's a thought. What happens when after a long period of time your idea dies or your business closes. What happens to you? Do you even know who “you” are anymore and how can you decide what next? If you setup a company rather than a sole trader, you do so to create a separate legal entity from yourself. Ironically though how much of yourself is the company? Detaching yourself not just legally but mentally from the business. Figuring out what it is that you do is the only way to go again in a meaningful way.

If “going again” is taking or looking for a salaried job with a specific role, how do you now explain this to your entrepreneur friends without making it sound like you have moved to the dark side. Oh, the shame in having to admit that you have opted to go from 80 hours per week to 40, or where you have spent the family shopping budget in order to make that last ditch meeting in London which could make or break you and your family. Imagine being happy instead of annoyed to be reminded that next Monday is a bank holiday.

Starting or running a business is like a war without a ceasefire and I have seen so many great veterans fall. I’ve watched them struggle with the “going again” part but being deeply ashamed to admit that they are struggling inside. Startup culture in Ireland is growing and that's great. Culturally though I think we need to try and manage expectations. Yes the Collison brothers are from Limerick, yes they are worth a staggering 2.2 billion but they are an exception to the norm and don’t forget, they first went to Massachusetts IT before Silicon Valley’s elite backed them. They also did not have families and children to support adding to their scales of risk.

Celebrating raising money or focussing on that rather than trading is something that appears to be creeping in. Think about it. On one hand, you have Joe the plumber who employs 5 people and is trading away with a positive cash balance. On the other, you have Aine who has just raised 1.2 million to develop a piece of software for the insurance industry. Who do you think has the bigger or more successful business?

I say fair play to both because we need one to trade and one to try but let's not value one more than the other.

I would say as a country we have a huge opportunity for innovation. It’s not IOT or Blockchain, it’s about how we support startups, traders, and big ideas, but more importantly the person. It’s not always just about money. I don’t want to see the next big trend on the horizon being a big mental health one. People have to know there is more that defines them than just their business!


It's Time to Wake Up! #50 #cong17

By Eileen Forrestal.

The Cave You Fear To Enter …

For some people the world seems like a ‘dark’ place.

In all our lives, we often experience ‘dark’ moments.

In each of us, we can have our own ‘dark’ thoughts.

There is no such ‘thing’ as ‘Dark’ however, we only know dark in the context of light, ie in its absence.

The way to eliminate darkness in a room is to ‘switch’ on a light.

The darkness of the night disappears with the rising sun.

Darkness in a spooky corner will be eliminated when we shine a light on it.

What about the ‘dark thoughts’ in our mind ? Would simply shining a light on them cause them to disappear?

Dark thoughts are accompanied by certain moods and feelings, to all of which we ascribe certain words. The same words are also the most powerful tools that we have for throwing (the proverbial) light on any subject.

Darkness is often associated with fear. Fear of dark caves, dark houses, dark nights …. In olden times whatever happened in the hours of darkness was a mystery, it was scary and all sorts of explanations were given for ‘things that go bump in the night.

We are all scared of the dark! Our ‘brain’ or maybe our ‘eyes’ have not yet been updated to be comfortable in the dark. Is the cat really ‘scared-y’!!

Much of our fear of darkness relates to the unseen and unknown.

In the day-light world – what could there possibly be to fear? Sure, the tiger running towards us would be a terrifying experience, but failing that, what is we actually fear?

We fear what we can’t see, what we don’t know and what we don’t understand.

My favourite quote is from Joseph Campbell  ‘the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek’.

I also  love the quote from Marianne Williamson as quoted by Nelson Mandela  –  Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. it is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us’.

Only when we risk asking a question have we any hope of getting an answer.

We  have the gift of language …. a remarkable tool - and in language we can actually ‘shine a light’ on our fears by asking what are they and where do they come from. The answer may liberate us. The truth may indeed set us free!

Someone asked me recently what was I afraid of ?

I answered honestly – “dying without ever having been known”.

That answer brought another question.

How could I be known?

I must show up as who I am and risk being seen and heard.

This was the cave I feared to enter … but would it hold the treasure I sought?

I had spent over 30 years avoiding this -  hiding, in silence and for 20 years, putting people to sleep. I was an Anaesthetist. No one ‘knew me’.

Why did I become a Doctor – it was ‘the longest course in college’! I had a ‘stammer’ and a fear of speaking - I feared being judged, mocked, embarrassed, and misunderstood.

I believed a ‘job’ that required speaking to people, even on the telephone, was not possible for me. I decided I would stay in school …. for as long as possible ….

