Mindlab Rocks and Please Meetup with Customer Development

I went to see Christian Bason talk about his Public Sector Innovation unit called MindLab at UBC in the fall of 2011. He was amazing. His stories of radical change at the Danish Ministry of Taxation and a recent Health Care for Seniors experiment in Frederica, Denmark were very powerful.

I made the effort and read Christian Bason’s book. I really like the detail that he brings to activities required to truly execute on innovation. The key activity is what he calls “Co-Creation” which is “Solutions developed with people, not for them”. To do this one needs to “Find Your Inner Anthropologist” and become one with the citizen to solve their problems. I also like that he states that one can’t outsource the knowing of the problem (page 180), the owners need to get their hands dirty. He also does a great “HowTo” on design thinking in the real world.

I find it interesting that Bason didn’t talk about the The Lean Startup or Customer Development movements. These are so aligned with his thinking and yet they don’t know each other. They could learn a lot from each other.

The choice of words is so entertaining when comparing them to the words of Customer Development Guru Steve Blank who says that you’ve got “Get Out of the Building” because “There are no facts inside your building, so get outside and get some”. Steve Blank also states emphatically that “Startup Founders” do this work. It’s the most important thing a startup does “Searching for its Business Model”. They’re saying very similar things with very different words.

The best chapters are 9 Orchestrating Co-Creation and Chapter 10 Measuring to Learn. These are chapters that all people “Getting Out of Their Building” could use as reference material especially on tactics and strategies for interviewing citizens and customers. For example the detail on “Finding Your Inner Anthropologist” starting on page 161 is great stuff. Good stuff to use when “Getting Out of the Building”.

In these days of polished presentations it was refreshing to hear some support for my belief that early ideas are better presented on a napkin, or white board. Yes, I’m saying no power-point or designer material up front. It get’s in the way.

page 197 our experience at mindlab is that the rougher the draft is, the easier it is to engage citizens or other users in a dialogue about how the solution might look and function. If the mockup looks to polished, people will think it’s nearly finished and there isn’t much room for changing it anyway.

Near the end of the book Bason talks about the relationship between innovation and rules.
“Sometimes the best practice is breaking the rules.” (Page 252) is a great section of the book.

Finally I liked how Bason set the tone right from the get go on page 1

“In the name of doing things for people, traditional and hierarchical organizations end up doing things to people.”

And I’ll add “That’s why they suck”. This is no different in private or public sectors.


One of the things that would be a great addition to his book is a glossary of terms from the innovation universe. I liked and find useful

  • Co-Creation (Page 8) – “Solutions developed with people, not for them”
  • T-Shaped Individual (page 147 ) – “t shaped” vertical to deeply master a skill & horizontal to connect and collaborate
  • Service Journey (page 146) – Track the journey of a citizen through the delivery of a service. ( this is similar to Steve Blank’s “Day in the Life of the Customer” and provides another way of looking at it )
  • Ethnography – The skills of interviewing and becoming one with the citizen or customer.

Sexy iPhone Apps – Byword Text Editor

I find it ironic that my first iPhone app purchase was Byword. It’s a text editor. How un-sexy is that. In the old days I’d go to the stationary cabinet and get a new pen. Today it seems that I’m getting a new text editor.

My main motivation was to get away from iPhone Notes. I wanted to be able to edit text docs on iPhone and on my Mac. Byword does that very nicely via Dropbox, or iCloud. Byword also supports some very handy features: like “undo” and “arrow keys”.

The extra cool thing is that Byword supports Markdown. This means that I can easily format documents. In the end I also bought the Mac app too. But you don’t need to. MacVim supports Markdown syntax and there are lots of Markdown to html/rtf/pdf/Latex converters. Here is a Markdown Primer from TUAW if you’re interested.

Again I have to thank Rui over at Tao of Mac for his review of iPad/iPhone text editors.

Abundance – Awareness and Positive Action

I highly recommend reading Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. This is a feel good book. It provides a long list of positive activites that are happening right now. It is very inspiring and can help one get moving and make a difference. This is in contrast to a book like Tim Flannery’s Here On Earth which highlights the problems, but sheds little light on solutions or activities in progress. Flannery’s book is a must read, but it feels so “heavy” afterward.


Updated Dec 16, 2012 – Here is book review from WSJ.