Here’s to the Imagineers!

I was invited to speak at the second Think Different Dundee which took place last night at Drouthy’s, Dundee. It was a great evening with a broad range of disciplines, minds and sensibilities in the room – all with a desire to think differently. What follows is a (slightly) more articulate, (hugely) less shambolic interpretation of what I said…

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I’m a little concerned about this talk of mini-TED talks. The first TED talk I ever saw was the JJ Abrams talk which he starts by explaining how he was asked to do the talk. When asked by Abrams what he should talk about the rep said “don’t worry about it. Just be profound”. So then Chris asked me to do this and I said “Great, what should I talk about?” “It’s up to you,” was the reply, “We’re aiming for 4/5 minute TED talks.” In my head that sounded like, “It’s up to you. Just be profound.And in a quarter of the time.” So, though I’m told you should never make apologies before you speak publicly, I’m going to make two: 1) this won’t be profound, and 2) nor will it be 5 mins.

So, as this is Think Different I thought I would bring along a copy of an original Apple Think Different advert from 1998. Along with the campaign was a piece of text written by Apples ad agency  – I’m only going to read the first section but I thought it would be appropriate: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.

As a title I suppose Crazy Ones is fine for an advertising campaign but not so good on your ID badge! And so it got me thinking about a title that I’ve had my eye on for some time now, Imagineer. Imagineer. If you’ve heard the title before it’s probably because of the Disney Imagineers who come up with interactive stuff, the animatronics and theme park rides for the Magic Kingdom. But I discovered recently that while Disney have used the title for some time they didn’t originate it. Imagineer was defined originally in the 1940’s by an aluminium (or Aluminum) company in the USA called Alcoa. They even put out a statement at the time to explain it:

For a long time we’ve sought a word to describe what we all work at hard here at Alcoa… IMAGINEERING is the word… Imagineering is letting your imagination soar, and then engineering it down to earth.

Letting your imagination soar, and then engineering it down to earth. So, to Alcoa Imagineering is a combination of imagination and engineering. Imagination is key, obviously… and hopefully everyone arrived with their imagination intact. But what about Engineering? Alcoa were using the noun and thinking about traditional engineering (which is fine), but we could also read it in the sense of the verb, to skilfully arrange for (something) to happen. I like the sound of that. So, this combination of imagination and engineering is a powerful concept… but… I think we could also throw in something else, and if we’re going to tell an interesting story then we need three things anyway, right..??!

So lets throw in Pioneering, as in, forging a new path. imagineering venn diagram I think that when you bring those three things together – Imagination, skilfully arranging for (something) to happen, while forging a new path – you have something pretty amazing. And hopefully this is summarises the intent behind Think Different Dundee. So I thought that we should have a think about what this could look like, because these ideas in isolation are not new, these ways of thinking have always been there…

A big part of what excites my imagination these days is how widely attainable technology is to us and the possibilities and opportunities that that accessibility presents us with. A lot of my freelance work is spent teaching digital media you young people (of all ages) – and typically I use mobile devices for filmmaking and animation. What we can achieve on an iPad today is amazing. I could have made the same films 20 years ago but to take to edit and share on the go would have taken a Volvo Estate to carry all of the kit – the VHS top-loaders, huge cameras, a generator for the power source…! You just wouldn’t do it. But today it’s in our hands – for most of us it’s in our pocket. So it’s accessible! And that’s exciting to me. It fires my imagination.

To apply skilful arrangement to products or services is valid and amazing in itself, … but another aspect to it, what I value most, is when the person I work for enables or facilitates the environment that allows this kind of thinking – a space that allows me to think different. That’s the kind of skilful arrangement that I really appreciate. A big reason for working freelance is that I can try to enable that for myself – but I’ve also been lucky enough to experience in my day job as well. Again, this thinking has always been there – did you know that the Post-It note came about because the company 3M allowed employees 10-15% of their work time to develop their own ideas? They had to be pitched to the company at some point but the space was there to experiment. So recognising the need for this way of working and enabling it is a huge responsibility for leaders. Roselinde Torres in her TED talk, What it takes to be a great leader, says “Great leaders are not head-down. They see around corners, shaping their future, not just reacting to it.” So if you’re in such a position, take the opportunity to thinking differently and enable an imagineer.

I work in public services. More than ever public services need imagineers. There are fewer resources but we need more out of them. And so the smallest change can make all the difference. My enthusiasm for Service Design comes from the difference that I have seen it make when people for a wide range of disciplines come together and this video is a great illustration of what the service design approach can do.

