3 min read

18. The future

Feedback, commons, and training
selective focus photo of silver tower viewer telescope facing sunshine
Image by Matt Noble, from Unsplash

Two events in my June were about the future—or the idea of it, at least.

I finally got to see the Back to the Future musical after the performance I was meant to see in August 2021 was cancelled due to covid. It’s a strange mix of beats-ripped-straight-from-the-movie and forgettable songs, but is saved by Roger Bart’s movie-busting Doc and stunning special effects. The DeLorean in particular, is amazing.

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I also finished reading Imaginable by Jane McGonigal. I’d been aware of her work back in the mid-00s on alternative reality games, but this book synthesises various techniques she’s learned from over a decade of being a futurist at the International Institute for the Future (IFF). She suggests that by creating a practice of future scanning and scenario playing, we can prepare our imagination for various futures—and even cites participants from a pandemic game play in the late 00s stating that this set them up to monitor and then plan as covid-19 became a pandemic.

This month in digital government and design

At the end of June I attended my first Civil Service Live. A highlight for me was the policy design workshops.

In another Civil Service Live session I discovered Colin L. Powell’s Thirteen Rules of Leadership. (I also discovered that a lot of senior civil servants have been sent on ‘RADA training’, which I take to be RADA business workshops).

Meanwhile, some of my colleagues at GDS were demo-ing GDS’s new digital form builder.

How do we support new starters in the office in a hybrid and remote world? This FT article suggests a focus on training as well as remembering to make new starters active participants in remove sessions.

Laura Yarrow from HM Land Registry suggests that design is a promise and that we should pay more attention to promise theory.

Isak Falch at itlearning has created a nice design quality checklist.

The charity Scope recently hired a content design intern. Jack Garfinkel has written about how Scope removed barriers in the content design recruitment, from sending questions in advance to allowing for remote and flexible work. (And the successful applicant says that the changes helped them get the job!)

Oxford Insights has had a play at a theory of change for user-centred design in government. (Warning: uses Miro. Some civil servants may not be able to look this on their work devices. Some may just not want to look at a Miro board ever again).

Before there was Apple, there was Xerox. IIEEE has a long read about Xerox, and how Xerox engineers had the future and then lost it.

Speaking of Apple, after years (decades?) of secrecy it’s nice to see some of their processes discussed openly. Here they talk about redesigning the lock screen.

Leigh Dodds talks about the commons and suggests that we should go beyond open licensing to encouraging interactions. This aligns with a lot of design systems and open source commentary that talks about the need for a community (I was also reminded of Nadia Eghbal’s book on open source Working in Public).

Feedback isn’t always helpful. (Thankfully, this article gives some helpful examples of how to reframe feedback). I was also reminded of a superb example of coaching—a coach for a surgeon.


Most Brits don’t know that from 1998 to 2003 (2000 in Scotland) the UK government banned any material promoting homosexuality. Sarah Drummond is aiming to change that. She’s raising funds on Kickstarter for the documentary ‘Don’t Say Gay’.

You’ve probably heard of the prestigious Nature magazine. What you probably didn’t know about Nature is that it’s only been prestigious for the last 50 years or so, and on its founding in 1869 operated at a loss for 30 years.

Can people change? The obituary for Neo-Nazi turned informer and anti-far right campaigner Ray Hill suggests that yes, they can.

The cult of Bluey.

A working class poem.

Talking earlier about training new people:

And finally for anyone who saw Crowded House at Glastonbury on the BBC, they may have seen an unusual flag of a kiwi shooting lasers out of its eyes. If it’s new to you, the story of the flag and its creator, the 2015-6 New Zealand flag referendum and comedian John Oliver’s take at the time on it all is worth a rabbit-hole read.

Until next time,