But they say ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ … I was soon ‘trapped’ in a career that was not ‘who I was’ but, it kept me ‘safe’. I made the best of it. I was smart and hardworking. Over the years I lost something. I lost heart. I was doing well was but I had no voice. I occurred for myself as small and ‘powerless’ … and, slowly but surely, a part of me died, (or slept / went unconscious)  I had given up on my dreams. I had actually dreamed about being on the stage … in truth I wanted to be Shirley Temple … or Anyone But Eileen Forrestal … in fact anyone for whom the words came easily out of their mouths.

Inevitably, my career stalled. Yes, I was materially wealthy, outwardly ‘successful’ but I was dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

My marriage failed. My relationship with myself was suffering.

I asked myself ‘how did this happen to me ‘? Where did it all go wrong?

Was I sleep walking through life patiently waiting for it all to work out in the end?

Was I driving my own bus to where I wanted to go or was the bus diving me?

Did I have any ‘say’ in how my life went?

Had I fallen asleep at the wheel, and how many years ago?

Was being afraid of the answer a good enough reason not to ask the question?

Is curiosity not the key to everything …

If I didn’t ask the answer would always be No …. and there would be no opportunity ….

Was the fear of holding on now greater than the fear of letting go?

“The way out of the trap is into the trap”.

What was my trap?

The fear.

What was my fear … stuttering and being judged ?

How could I get out of the trap?

Go into the trap. Feel the fear and do it anyway…

Speak up  … risk the stutter ..

and risk being judged.

I spoke and I spoke the truth about my fear … clearly and  without hesitation.

What Happened?

People listened to what I had to say and I was not judged.

I was so happy

People said I was shining

I was out …. In the light and I loved it.

I went on to speak on radio … and Dragons Den … and have stood in front of large groups of people … speaking fluently – this now was life beyond my dreams.

My marriage breakdown was a a Wake Up call for me.

Instead of looking for someone to blame, I took the courage to look inside. The road to happiness is an inward journey.

We don’t often hear the ‘wake up’ calls in life, not until they are really loud!

We may be shaken by a medical diagnosis or an unfortunate accident or close call. Some of us may have sufficient time to make good the rest of our lives; others are not so lucky.

We stay ‘asleep’, blissfully unaware of the enormous possibilities that lie just outside our ‘comfort zone’.

We build our walls to keep us safe, fearing the darkness outside, where in fact, perhaps we have built walls keeping our fears locked inside.

We all recognise the happiness of children at play – curiously engaging with the world, not afraid to ask questions … but why ? but why? but why?

And happy to make up their own answers; If an ‘adult’ is not giving a satisfactory answer what’s wrong with ’making up’ a new and better one???

Children shine their innovative light all the time … until someone ‘puts it out’ with a thoughtless response or harsh judgement or a cruel comment.  As adults perhaps we fear the same ‘punishment’ when we ask an honest question?

In life, we are always on the edge of the unknown.

We often ascribe the fear of change to a fear of the future – like it is some unknown land that we will suddenly find ourselves in – unprepared  and ill-equipped. So we look back to find comfort in the familiar.

But we are all now living in this mythical place that we called ‘the future’ yesterday, or last week, or last year, or 50 years ago…. and we are ok.

The future is there to be filled and will appear bright or dark depending on what we fill it with - our dreams or our fears.

True innovation requires new and creative thinking.

A new answer requires a new question, asked in a new way, desiring a new solution, creating a new future; an old problem viewed through a new lens … with the sleep rubbed from our eyes… awake and looking newly at the world … noticing everything … without fear … like a new born baby or someone waking from a deep sleep or an anaesthetic … as if seeing the world for the first time…. and wondering what it might be like if ….

It is our privilege (and responsibility) as human beings to be able to imagine an exciting and inspiring future, to be able to speak it into existence and to take the actions necessary to realise it. Everything that exists in the world today existed first as a thought in a person’s mind. We need the confidence to ‘shine an innovative light’ into the unknown future. We need new and innovative thinking to create the visions that will inspire the next generation to design a better, fairer world.

As an anaesthetist I had a chance every day to say Wake Up! Can you hear me.... It’s time to wake up….. time to Rise and Shine ....

So, I say again, not as an Anaesthetist this time …. Wake Up and Shine Your Innovative Light.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. We are all born to shine.  ”As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”.


History is Great, But the Future is All We Have Left #49 #cong17

By Gar Mac Críosta.

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”

- John Lennon

We talk about innovation in the present tense (the present), we describe innovation through the lens of previous innovations (the past). But the future is all we have left. Thinking about the future is something we all do but without much thought. This post feels like a bit of a cheat for Congregation (www.congregation.ie) last years theme was the ‘Future’ and this years is ‘Innovation’ I’m going to combine the two things. I’m making the case that without tools to support the innovation process, innovation dies 1 post-it at a time.