Let’s ignore the fact that the unfortunate chap is a bit drunk… the fence and the space on the other side represent the service, but hit’s not clear to our hero how to access it. Rather than enabling him it restricting him. It makes no sense to him. This is what happens when public services don’t think about the people who are using them – it’s frustrating. But what I’ve seen service design achieve, through observation and investigation (in this case it’s the camera man) is identify the people who have discovered a work around (the young boy). Looking at how people use services is a great start to fixing them in a more substantial way but it means getting in a ground level, asking questions, and putting ourselves in their shoes. I hope that tonight you will leave excited and imaginative. I hope that you will be better prepared to make things happen, skilfully. I hope that you will be inspired to forge new paths. Here’s to the Imagineers.

Thank you for listening (reading). TED Talks to look out: JJ Abrams,  Roselinde Torres
See also: Why I am NOT a service designer

Steve Jobs talking about the ‘Think Different’ campaign:


Dementia Diary meet Memory Box

I Met with Memory Box originator Scott Downie this week.


It was after tweeting progress of a workshop at Alzheimer’s Scotland a few weeks ago that I received a message from Scott informing me of Memory Box and that we should talk.

My workshop was focussed on Dementia Diary, an idea formulated through the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) Workforce Of The Future Challenge (partnered with IRISS). It investigates the use of video as a tool for supporting people living with Dementia or Alzheimer’s, their families and their carers.

dementia storyboard 1

Here’s a short video of one of our suggested uses:

The idea is currently in the pilot development stage and about to be trialled by Alzheimer’s and Dementia Key workers in Glasgow and the Borders.

So far we have built on the premise that Dementia Diary is an umbrella name for the preliminary idea of using video in this context. How it is adopted, modified or evolved is down to the authority, organisation or individual. From there they can call it what they like!

So what’s with Memory Box?
What Memory Box presents is a possible framework within which ‘a’ Dementia Diary could exist for some people. If offers secure access to your own or web sourced content (images, video, music, maps, etc) designed to be specific to the user’s profile. That profile would contain key information: locations of interest (home, holiday), family, hobbies, likes/dislikes, etc…

Memory Box can be managed by carers or family members and is no more complicated that your average CMS system or Facebook! It builds on the foundations and principles of Reminiscence Therapy (RT). While RT has been around for several decades the research into is relatively new but significant enough to put weight behind Memory Box. Used in conjunction with a gathering of two or more people Memory Box sparks meaningful conversations. Not only that but it helps bridge the generation gap of grandparents and young people who don’t know where to start conversations (I saw evidence of this when I did this project.)

This begs the question, should we be waiting for our elderly loved ones to be developing Dementia before we engage with a tool such as this?

Currently being tested and independently evaluated in a selection of care environments Memory Box is due to be launched early in 2014.

You can find out more about the product and the charity behind it at

Share and share alike…

First rule of social media..?!Share and share alike


I’m thinking that this might make a good Tshirt design along the lines of the mock-up below… any comments or interest?

Have your say…


Workforce Of The Future – Presentations

Monday 10 December – the Scottish Social Services Council ‘Workforce Challenge’ reached its climax with five ‘dynamic’ presentations at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth!

In partnership with the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, SSSC set the challenge to Social Services professionals from across Scotland and Northern Ireland to innovate and rethink services and person centred care.

The final event pitched the ideas to social service organisations who stepped up to the plate and committed time and expertise in order to pilot the projects!

Below is a blow by blow account of the event via Tweets, TwitPics and Instagrams from people in and out of the room (gathered together through Storify). From the final day of the presentation workshops through to the adoption of the projects, you’ll find it all here:

