My productivity and knowledge management system

This article describes my system for managing tasks and information. This system evolved over the past two and a half decades as I’ve consumed books, podcasts and blog posts on productivity, task management and personal knowledge management.

This system has enabled me to stay relatively sane as I’ve managed up to 20 simultaneous consulting projects across multiple continents.

Year-end reflection for 2023

It is a snowy day in Scotland as I write the first paragraphs of this reflection in December 2023. I’m entering my third year in the UK after emigrating from South Africa. I have continued to make steady progress on several fronts amidst a host of challenges.

I believe in the value of writing and sharing after-action reviews. You can read my previous end-of-year reflections from previous years which show how my career has evolved. Writing my reflections (and journaling daily) helps me to orient myself and reflect on how I must do things differently in the future. My reflections might even help others to learn from my experiences and avoid my mistakes.

Community Wealth Building is an increasingly popular approach to local economic development in the United Kingdom

Community wealth building (CWB) is a philosophy and approach to local economic development that is packaged into a coherent and marketable model. CWB is gaining traction in the UK.

CWB aims to promote economic activity and investment in local areas and enable equitable economic growth. It opposes the idea of extractive economics where wealth is taken out of communities by national and multinational corporations. It rather promotes generative economics and embraces concepts like localism and new municipalism. This involves prioritising local matters and increasing the autonomy of local municipalities or councils.

The Scottish Government has embraced this concept and is busy embedding it in policy.

This article introduces CWB and reflects on its value and limitations. It will be interesting to anyone involved in sustaining and growing a local economy. I wrote it to contribute to the discussion about CWB.

AIs cannot produce art; only humans can

This debate has recently arisen several times in conversations with friends following my most recent article on artificial intelligence (AI).

I do not believe that AIs can produce art. This assertion applies to all fields of art such as music, fiction, poetry, drawings and sculpture. I struggle to imagine over 180,000 people attending a 10-week exhibition of the art-like outputs of an AI, whereas they happily did that for a recent Banksy exhibition in Glasgow.

An AI’s algorithmic outputs might produce things that look or sound very good, perhaps even be awe-inspiring or life-changing, but this is not art.

Three challenges when rebooting your career in a new country at age 50

My home is now in Scotland. I emigrated from South Africa about two years ago.

The move has been predictably difficult. Nevertheless, we are 100% satisfied with our decision to move here. We have been proactively integrating into our new home country – forming relationships, embracing the culture, and enjoying the safe and abundant wilderness. We have hope for the future.

Someone recently asked me for advice on moving countries. This article highlights the three challenges we discussed.

Although I anticipated these challenges, I was unaware of how much work they would require to overcome. It would have helped if someone had clearly explained this to me. It would have given me more perspective. I’ve therefore written this article to help anyone thinking of moving to a new country in their middle age.

Artificial intelligence is a disruptive technology that humanity will use much like others it has invented

There is a lot of hype and anxiety about artificial intelligence (AI) nowadays. Everyone seems to be discussing it. I’ve been playing around with Chat GPT and exploring how management consultants and charities are using AI. I’ve also realised how many AI tools are already in our lives.

This article contains my thoughts on AIs. It follows several discussions, internet research and lots of reflection. The topic of AI is controversial and polarising. Some people are anxious and fatalistic; others are optimistic. People’s viewpoints seem entrenched.

The article explains that we will all end up using AI. This technology is not going to solve all our problems but neither will it replace all humans. It will be more useful than a cataclysmic threat, although millions of people will lose their current livelihoods because of it. AIs will amplify both the good and bad in human nature.

The are two opposite ways of laying out a report – one for academics and one for consultants

There are two very different ways of structuring and laying out the argument in reports and presentations. Most people only know one of them. You can make these documents more engaging if you understand the two approaches, and how and when to use them.

There is the traditional academic and scientific format which we get taught at school and university. This is the most common approach. Then there is the format often used by management consulting firms for advice-orientated reports.

Each of them works best in a particular context. Using the wrong format for the context makes it less likely that people will engage with the contents of the report. Your hard work and insights will be overlooked.

This article will explain these two approaches and when to use them.

The opportunities and dangers associated with a large and lucrative source of income

Our organisations all desire to achieve a big and profitable source of income from a friendly client, funder or investment. It helps to stabilise their financial situation and creates a foundation for growth.

However, these situations all carry a hidden risk – that our organisations become too dependent on this income stream and too distracted or complacent to do anything about it. I can tell many stories of organisations blindsided by the loss of this income for a multitude of reasons. While some organisations recovered, many closed down or became a shadow of their former selves.

Organisations must therefore be mindful of the risks of having a single large contract or income stream. This risk is higher where this income accounts for a significant proportion of overall income, seems reliable, and when you must shift how your organisation operates to accommodate a client or funder.

This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of a good single source of income. It also provides some ideas for how you might mitigate the risks associated with this favourable situation.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation is a useful tool for understanding the challenges facing communities in Scotland

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) is an excellent tool for getting a sense of a street or community in Scotland and its levels of deprivation and poverty. Other countries would benefit from creating their own versions of it.

The SIMD is used a lot by charities, foundations and policymakers. It is a combination of several poverty-related indicators drawn from official statistics.

It is also a common language for discussing the levels of deprivation in an area. I regularly use the SIMD in my work in Scotland which involves helping charities, social enterprises and community groups to improve their strategies and understand their beneficiaries.

This article introduces the SIMD, explains how it works and what I think of it.

Good implementation is more important than social innovation

Social innovation aims to find new and powerful ideas and approaches that can change the world. This is a worthy pursuit since we always need better ways of doing things. There are plenty of capable organisations that support social entrepreneurs to develop and refine their innovations. 

However, a social innovation is worth nothing without a capable organisation to implement it, a supportive and enabling environment, the right mix of funding, a large dose of perseverance and a measure of good luck. This is where the hard work comes in.

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