How Post-Its Just Got a High Tech Boost

You may have used Post-It notes for all manner of things, the downside when you have a ton of those stickies on a wall is that you either make do with sending around an illegible photo or you’re faced with having to type up and group them together.

But no more! As Post-It recently released an iOS 8 app that automatically identifies the individual Post-Its on your wall or board, including colour and orientation, and assembles them together so you can reorder and export them.

And it works too! (which is kind of useful)

One feature not included in the app is handwriting recognition, although apparently if you export to Evernote via PDF it will allow your notes to become searchable.


Pretotype before you Prototype

Pretotyping is word that Alberto Savoia coined at Google in 2009 to refer to a stage that occurs prior to prototyping.

It’s all about:

Make sure you are building the right IT before you build IT right

Examples are:

  • When IBM wanted to see if it was worth developing a text-to-speech system they ran a test to gauge people’s reactions. Rather than actually build the software, they told the test participants it existed but simulated it by having a typist in another room. As a result they amended the amount of investment they made in this technology.
  • When Palm created the Palm Pilot, their co-founder wanted to avoid a mistake he made a decade earlier when their handheld was made too large. So to test out the size, he cut a block of wood to fit his shirt pocket and carried it around pretending to use it each day. This allowed his to confirm that if they built the device it would actually be useable.

It’s defined as: “Fake it before you make it” or:

Pretotyping is a way to test an idea quickly and inexpensively by creating extremely simplified, mocked or virtual versions of that product to help validate the premise that “If we build it, they will use it.”

There’s more info on the Pretotyping site including also a free PDF minibook, and a talk by Alberto Savoia

The Sticky Lessons of the Marshmallow Challenge

This team task is an interesting example of how different groups approach the same problem.

It also has some surprising results:

  • Preschool kids outperform business school graduates and CEOs
  • Big incentives can lead to worse performing teams

The challenge is for teams to build the tallest freestanding structure with 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of sticky tape, a yard of string and a marshmallow in 18 minutes.  

The reason for the difference in performance:

  • Business school graduates have been trained to develop the best plan upfront, whereas kids “try stuff” and iterate on that.
  • The hidden assumption is that marshmallows are light and there’s only one, so that can just be placed on top at the end, right? Kids will spend most of their time budget developing and will implicitly uncover the assumption quickly, whereas those that discuss, theorize and plan for the bulk of the task will miss out and will hit crisis near the end. But for those that iterate, there’s always a working solution in place that they can fall back to.

Note that architects and engineers perform best of all, as this problem (building self-reinforcing structures) is essentially their key focus each day anyway.

The other observation occurs when the teams are offered a significant reward for winning. Without any reward, typically 60% of teams end up with a freestanding structure, but with the reward this dropped to zero! The implication here is that the pressure of the incentive drives people to discuss and plan more diligently, rather than develop and refine.

Originating from one of the founders of IDEO, Dennis Boyle, it was first shown at TED 2006 by Peter Skillman who worked at Palm (and now head of design at Nokia HERE maps). It was used by Tom Wujec of Autodesk many times, and the patterns he observed are discussed in his Ted Talk and on his site where there’s a transcript of his talk.

How To Sleep Like a Pro

Richard Wiseman’s Night School book helped popularise the notion that to wake up feeling good you need to go to sleep at the correct time interval relative to when you want to get up. You can work out when that time is via one of several internet sleep calculators such as:

(with the caveat that you might find yourself lying awake stressfully thinking “I must sleep now or it will be too late and I’ll need to wait another 90 minutes. Sleep now. Now! NOW! …”)

Being Productive at… Being Productive

Back in  1st May 2013, Chris Bailey decided that having completed his Business degree he would turn down the jobs he had been offered and spend the next twelve months researching and experimenting with ways to improve productivity.

The more cynically minded might wonder about the maths around that: if person A and B embark on the same work, but person A spends 1 year working out how to be more productive, how much more productive will A need to become to ‘catch up’ with B in a reasonable timeframe? As it turns out, the answer in this case is moot; because improving productivity is now Mr Bailey’s career (i.e. person A made the right decision!):

Watch him at TED from March 2014, and review his top 10 findings from his year of productivity, but I guess bear in mind his point #8 “Always question blanket productivity advice” 🙂

Low Friction Updates – iDoneThis

A low friction way to communicate progress on a daily basis.

Often, tools will try to bypass emails and your overloaded inbox and ask you to remember to launch tool X or website Y to supply an update. This one tackles that issue the other way around and works with email (perhaps on the notion that people are more likely to take part each day if it works with a tool they already use)


Reply to an evening email reminder with what you did that day. The next day, get a digest with what everyone on the team got done.

It’s that simple. No hassle, no micromanagement. Get stuff done, and celebrate it with your team.

And some further rationale:

Big Data and Candidate Assessment

From a fairly lengthy recent article about big data and candidate assessment in the Guardian, it seems there is a lot of data mining happening in this area

  • Saberr – Inspired by online dating matching and has tools to help make sure the right people are in the right teams via just a 20 minute survey
  • Evolv – Claims to be able to “predict accurately on a given day which individuals are most likely to quit”
  • Knack – Uses video games to narrow down applicants by determining not “what you say you do, but what you do”

Knack has two games – Balloon brigade on iOS and Wasabi Waiter (the latter claiming to measure Social Intelligence, Conscientiousness and Task Efficiency, more here)

Knack et al may have their uses in trying to whittle down a large number of applicants in a short time to a set more manageable by people, but it would be more worrying if that was the sole selection metric.

I wonder…does the usage of something such as Knack tell the employer more about the candidate, or does its use inform the candidate more about their prospective employer?