Why “Driverless Crocodile”?

Fair question. It began as a joke as the title of a shared googledoc, then became a domain name when I “did it now” and registered it on a whim to get things going. Sharky and I had been talking a lot about automation and driverless cars, so the “driverless” reflected our interest in technology and what’s coming next.

And I’m an enormous fan of the enormous crocodile.

The title is also about what we’re not. It’s easy to think that we’re heading for a future where humans will live as robot-driven, self-seeking reptiles – a world where only the crocodiles will survive.

This isn’t true: we are driving**, and we’re warm blooded – so let’s take our responsibility seriously and build organisations and a future where people are welcome and can flourish.

** I concede that we’re rarely as in charge as we think we are

You snooze you lose

… is a fact of life.

  • It means if you’re not alert, you’ll miss out.
  • It doesn’t mean that it’s okay to snatch something out of someone’s hand just because they’re not looking, or that we shouldn’t set something aside for someone who’s running late.
  • It means that if you’re not in the game, you can’t score.
  • It doesn’t mean that we all have to play the same game, or keep score in the same way (or at all), or that other people’s score should be important to you.

You snooze, you lose…

Except, of course, when a nap’s just what you need.

DriverlessCrocolutions 2019

  1. Keep it up. 600 posts on DC by the end of 2019**, with enough of a frontlog to set it and forget it for a couple of holidays.
  2. Hit the reading list.
  3. Podcast: an initial series of five episodes – starting with with a decent spec***.
  4. A DC redesign.
  5. Pull key threads from posts into a more structured set of how-to articles.
  6. Make connections with people who do my kind of work and/or find some of the ideas here helpful. Experiment with a forum?
  7. Work on these goals in 12 week chunks.

If you’re reading this…

I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment (if you’re reading this on the homepage you’ll need to click on the post title above, then leave a comment below the post).
What would you like to see more of on DC?

** a post per day, plus a bit
*** see also here and here

On making stuff: that Steve Jobs quote

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

Steve Jobs

Leading, ends and means

Those who set the purpose or the direction for a team need to exercise their authority and be absolutely insistent about the end states to be achieved, and then hold back and not dictate all the details of the means by which those ends are to be achieved.

And that’s tough for a leader to do. I know how to be an authoritarian and tell everyone what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. I know how to be a full-scale democrat and say “Okay, what would you all like to do and we’ll all try to come to consensus about that.”

But the right way to set a purpose is to be unapologetic about “This is the mountain that we’re going to climb.” And then not to follow that up by saying “And every time you get to a fork in the trail or a stream that needs to be forded, wait up for me and I’ll tell you how to do it.”

That’s a tough number for leaders to do but it’s really important.

Richard Hackman on the People and Places Podcast

What do you think? Maybe we could get consensus about it…

Stan Lee (1922-2018) – What If?

The exact cover of the Marvel What If that Dave’s brother kept in a plastic folder


Stan Lee was brilliant and prolific.

We know him for Spiderman, the X-men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther… for being the driving force behind Marvel Comics, now a multi-billion dollar, multi-media juggernaut.

It’s less well known that he started in the comics industry in 1939, aged seventeen, as a general dogsbody, lunch-fetcher and inkwell filler at Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel).

Lee must have had something about him – he became editor at 19 – but here’s the thing: he slogged it out writing comics – westerns, crime stories, horror and superhero work – for twenty two years without really hitting the big time. They say he chose Stan Lee as a pen name because he was worried he’d be embarrassed by his work in comics if he ever wrote the Great American Novel.

By the early 60s Lee was fed up, and ready to quit. The Fantastic Four was a last throw of the dice on his wife’s suggestion that he try writing the comics he wanted to write. There was nothing to lose.

He was forty-one years old.

The rest is history.

What if Stan Lee had never written the fantastic four?

Some takeaways:

World without ends

This post was lost in the Crocapocalypse – I’m reposting it with its original date.

Yesterday I posted about beginning with the end in mind.

Today’s question is: what if we never get to the end?

Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on the game you’re playing, and how you choose to play it.

I’ve been re-reading parts of James Carse‘s Finite and Infinite Games – if you haven’t come across it, it’s fascinating, liberating and confusing by turns, and highly enjoyable.

Carse – I’ll call him James from now on to avoid sounding po-faced – distinguishes between ‘Finite games’,  which are played for the purpose of winning, and ‘infinite games’, which are played for the purpose of continuing the play.