  1. TripleSSSC
    #workforceotf workshops done! Pitches ready for Monday @ourdynamicearth! Find out more on our blog
  2. OnTheSuperFly
    I’ve been co-ordinating #workforceOTF workshops across #Scotland for @TripleSSSC – here’s some pictorial evidence :)…
  3. TripleSSSC
    The Workforce Challenge conculdes on Monday with presentations of the 5 pilotable projects. Who will take them forward? #workforceotf
  4. We have arrived… At Dynamic Earth for #workforceotf presentations… Coffee Time!
  5. LorraineSSSC
    At Dynamic Earth – lots of activity as we prepare for the day. Hope all the ideas are adopted #workforceotf
  6. RT @OnTheSuperFly: Almost there!!! #workforceotf @triplesssc
  7. Arrived and settled at #workforceotf I’m sitting with the ‘blether-in’ group – they are super organised
  8. Kick off! #workforceotf #challenge @triplesssc #edinburgh #scotland #socialservices
  9. EllePats
    Lovely analogy from @icyprof at #workforceotf about sewing a meadow of ideas from the grass roots
  10. LorraineSSSC
    @ClydesdAileen proud that her portfolio covers such a dedicated and important workforce #workforceotf
  11. AnnaFowlieSSSC
    #workforceotf @ClydesdAileen speaking warmly about need for innovative practice in social services. @TripleSSSC
  12. AnnaFowlieSSSC
    #workforceotf. Minister @ClydesdAileen talking about the risk of not taking risks on being innovative. @TripleSSSC
  13. Thank you @clydesdaileen for coming along today and for your support #workforceotf
  14. TripleSSSC
    RT @AnnaFowlieSSSC: #workforceotf. Lucy Gower from 100% Open explains how service design works to put users at the centre and how fab our ideas platform was
  15. AnnaFowlieSSSC
    #workforceotf @TripleSSSC combination of social service workers & designers is very powerful.
  16. RT @TripleSSSC: Dementia Diaries – can you take this project forward? #workforceotf
  17. AnnaFowlieSSSC
    #workforceotf @TripleSSSC Dementia Diary – helping people hold their own memories.
  18. LorraineSSSC
    Dementia diary – great presentation and great idea. Could be used in so many ways #workforceotf
  19. rias_ao1
    Dementia diary pitch complete. Delivered to 50 people-hoping 4 pilot. Big thanks to our designers who put together fab slides #workforceotf
  20. #workforceotf. Ghael and Angela present Blether-in. Using video calls to bring together early years services.
  21. BeccaV08
    “An excellent network and communication method for modern nurseries of the 21st century” bletherIn #workforceotf @sssc
  22. Getting back into communities with pop up social services aka ‘Wireless’ #workforceotf
  23. #workforceotf @TripleSSSC Wireless: bringing social service workers back 2 communities. Create a network of belonging
  24. LorraineSSSC
    Abby a social worker ‘wireless’ allows her to develop networks and resources in the community #workforceotf
  25. bruxinha_m
    @rias_ao1 #workforceotf great presentation and thank you designers for the fab work.
  26. #workforceotf @TripleSSSC Suzanne & Jamie present Positive Wiring – raising awareness of effects of abuse & neglect
  27. EllePats
    Like the positive wiring idea- Reminds me of old psychology days #workforceotf wonder if it could incorporate an intergenerational element?
  28. rias_ao1
    Positive wiring, positive people – great preventative idea and beautifully designed graphics in the presentation! #workforceotf
  29. #workforceotf @TripleSSSC Yours & Hours – making time banking work to enhance people & communities
  30. Yours and Hours. Making a difference in just an hour. Final presentation #workforceotf
  31. AnnaFowlieSSSC
    #workforceotf @TripleSSSC Time banking recreating the village. Value knowledge & skills. Create connections
  32. LorraineSSSC
    RT @AnnaFowlieSSSC: #workforceotf @TripleSSSC time banking to bridge the ingenuity gap. This is our time to re-think what kind of society we want
  33. realdcameron
    RT @AnnaFowlieSSSC: #workforceotf @TripleSSSC time banking to bridge the ingenuity gap. This is our time to re-think what kind of society we want
  34. OnTheSuperFly
    Five fantastic presentations @TripleSSSC #workforceotf #challenge – massive round of applause to each of teams and their presenters! :D
  35. LorraineSSSC
    RT @OnTheSuperFly: Five fantastic presentations @TripleSSSC #workforceotf #challenge – massive round of applause to each of teams and their presenters! :D
  36. Working on how the projects can be implemented #workforceotf
  37. AnnaFowlieSSSC
    #workforceotf @TripleSSSC Lots of energy & debate going into making these ideas happen. Positive vibes in room.
  38. AnnaFowlieSSSC
    #workforceotf @TripleSSSC Groups feeding back on how we’ll make the ideas happen.
  39. The feedback session was pretty slick which made keeping up with recording and uploading a bit of a challenge – consequently the audio is cropped on most of the beginnings but hopefully the team’s message is intact!
  40. TripleSSSC
    Glasgow Regeneration Agency will take forward Blether-in #workforceotf fantastic!
  41. TripleSSSC
    Dementia Diaries will be taken forward by both @alzscot and Scottish Borders Council #workforceotf
  42. TripleSSSC
    Positive Wiring will be taken forward by Moray Council with the support of the Care Inspectorate #workforceotf
  43. alzscot
    RT @TripleSSSC: Dementia Diaries will be taken forward by both @alzscot and Scottish Borders Council #workforceotf
  44. AnnaFowlieSSSC
    @TripleSSSC Thanks to all who participated in #workforceotf & all who agreed to adopt ideas: moray & borders councils, @alzscot and GRA.

Workforce – Workshop – it’s all work!


My last few weeks have been spent planning and implementing a series of workshops under the banner of Workforce of the Future!

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) partnering with The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) set out with the aim of developing a handful of pilot projects that increase workforce capability in the future.

The challenge runs from June 2012 through to March 2013.


Two stages have happened already…

1) An ‘ideas‘ day in June 2012 challenged professionals to go away and post service concepts online.

2) With almost 650 Social Service professionals commenting and voting online, a two day event in September saw 60+ of them working with designers to refine and visualise 8 of those ideas into a conceivable reality.

