On Serendipity

Serendipity always delights me! I guess it stems from the definition really, after all a ‘happy coincidence’ cannot but make you happy. But that moments when things line up, when you realise that a stroke of fortune is coming your way, well, I find that can light up the gloomiest day. I was thinking about this on my way to this afternoon’s meetup, a gathering of altMBA alumni in London. Living in the Isle of Man makes it harder to just drop in on these events, and I had missed the first one I knew about. But, as I’m heading to Web Summit tomorrow, this meetup just fell slap bang in the middle of my travel. In fact, it’s a pretty convenient way to break up a two-flight trip 🙂

There’s a great definition of serendipity on Wikipedia, but my favourite bit is the section of serendipity in scientific discovery:

The serendipitous can play an important role in the search for truth, but is often ignored in the scientific literature because of traditional scientific behavior and scientific thinking based on logic and predictability.

Successful researchers can observe scientific results with careful attention to analyzing a phenomenon under the most diverse and different perspectives. They can question themselves on assumptions that do not fit with empirical observations. Realizing that serendipitous events can generate important research ideas, these researchers recognize and appreciate the unexpected, encouraging their assistants to observe and discuss unexpected events.

Serendipity can be achieved in groups where a ‘critical mass’ of multidisciplinary scientists work together in an environment that fosters communication, establishing the idea that the work and the interest of a researcher can be shared with others who may find a new application for new knowledge.

I guess the takeaway here is that serendipity can be designed into a process. Removing rigour from a process leaves room for ‘luck’ and other anomalous events that can yield unexpected consequences. It’s up to us however to be open to these events and take advantage of them when they occur.

Something to look out for I guess …

Reigniting my aspirations: Doing the altMBA

It’s going to be hectic! Yes, the next few weeks are going to be crazy! Besides all the stuff I’m involved in, I’ll be doing Seth Godin‘s altMBA over the next few weeks. It’s a fantastic new program designed to teach, inspire and motivate people by coalescing them into a group that works on 13 projects across 4 weeks. I’ve seen a number of people try to define what the altMBA is all about, but the most elegant one I have seen is by Wes Kao, who directs this initiative. In a post about why altMBA is not a MOOC she says:

The goal is to help leaders create change more effectively, to amplify impact, to fight through the discomfort that often comes with true learning.

Traditional online education and MOOCs tend to feel optional. Optional homework, optional projects, optional deadlines. And because you don’t have to do any of the work, many times we opt out because no one is watching.

altMBA is the opposite: everything about it is about making big promises and keeping them. We’re about group work, hands-on projects, and producing a body of work that you’d be proud of by the end of the course.

And most importantly, doing it with a community of ruckusmakers who are here to challenge ourselves, and one another, to grow.

So yeah, it’s going to be hectic, but it’s going to be so much fun!!!

We’re building a Fablab!

In case you haven’t heard us talking about it while at Code Club, we’re currently building a brand new facility for the Isle of Man, a Fablab down at Ronaldsway. This has grown out of the small Makerspace we run during Code Club, A lot of projects that have been attempted just don’t fit into a ‘2 hours a week’ slot and need more effort. We’re also limited on space and wouldn’t have been able to host some essential equipment like a laser cutter and other big equipment. This is intended to be a resource for the community and is currently being built by people volunteering their skills and time to make it happen. Here are some pictures of the space we are trying to create:


We’re currently at pretty early stages with this and are looking for help to build this resource, particularly from tradesmen (electricians, plumbers, joiners, etc) who can accelerate what we’re doing. If you can help with this or can help fund some of the supplies we are using please contact owen@codeclub.im or kurt@micta.im. The more people involved, the sooner we can get this facility up and running. We’re extremely excited about this project and can’t wait to start teaching how to create and make, not online in a virtual space, but also in the physical world.

Google getting better at reading your mind

I’ve always found Google to be the best search engine around, mostly because it takes me exactly where I want to go. It’s this uncanny ability that drove Google to the dizzy heights in the search engine space that it enjoys today; driving other search engines to oblivion and the executive teams of its rivals to despair.