So in a finite game like chess, the purpose of the game – the reason we play, or often play, is to win. We play the game to endthe game on our terms: ‘all finite play is play against itself’.

Losing when you win

Have you ever played a game to win – and won – and yet ended up feeling like everyone lost? You won but you felt mean (definition two, adjective, senses 1, 2 and 3). You pissed off your friends. You proved yourself as a winner and won the small game – great job – but lost at something bigger.

You won the finite game but played the infinite one – friendship, life – badly. 

James isn’t against finite games – I think his point is that we need to remember what they are. And his bigger point is that we can see most of the things we do as games we play, and we’re playing many of them wrong. Schooling. Business. Relationships. Career building. Even friendship. We so often play them to win, or to be ranked, and in doing so miss the larger game.

Our ends are often too small.

  • What if the real point of doing what you do is so that the game can continue?
  • Are you playing a game that is worth continuing?
  • How do your priorities change if instead of saying ‘I started at thistime, and I’ll win when I get here’, you view your project, organisation, business as being part of a game that started long before you appeared on the scene, and will continue long after you’re gone?
  • What does your work, your life bring to this bigger game?
  • Are you bringing more people into the play, or pushing them out?
  • Are you creating possibilities, or shutting them down?
  • What happens when you leave?

The end in mind

This post was lost in the Crocapocalypse – I’m reposting it with its original date.

Steven R. Covey’s first habit of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind.

Where do you want to go?

What do you want to build?

It’s another way of asking: what’s your vision?

We can’t escape surprises, the contingent, serendipity, and we shouldn’t want to.

But thinking about ends is important.

As Covey says, it doesn’t matter how fast or well you climb the ladder if it’s leaning against the wrong wall.

If you’re not building something, you’ll probably end up with nothing.

Education for the future: which kids are ours? (2)

Which kids are yours?

Which kids are “our kids”?

It’s fine to start with your own or those closest to you. If those kids aren’t your kids, it’s hard to see how any others possibly can be.

So ask yourself: what will it take for those kids closest to me to thrive – to have the kind of future I hope they’ll have?

They’ll need to love and be loved, to stay safe, to have enough to eat and drink, to have chances to learn and make mistakes. They’ll need friends, peers, juniors, seniors, neighbours, teachers, colleagues, leaders, followers, allies and possibly opponents. They’ll need people to build infrastructure and people to operate and maintain it. They’ll need medical care. They’ll need places to go and things to do and see. They’ll need clean air and water and plants and animals and natural beauty. They’ll need practical skills and art and science and wisdom and faith.

Our kids need all of these and many more to live well and, eventually, to die well too. So starting from the future-that-is-becoming-the-present – that is, starting from right now, and forever after – our kids will need other people just to live, let alone to thrive.

And not just any people – our kids need as many of the right sort of people as possible – people who can flourish, and help those around them to flourish too.

So of course, we start with the kids closest to us – of course we do. But even in the unlikely event that you only cared about yourself and those closest to you, when we’re talking about education for the future and what our kids need, we can be clear that “our kids” can’t just mean your kids.

Our kids need other kids, and the adults that those kids will become.

Even the most narrowly self-interested definition of “our kids” has got to include other people’s children too.

Start with yours, and work outwards.

Leadership: say the words

Boy: “Are we going to give something to help the people in Palu*?”
Me: “Good idea – how much do you want to give from your pocket money?”
Boy: “Hmm…”
Me: “You choose an amount, and we’ll add ten times that amount.”**
Boy: Names an amount a little over one week’s allowance
Me: “Done.”

And so at 6.30 this morning my eldest son went to school with his own donation, and 10x his own donation in an envelope to send to Palu.

If he hadn’t said anything, nothing would have happened. If I hadn’t said yes, and told him what I’d give if he went first, he might have found it harder to give. We made it easy for each other, and everyone won.

If you’re with the right people – people who share your values, people who are ready to be led – sometimes all it takes to make a change is to say the words.

Even if people might not share your values, and might not be ready, it’s often worth saying the words anyway, because they might come with you, or at least be more likely to come with you next time.

Do you want to lead? Say the words.

Want to see change happen? Be listening for the right words, and be ready to say yes.

* (see this article if you’re not sure what he was talking about)
** I knew roughly how much he had in his piggy bank