3) Stage three gives those same professionals, and many who are new to the process, the opportunity to refine the presentations originally delivered in September and polish them for a final delivery on Monday 10 December at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth; after which the potential is there for organisations in the audience to take the projects away and pilot them for real!

It’s very refreshing for a process such as this where there is such a clear commitment to ‘live’ outcomes!

A series of workshops have been held across Scotland, Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen. Six of the eight designers who took part in Edinburgh are back;

Stephanie Fulke, Gabriela IchimuraRebecca Lindsay,
Sara NevayJamie Thoms, Angela Tulloch,

  and it was my job to facilitate the designers and teams to build on the foundation of the September event in preparation of the final presentations this month.


The focus was not to re-think the idea, but how to present it in a concise and compelling manner. The audience should be itching to get started not fidgeting with boredom!
With time to consider this new challenge before the workshops the groups arrived with a fresh perspective and clearer vision of what their idea was all about. When armed with this kind of enthusiasm it’s amazing what can get done in 3 hours!

Monday seems very, very, close now with only a few, final, frantic emails between now and the stage at Dynamic Earth. Concepts were questioned. Ideas have been illustrated. The presentations will be polished!


Well done to the teams – I think the work you’re putting in will pay off and that Monday will have a succession of exciting and compelling stories to tell.

Please watch this space – it’s quite possible that services in you area will be improved as a direct result of the Workforce Of The Future challenge…

For more info on the projects visit the WorkforceOTF Blog

Follow the progress on Twitter using #workforceOTF

Red Tape

For the first time since I took on this project I was met by red tape… of the best kind, a big red ribbon around the information box in front of the school signifying the impending ceremony to officially open Room Two’s QR Code Safari!

It’s almost a week ago now but the Safari, to hunt and observe Balmullo History QR Codes, is now fully operational!

VIPs from Fife Education, parents of Room Two and the entire school gathered in the main hall at 2pm last Wednesday to listen to the children present their project (with their own Powerpoint presentation) and have it officially opened.

Kenneth Greer, Executive Director of Education for Fife was unable to join us due to prior engagements but was well aware of the project and sent the children of Room Two a letter letting informing them of how proud he was of their achievement.

Everyone had to endure a brief lesson in QR Codes from me but I came away more educated than anyone as a quick straw poll revealed more P6/7s had smart phones than adults in the room!

So, Balmullo may well be the most QR literate village in Fife, but we won’t be resting on our laurels. The Safari’s system is fully content managed so the Safari’s content of videos, images and words will be changing from time to time as new classes take over the project.

While installing the permanent codes I found this poor specimen in the road. It’s one of the temporary QR Codes that had blown off the planter at the bottom of Main Street. There are still a few temporary codes waiting to be upgraded while we arrange for suitable fixing places for the new permanent ones but they’ll all be in place before long.

Here’s a permanent fixture at the Balmullo Inn.

So you’ll now find the Safari starter codes on the information box outside the school, but essentially once you log in you can start the Safari from any of the codes as they all carry information to the map and additional information on this site.

Back to the launch… after the ceremony we were treated to cake, but no ordinary cake, a cake with the project logo printed on the top! (More about the logo soon!)

I was extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and to complete what I’d had in my head for more than a year. I’ve now demonstrated a generic series of projects (or products) that modularly come together to create a learning experience for any age. While in the context of technology there are many ‘seemingly peripheral’ subjects that can be covered as part of the project. These were sited by the teacher supervising the project on behalf of the school: literacy, presentations (Powerpoint), local history, community engagement, graphic design, research, development and documentation… in total I was given a list of 40 outcomes front the Curriculum for Excellence that we had covered.

Any class in the school from P1 through to P7 could have taken a section of this project and developed it within the confines of their ability and experience and taken from it new experiences, skills and understanding relevant to their age and needs.

I only hope I get to expand it through ‘funded’ projects in the future.

I am working on it… lets just hope that I’m met with ‘more’ of the best kind of red tape!

Keep it simple with “Team Plank”


I witnessed this procedure while sat at the traffic lights on my way home one morning last week. I just loved the simplicity of it and thought it might be something to include in a future slide presentation under the title of ‘keep it simple’…

Maybe i’m being naive but if you’d asked be 2 mins earlier I probably would have expected a crane or a cherry picker to get this job done, but there they were, three men and a plank.
A big stack of planks actually, but they made light work of them.

Any of us can be guilty of over complicating our process from time to time but here was a realworld example of three fellas doing what they know… effectively.
Plenty of lessons for the “Labourer” and “Forman” alike, but here are the most obvious three that sprang to my simple mind:

“Team Plank”
: They’ve done this before and, clearly, it works – let them get on with it…
Team work: Everyone in the team is equally essential, regardless of their role…
Keep it simple: Job done!

There is bound to be something far more profound that has passed me by so feel free to expound below…