This year (& next year 2018) with MindRising we are exploring the area of future thinking and teaching future thinking in schools (and outside of that I get to do this with grown-ups). We will be introducing a whoFuturecasting Toolkit a method, canvas & card-deck that can be used to create futurecasts. Innovation can’t happen without imagination. Imagination is a ‘muscle’ that can be trained. But how do we begin to think about the future. My work as an architect has brought me into contact with scenario planning, strategic foresight, future forecasting, long-range planning, technology adoption strategies etc. Lot’s of good work has been done in this area so this is hopefully a valuable (&fun) addition to the toolbelt.

The Challenges

  1. Organisations who aren’t keeping an eye on the horizon end up being hit in the back of the head by obvious signals when it’s too late
  2. Most organisations struggle to think of tomorrow as being any different from today, the future is today +1 or +10 but it’s linear and predictable. This works well right up until the time when it doesn’t work at all and your irrelevant.
  3. The certainty of uncertainty and our predilection for prediction. Our brains crave certainty it’s the way we are wired, we hate uncertainty and it’s sister ambiguity. As a result we are condition to make predictions, when they come true they reinforce our self-delusion when they fail they are explainable.

“The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.” — Danny Kahneman

Background

I came across The Institute for the Future and Jane McGonigal (Reality is Broken and Betterness) a number of years ago and the work they were doing on the future fascinated me. I started using the lingo and evolving a set of workshops. And then a chance conversation with Tom Graves and a passing remark — “you know Gar you should really turn that into a card deck and game” so I did (well I’m doing).

Futurecasting is a critical element of all innovation initiatives. First let’s get some principles agreed.

  • The Future is uncertain
  • The Future is unknowable
  • The Future is emergent
  • The Future is Unexpected

The wonderful thing about stories & neural coupling

Terry Pratchett described an element called Narrativium the sixth element after — earth, fire, air, water and surprise. The essential element that made all the worlds stories ‘run’. In order for us to think about the future we need to connect our imagination with the power of stories.

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

- Pablo Picasso

Stories are based on beliefs about how things work. Stories about the future engage the imagination (and often under-utilised muscle in many large organisations).

Why stories work?

Neural Coupling — people’s brain pattern’s mirroring each other.

When someone tells you a story, they are sharing an experience and expressing their beliefs about that experience at the same time. In addition both teller and listener are pairing their brains [neural coupling], building relationships and creating social cohesion that makes it easier for them to develop shared goals and move toward those goals in a collaborative, coordinated way.

- Dave Gray — Liminal Thinking

“Serious business people” usually don’t have time for such fanciful nonsense as storytelling and imagination. I argue that they should in fact we all should. You can’t look into the future through the eyes of a spreadsheet no matter how good an excel jockey you think you are!

Futurecasting stories are stories about the future that others can ‘experience’ with you, as you ‘play’ with new ideas. Now that we know we need stories we need some kind of guide to help us build stories about the future.

The basics

How do we help imagine new futures? Well first off it would help if we had some definitions and a language to begin to describe things that we’re seeing.

Rules — laws that govern the changes of all things they apply universally and are typically bi-directional and systemic in nature

  • big , ← → small
  • slow ← → fast
  • fixed ← → mobile
  • rare ← → common
  • states change (liquid ← → gas ← →solid ← → liquid)
  • dumb ← → smart

Impact — describes the effect, impact and direction of something new as it arrives in the world —

  • nothing changes
  • increase — steady, accelerating, abrupt
  • decrease — steady, accelerating, abrupt
  • permanence of effect — transient or permanent

Trend — some observable change that’s happening

  • mega — big global shifts e.g. urbanisation
  • government — how we are governed
  • society, culture & lifestyle- how we live, work, play
  • technology — new technologies & technology based breakthrus influencing and driving change
  • economics & business — shifts & movements in the nature and structure or organisations and businesses
  • environment —

Forces — Kevin Kelly in his books The Inevitable lists 12 forces that are changing everything,

  1. Becoming: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions
  2. Cognifying: Making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud
  3. Flowing: Depending on unstoppable streams in real-time for everything
  4. Screening: Turning all surfaces into screens
  5. Accessing: Shifting society from one where we own assets, to one where instead we will have access to services at all times.
  6. Sharing: Collaboration at mass-scale. Kelly writes, “On my imaginary Sharing Meter Index we are still at 2 out of 10.”
  7. Filtering: Harnessing intense personalisation in order to anticipate our desires
  8. Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombine in all possible ways
  9. Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximize their engagement
  10. Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
  11. Questioning: Promoting good questions are far more valuable than good answers
  12. Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions

List courtesy of Wikipedia The Inevitable

Technology Triggers — new technologies that do old jobs in new ways or totally reinvent what is

My heart is in technology and I believe that lots of good can come from unstoppable advances that surround us in ever greater numbers.

