Calling all (available) service designers!

Design community, I start a new service design engagement next week and the client needs, in their words, “another one of you”. It’s a solid piece with several related research and design streams that will do social good out the far side. Initial engagement is in Canberra until 30 June. If this sounds interesting to you email, DM, PM, whatever me and I’ll connect you to the right people.

Cautionary tales

Growth tsunami

DHH’s essay on the poison prevalent among a great deal of startup culture is both a cautionary tale in terms of the insanity of seeking high growth and an exit, and a useful lesson on what happens when you bootstrap and grow slow.
Much to be gleaned from this.

Understanding the world, not just finding your way

If you’ve ever looked at all at the history of maps and map-making, you quite quickly discover that early maps were often less about providing directions from A to B, and more about contextualising humanity’s place in the universe; a way, like stories, of explaining the world. Whether it’s dot-paintings of the Milky Way by Indigenous artists, or Jerusalem-centric, upside-down maps by 15th Century Venetian monks, we’ve spent a great deal of history trying to understand who we are through map-making.

As a user experience designer, remembering that need to understand is something it’s worth harking back to often. After all, when solving the complex problems that come with design thinking of any kind, knowing that your ultimate goal is to aid people in their understanding and finding their way through their day is a valuable point to keep in mind.

With all this in mind, I was privileged yesterday to be a part of a small, private, tour of the brand-new Mapping our World exhibition at the National Library of Australia. If justice is done, it’s sure to become a blockbuster, as it features more than 100 amazing examples of maps and associated ephemera from some of the world’s finest collections. It’s a visually beautiful, and beautifully curated exhibition that the Library is justifiably proud of. I cannot recommend it highly enough (and I’m going back tomorrow). And it’s free to visit!

The  centerpiece of the exhibition is Fra Mauro’s magnificent, richly-annotated 15th Century map of the known world, on loan to the NLA from the Sale Monumenti in Venice. The video above shows the map’s delicate journey from its home to it’s current resting place at the Library.

Thanks to Liam Wyatt of the National Library of Australia for the invitation to visit.

The policy race to “fuck off, we’re full”

This morning’s astounding announcement from Opposition Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison on asylum seekers policy affirms we’re the land of “fuck off we’re full”, not the land of compassionate treatment of those in need with “boundless plains to share”.

This is not my Australia. These are not my beliefs. I despair for my nation and the state of our polity, as we descend ever further into this unpleasant, adolescent approach to empty policy designed to appeal to an ignorant, uninformed minority. Labor is little better, and I often wonder how sick to the stomach many of the people in parliament across the political spectrum must feel as this race continues to descend ever lower. Surely this was not why they entered politics? Surely it’s only a matter of a little time before the camel’s back breaks and a revolt among parliamentarians occurs.

Back when I did refugee work for the Department of Immigration, there was a model (based on the then Canadian approach, and similar to that currently proposed by The Greens) that was known to work, encouraged people to be compassionate, quickly identified genuine refugees, and kept us to our Convention and Protocol obligations. Then, the government at the time introduced mandatory detention and things went downhill from there, driving me and many others from the department.

We could have a working, compassionate refugee program, but successive governments have chosen not to in order to appeal to a deliberately uninformed, scared minority of mostly white people in socioeconomically depressed marginal electorates.

Current refugee policy in this country, and many others (NZ, UK, US and a lot of Europe) is no longer about managing refugees, and is entirely about politics and power.

If the LNP Coalition comes to power on September 7, we will get at least three years of hateful government beholden to focus groups and big business who will govern for power not for the good of the nation.

The temptation to leave the country of my birth behind and take my family somewhere that hate is not the norm is strong. The right thing to do, of course, is stand up against this and other policies that are awful. I now quite regret not acting on my instinct to stand in the current election.

What now for Australian politics?

My personal politics are fairly well-known, I don’t seek to keep my allegiances too close to my chest. However, this post is about politics more generally, and what I’m thinking about as we, in the words of my wise godfather, Michael Pusey, “slide down the razor blade of life towards our inevitable end”; that end being the impending federal election.

First, I’d argue the polls, multitudinous as they are, lack meaning without discussion (which is why the media polls are provably without point; you can do the statistical and uncertainty analysis on them, and they rarely influence or shift opinion), so long as we all remain cogent and adult, and discuss policy over personality. I think there’s little hope of that happening given the execrable state of our media. Even the nation’s flagship nightly current affairs program has abrogated it’s responsibility when Leigh Sales asks incessant questions about leadership speculation rather than dissecting policy and seeking for truth.

This weeks’ machinations, those of the past, and the equally innumerable shifts of leadership on the other side of the House make little difference to me. They simply firm my view that both major parties have abandoned policy platforms and a desire to make a difference to the nation, in favor of personalities and overweening, cold-eyed ambition. A change of leader, for any party, won’t change my vote. As a policy wonk from way back, I’m interested in what parties will do and stand for, over personalities and the misleading construct most of the voting public seem to have been fooled into – that they vote for (and in any way influence) the choice of Prime Minister. Go back to 7th Grade and re-do basic Civics! (oh, we don’t have a decent Civic curriculum in this nation…)

I’ve been asked if my vote will change this week in order to seek a better outcome for my business. If we all voted in the best interests of our businesses, we’d probably largely vote Liberal in this country. However, my vote is always in context, and there are a wealth of other considerations – social policy, foreign relations, climate, environment, and the generation of what’s generally referred to as “social goods” by progressive economists like Umair Haque (I recommend you read his New Capitalist Manifesto and Betterness).

For me, these things are far more important overall than immediate policy benefit for acidlabs. I’m a firm believer in doing good work with and for people you believe in and that the benefits come.

For those critical of the functioning of the 43rd Parliament, I’m not certain you can justifiably call the current parliament dysfunctional. It’s passed more legislation than any previous parliament. Those calling it ineffective on the basis of a minority government and the need to ensure equitable legislative agendas in order to gain passage on the vote of cross-benches, aren’t paying adequate attention.

This parliament and similar ones elsewhere, such as northern Europe, where either grand coalitions or equitable agreements are necessary in order to pass legislation, are almost universally successful in prosecuting legislative agendas that achieve the best results for the majority of the populace.

If anything, this parliament has been notable for its success in getting nation-changing policies made into law. Our nation will be a better place for carbon trading, the NDIS, the NBN, education funding reform, and maintaining an economy that’s inarguably the envy of most of the Western world on a subjective basis.

What’s not worked, and will be remembered before the good things, are those issues where rightwards creep, kowtowing to big business, and poll-driven politics has been at play – our unjust, and illegal under our international obligations, treatment of asylum seekers, the continued failure of decent treatment of indigenous Australians and our failure to recognise their presence and rights in the Constitution, our failure to lead the world on delivering marriage equality despite overwhelming public support, a tax on super-profits that the government allowed the rentseekers in mining to gut so they’d almost never have to pay up, and the rampant mistreatment of women not just in politics, but still in many parts of society and economy.

The last three years have seen a very effective parliament, a highly productive economy with incredibly low debt in comparison to our global peers, and many legislative changes to improve society that we should be proud of as a nation.

Think about that on polling day, whatever your politics.

Chief of Army message regarding unacceptable behaviour – true leadership

One of the fiercest, most vehement, and barely contained cases of unrelenting leadership I’ve ever had the honor to witness.

LtGen David Morrison is the real deal, and this kind of leadership will not only reduce the level of sexual harassment in our military, but should spark leaders in business and politics to take a stand. After all, who would want to be the leader that “didn’t have the guts to stand beside LtGen Morrison”?