Reflections on 2018

A look back at 2018 before I look forward to 2019

TLDR: 2018 was Challenging

I would summarise the last 12 months as being ‘challenging’. Life happened whilst I was busy making other plans. Lots of things got shuffled to the back burner to accommodate the basic and the essential. Consequently, for patches of this year I’ve felt like a bit of a passenger rather than being in the driving seat. Thankfully, these are mostly temporary conditions, but all in all this year turned out to be a bit of a nil score draw in a personal sense.

Bill Murray (Me) and a Groundhog (unexpected life events) in the driving seat.

Writing

I’ve written about 30 posts this year (2.5 per month average). In contrast, during 2017 I wrote 61 post (5 per month average).

The top three posts were…

I’ve had two short attempts at writing weeknotes this year. One spurt in January and then another across July/August. I think this is fairly representative of how I’ve diverted my time and energy elsewhere.

I’ve keenly felt the absence of reflecting & working in the open. Perhaps by design I’ve been more insular as a coping mechanism for having less available bandwidth, but I’m not sure it was actually that beneficial in retrospect. Whilst it gave me some headspace, it robbed me of inspiration from others, which it turns out is one of the key ingredients I need to top up my mojo.

I do need headspace to detangle and declutter, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of those serendipitous exchanges and meet ups. Lessons to be learned for next year.

From here to there

This year has very much been about completing the task of merging my personas. I come from a traditional IT background, but through blind luck stumbled upon a community of people who painted a version of the future that immediately resonated with me. One that used all the best bits of the Internet and the culture of the companies that sprang to life on it. One where people were encouraged to be open to do the best work they could do for the benefit of the whole.

It made me realise that if we really want to transform our workplaces to keep up with the outside world, we’re going to need to draw upon a different set of behaviours, skills and methodologies. Failure to do so would just mean sliding ever father backwards into technological and organisational debt.

Despite being able to tentatively see this new world and a new way of doing things, it’s taken me a while to really understand my place in it. Perhaps that’s the curse of being a bit of a generalist by nature. Fitting in everywhere and nowhere in particular.

Despite setbacks, I feel like I’m closer to realising this goal, but to really make progress I think I’m going to need to stop doing some things so I can start doing other things. To be able to bring laser focus to bear on the stuff that I think can add the most value and accelerate personal and collective learning (more on that in a moment).

You can do anything but not everything… as the mantra goes.

Seeking (modest, recoverable) failure faster

I’m someone who is very much driven by feedback loops as a mechanism for improvement. I welcome raging success or abject failure with open arms because I can learn from them, but please don’t give me indifference or apathy. So perhaps my single largest regret from this year is that it feels like my rate of learning has dropped off.

As I mentioned at the top of this post, much of this year has been about covering off the basic and essential, which means treading well known ground where gems of learning are harder to uncover.

I think it’s also because it’s taken too long to extract the learning from events. Too many actions without any discernible positive or negative outcomes. Or occasional procrastination on my part in trying to devise the best route forward.

Towards the back end of this year I went through an interview process for a job that I didn’t get. But the process itself was really useful. It forced me to think long and hard about what drives me and what I can offer. And the feedback post interview was useful in deciding what to fine-tune and what to discard. This is what made the penny drop.. I need to create more opportunities to test myself or the things I’m working on.

Looking back over the whole year, I wonder how I might do things differently to test out my riskiest assumptions. How might I stress test a hypothesis faster? What’s the fastest route to actionable data?

Was it all doom and gloom?

I’m drawn to the critical stuff because there’s learning to be had there, but it was by no means all bad. There were highlights too.

  • I got to meet quite a lot of long time Twitter friends in real life which was a real delight.
  • I spoke to lots of colleagues and peers about service design and it was generally considered a very sensible thing to do.
  • We started using customer journey mapping to identify friction points in services.
  • I was included on a list of ‘Tech Innovators’ which at the time was much needed external validation to keep going.
  • I turned 40 (which I am choosing to interpret as a positive).
  • My dog finally stopped chewing all the wooden furniture.
  • My kids mercifully stopped singing the baby shark song.

It’s all good.

In summary

So long 2018! Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

Welcome 2019! Let’s do some cool stuff. 🙂

Happy New Year everyone!


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