I had a fantastic experience today; where Google answered the question I was researching before I even had the chance to articulate this question. Check this out: I was reading an article around how Spotify Premium slashed the price of sharing subscriptions. The article spoke about the US market, where a month of Spotify Premium is $9.99. I had forgotten what Spotify costs in the UK, so did a quick search to come up to speed. This is my result:

Screenshot 2014-10-20 14.57.58
You’ll notice that the search result contains my answer: £9.99, but it also contains more than that. The next question I would have asked myself was ‘Why is Spotify priced at $9.99 in the US and £9.99’ but Google had already taken me to this question before I even had the chance to articulate it.

Granted that this might be a commonly asked question, but the experience still blew me away. Thanks Google!

Introducing Future Tech

Some of you may already know, but last month I quit my job at Intelligence/Webtech and struck out on my own. It’s been a tremendously busy period for me, hence the lack of updates on the blog; but I’m finally starting to catch up and am looking to line up perceptions on where I’m heading.

A number of you won’t even notice a difference. My work with Code Club, JCC, BCS and the WordPress community will continue in the same way it has before. However my day job focus will be on growing Future Tech, my new baby. My focus there will be on strategic IT consultancy; helping organisations make best use of the technologies they have available to them. In this time of accelerating change with new technologies making themselves every day, opportunities for innovation and challenges posed by competitors, markets and regulators and something that every growing organisation has to deal with. There’s the place where I can make a real difference; so get in touch if I can give you a hand.

In the meantime, trying to find time to build a website for Future Tech, but I guess, not having time to focus on a marketing stream can only be a good thing, right?

Off to Singularity University in a few days

It’s almost time for our Singularity University trip and both Andrew and I are getting more and more excited. I recently happened upon the blog post I had written when we had been shortlisted, all the way back in August, and ended up reminiscing on how we got here.

For those of you who haven’t been following us, our journey started in July 2013, when the Isle of Man Department of Economic Development (DED) and Pokerstars announced something they called the Isle of Man Grand Challenge. It was a call for individuals looking to be catalysts for change in the local economy with the aim of finding 2 people to send to Singularity University to participate on their Executive Programme.

Andrew and I were among 16 people who put ourselves forward for this opportunity. We eventually made it down to a shortlist and ended up in an interview with a panel comprising of representatives from local industry, the sponsor and Singularity University. I used my slot to talk about issues I saw the Isle of Man will be facing in the future and to talk about ways I believe these can be addressed, through the twin pillars of innovation and education. A few days later, Andrew and I got the call: we had made it through the selection process and would be jetting off to Silicon Valley in December!

Well, December if finally upon us and our flights leave next week! There are still some final details to sort out, but we’re getting all our ducks in a row and are looking forward to learning about all the wonders Singularity has in store for us. I’m hoping we can bring ideas and contacts back to the Isle of Man to help us make a difference.

This post was originally posted on our Grand Challenge Blog which we’ll be using to post photos, updates and snippets along the way, so feel free to subscribe to our feed and join your journey!

Will I make it to Singularity University?

A couple of months ago, I noticed that that the DED in conjunction with PokerStars were running something called The Isle of Man Grand Challenge. They were looking for two inspired individuals to take up the challenge of facilitating the development of advancing technologies and applying them to address one or more of humanity’s grand challenges, who would be sent on a week long Executive Programme at Singularity University.

This sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I put my name down for the challenge. I can be pretty versatile when required and I’m sure my background and entrepreneurial traits could be quite valuable if put to the right use. Not wanting to work myself up into a frenzy of anticipation, I put the whole thing to the back of my mind and got on with life…

A few days ago I got word that I have made the short-list for the award. I was tremendously excited to hear this, my mind racing at the possibilities; I really hope I do well in my interview!

Just to give you an idea, here’s what the week would look like:

That looks really intense, but a massive opportunity to learn new ideas, meet exciting people and really catch up with what’s going on at the forefront of innovation! I’ll keep you posted on how it goes on!

You can read more about the Isle of Man Grand Challenge.