Signals — are messages from the future that are all around us we just have to notice them, e.g. someone sitting on a bus with a battery powered hoverboard to take them on the last mile home. Signals are the manifestation of technology triggers combined with trends driven by rules and forces.

Context — where am I and what’s going? e.g. I’m home and bored and it’s raining

Futurecast — a futurecast is a story about the future, it explores the impact of triggers and signals on you in a context sd

Personal Futurecast — Jane McGonigal makes it clear that making it personal to you makes it real and means that you have things to win or lose from this future. Jane says signals are like jellybeans, each has a flavour and when you mix the flavours you get interesting new flavours. Mix up the flavours, take chances, don’t just link connected things.

“Every good story starts with a person in some kind of situation: a problem, a choice, or an opportunity.” Dave Gray Liminal Thinking

Blast Radius — what happens if this spreads

  • Personal — just me is just that just me
  • Local — just in this place
  • Pervasive — everywhere
  • Common & Accepted — it’s the new normal (over-used but useful in this case)

Sunshine — taking the personal futurecast and applying it to the world at large, exploring the amazing positive impacts this future could have on the world

Shadow — taking the personal futurecast and applying it to the world at large, exploring the amazing negative impacts this future could have on the world

Insights — deeper understanding of some issue, theme, idea. Remember these are not predictions they are stories, we have to remember that they aren’t true their goal is not to be true rather it’s to allow us to explore the future, insights are a side-effect AND you won’t

Opportunity — finding a gap that creates an opportunity for something new to exist. Not every opportunity is for you some just exist, you simply acknowledge and let it float away.

So now we have a vocabulary to start describing things in the future so what next I hear you ask where do we start.

Futurecasting Toolkit

“The future is a place where everything can be different”

Jane McGonigal

I spend a good chunk (the most enjoyable chunk professionally) of my life facilitating group workshops. I’m a big fan of having tools to help people structure their thinking, surface their ideas and visualise everything. I noticed a gap in my toolkit with relation to helping people to think about the future. I had been using some of Jane McGonigal’s signals & jellybeans, elements of scenario planning and Grove Context Mapping but there appeared to be a hole in my process. And so the futurecasting toolkit was born.

The Gap

  • Use it to play with an uncertain and unpredictable future
  • Use it to reveal the impacts of signals on your life, world, industry, organisation or business model.
  • Use it on your own to play with ideas and imagine a future good & bad

I’m a big fan of JTBD (Jobs To Be Done) and so here are the jobs that the toolkit does for you as an individual or as a group.

Situation: When I’m confronted with waves of new trends, I feel overwhelmed, I have frustrating glimpses of the future that appear and then vanish

Need: I need a way of harnessing the trends, paying attention to my insights and playing with the future.

Situation: When I’m asked to develop a strategy for an uncertain future with nothing but a vague definition of what that is and what’s required.

Need: I need a way of developing new opportunities & articulating the possibilities that could result.

Tool: Futurecasting Canvas

The Futurecasting Canvas is a tool to help you tell a story about the future.

Futurecasting Canvas Version 0.3 Designed By: Business Model Adventures

REQUEST: I tried to contact Jane so if you read this and you know her then please share. I’ve credited her as the inspiration for this.

Tool: Futurecasting Cards

A set of cards to help you explore forces, trends, triggers and signals.

Tool: Futurecasting Workshop Guide

A guide to using all of the tools and conducting a futurecasting workshop with big or small groups.

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

- Epictetus

Tool: Futurecasting Signal Notebook

A notebook to help you collect and notice signals you receive from the future. Right now this is just a regular notebook, onenote, phone camera etc. But it will soon be a real notebook.

  • What’s the trigger?
  • Where were you & what were you doing?

Futurecasting Rules

  • Everything is possible
  • No one can be wrong
  • Everyone participates no one dominates
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Listen & Be Present
  • Look for unusual connections
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment
  • Be BRAVE!!!

Futurecast

Future of my morning health check

Scary future with a health conscious if slightly aggressive smart fridge

The Future for the Futurecasting Toolkit

  1. Anyone at congregation who wants to play with the future can just ask, one round takes about 15 to 25 mins
  2. Participate in a workshop and help me with the prototyping; I’m running workshops in December 2017 and January 2018. Feel free to ask if you can participate in one.
  3. This will all be released under an open source license so if you want to participate, play and try it let me know.












































CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie