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OuterVentures and travel Apps

As I wrote in my last post, the importance of getting out into nature cannot be exaggerated. Fresh off a week on the West Highland Way in Scotland I can definitely verify the benefits. Whilst on the walk I made use of several travel Apps. This post covers two of the most useful.

So first a little about the trip.

At left are just a few of the pics I shared on Instagram.

This trip doesn’t have to be covered in the time we took, a 7 day trek covering 160km’s, more or less.

The full journey is generally broken down into 7 stages but you can break the stages down further and you could opt to do just a few of the stages – no need to do the full walk.

We (four men) did it in 7 stages and used a tour company to organise everything.

I am so glad we did 🙌 They were excellent – find out more about them here: https://www.macsadventure.com/

We arranged to have our luggage transported to each days overnight stop (hotels and BnB’s) and we walked every day with just a light daypack.

Many we saw and met on the walk were camping and carried full kit – definitely more for the fit, brave and young 😉

Komoot

Not long ago I paid for access to Komoot Maps, a onetime payment option (there are subscription-based offers too) that comes in three flavours: world pack, region bundle and single region. I paid a discounted, special offer price on the world pack which provides reliable navigation where and when you need it – it allows you to access routes offline. More on all offers here: https://www.komoot.com/shop

Komoot App

Here is a little demo from the Komoot App.

You can see that I select from an entire route map that was provided by Komoot and I added to my collection.

It’s broken down in the stages I mentioned earlier.

Every day at the start of a new stage, I would start the navigation for that stage and it guides you in case needed (mostly not as the trail is so well marked). But what is useful are the route progress stats you get like mileage done, still to do, speed, etc.

There are a lot more options in each stage as you can see, I went through the elevation function and you should be able to see the added info you get in each stage to help inform you about the points of interest in that stage. It also covers community input.

I’ve been using Komoot for several months now and loving it. Another nifty feature which I haven’t shown is how you can plan trips and Komoot steers you based on validated paths that are frequently trodden. You can make the trip as far or short as you want. I often plan circular walks close to home.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet App

This is very handy when you want to collect expenses over the entire duration of a trip and especially when you are in a group and sharing costs. More on the App here.

As you can see in the demo video, I have several trips in there already that I used the App for. In the first few trips (family trips I wanted to manage a budget for, since I was paying) I was not sharing costs, just capturing them for myself.

On this trip, we all agreed to take turns paying for group costs as they arose and keep track of them and then make sure they were all equally distributed at the end.

You can see how you get a total to date and then in the bar chart what the distribution of expenses is amongst the group. I tweaked the original categories that are available out of the box (by type of expense), by adding new ones for each member. Thats the way the pie chart works, per category.

You can see that a further breakdown is possible by tag in the All Trip data view, which you see at the end and it’s also possible to filter expenses by tag so you can dive deeper.

Once the trip was complete, I exported a CSV file (done from Settings) with all trip data and then did a simple calculation to see who owed what to whom after first determining what the average cost for the entire trip was.

All in all, a marvellous hike aided by some very nifty technology.

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Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 4 of 4 – Nature

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers nature and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

Did you know creativity is a relatively recent phenomenon? It does seem counterintuitive since humans have been creative from the get-go, one would think. It is what set us apart from other species. But according to this article (which also has other excellent info on creativity) and Google’s Ngram tool, it wasn’t really part of the popular lexicon until midway through the last century: What is creativity? The ultimate guide to understanding today’s most important ability.

And it has come a long way since then.

One could say its meaning needs reassessing.

A recent study by Microsoft and Steelcase came up with some new themes which I have captured below – study article here: The Creative Shift: How Place + Technology + People Can Help Solve 21st Century Problems.

Click to enlarge

Nature

Whether you are for mountains, forest or water (classic icebreaker question) getting out into nature will do the trick for your creativity.

study published in 2012 was one of the first to address the effect of time spent in nature on higher-level tasks of the creative intellect, such as problem-solving. 

In 2013, research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that walking in a city park or any green space for as little as 25 minutes is enough to give your brain a rest and boost cognitive functioning.

I am very lucky to have gorgeous countryside on my doorstep and frequently try to take breaks in my day and especially when I am in the middle of a work challenge that requires creative thinking – which is pretty much always. It helps I need to walk some of my furry keeps 🐶🐶.

When I can I go on longer excursions – here is a video below from a morning hike (18 miles) I went on with a friend. I challenge you to immerse yourself in the audio (turn up the sound for the bird song) and visual and remain unmoved – imagine immersing yourself for longer than the 15 second video snippet allows.

To really make a difference to my creative output I go on longer excursions, or OuterVentures as I like to call them. Mostly these are on vacations where I try to make access to nature at least partly possible or through longer hikes with friends. I’m about to go on one such hike through Scotland on the West Higland Way: West Highland Way – Scotland’s Best Loved Long Distance Walking Route. I’ll do a write up on my return but I know I am going to come back fired up with creative juices as is always the case.

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Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 3 of 4 – Meditation

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers meditation and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

Does creativity still matter in the age of Artificial Intelligence? That is a central question of our times as both “capabilities” are so in demand and prominent. My view is a resounding YES.

AI is becoming capable of creating music, art, code, etc. It is even driving outcomes in customer engagement. What then for the role of human originality. In my view, it is in combination that we can expand the infinite possibilities and solutions – technology, data and the human touch blended to achieve scalable solutions that meet unique human needs or spark unique human engagements.

Take customer engagement. Though AI is being used to driver greater customer engagement outcomes, humans are creative thinkers, seeing connections between things that might not seem at all related. Humans often see obscure links to find solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Humans also bring emotional intelligence and empathy, interpreting emotions and meaning from nuances in body language, voice, and even silence and adjusting as needed.

Empathy is critical too and showing that you understand a customer’s dilemma is the first step to helping them solve their problem. 

Human cognition is also innately intuitive, using life experiences to make rapid decisions. We don’t just use the facts in front of us to make judgments and draw conclusions. We draw on experience and knowledge accumulated over a lifetime. 

These are the things that make us creative powerhouses but together with machines we can stretch possibilities and performance as this HBR study confirms: Collaborative Intelligence: Humans and AI Are Joining Forces.

Click to enlarge

Meditation

I have written an eBook on Mindfulness practice and how it can lead to better outcomes at work including how it can improve your creativity. Improved mindfulness is an outcome of meditation BUT that is not the point of meditation.

As Alan Watts conveys in this video:

Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment and therefore if you meditate for an ulterior motive, that is to say, to improve your mind, to improve your character, to be more efficient in life, you’ve got your eye on the future and you are not meditating.

Meditating to improve your creativity is the same thing. Having said that, done well and for the right purpose, meditation definitely does improve a vast number of things as a result, including your creativity – or so I find.

And whether it’s through meditation or an increased level of mindfulness, there are also things you can do to increase your flow state and inspiration potential or just get you back on the right path. Here are a few pointers:

  • Activities you can do to influence an “aha moment” brain state:
    • Reduce distractions (sensory deprivation), e.g. meditation session with eyes closed, go into a dark space, etc.
    • Think positive (it activates the anterior cingulate which expands your scope of thought)
    • Widen horizons (imagine yourself in a vast environment like space, or a different one, like another country)
  • Notice when you have the urge to “push through” or “think harder” and try stepping away instead. Stepping away is part of the creative process. Giving your unconscious mind time to reorganize the information and clarify it for you. 
  • Setting aside time for creative play provides the space the mind needs to work out how to bring ideas to life.  Everyone has the capability of creativity.  Think of it as forming patterns in unique ways. Here is a sample of some activities for creative play.  The key to play is to detach from the outcome and release yourself from the rules and structure.  In other words, just see what comes up without judgement!
    • Sketching – I swear by it with my DanelDoodles.
    • Brainstorming
    • Free-writing
    • Non-dominant hand exercises
    • Fantasy/Day Dreaming
    • Dance/Free movement
    • Decorating your workspace or home – just rearranging things can sometimes help, even clearing things up (especially clutter)
    • Tinkering
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Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 2 of 4 – Coffee

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers coffee and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

Half of us will need to reskill in the next five years, as the “double-disruption” of the economic impacts of the pandemic and increasing automation transforming jobs takes hold.

That’s according to the third edition of the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Reportwhich maps the jobs and skills of the future, tracking the pace of change and direction of travel.

The World Economic Forum has taken data from LinkedIn and online learning platform Coursera with which to track with unprecedented granularity, the types of specialized skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow, which are in demand across multiple emerging professions. Here are the top 10 skills needed with Creativity clearly amongst them.

Coffee

It is probably no coincidence that the London coffeehouses of the 17th & 18th centuries were the engines of creation that helped drive the Enlightenment – the European intellectual movement that emphasized reason and individualism rather than tradition.

Yes a recent study showed that caffeine boosts problem-solving ability and not creativity, but that is not what we expect from coffee. If creativity takes hard work (which it does), then coffee is how you prime the pump. The study also showed that caffeine increases focus, alertness and motor skills. The rest is still up to you, but at least you will be ready for the creative juices to flow or the creative muse to visit.

Here is how I focus on the best coffee. My go to is the Bialetti Moka Pot and with my Italian background that is probably no surprise, I grew up with it. I often use Illy or Lavazza blended coffee beans and from time to time, I grind my own beans when I find good ones. I don’t only use it for Espresso’s which it is typically associated with. I have a slightly larger pot and I make one entire pot for myself first thing in the morning, often with just a little bit of warm milk. Or if I want to spoil myself on occasion, I froth some hot milk (I have a Lavazza milk frother for that).

Thats how I start my day and also the time I put aside for serious creative work, the earlier the better. If needed, I add a second pot and then that’s it, no more creative work, or coffee.

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Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 1 of 4 – Music

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers music and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

While creativity is highly important in business, it’s an abstract process that works best with a concrete structure. This is where design thinking comes into play.

Top industries are hiring those with Design Thinking Skills

From: The Importance of Creativity in Business, 25 January 2022.

Music

You don’t have to be an avid muso to appreciate this. In fact sometimes it can distract, as it does me. Thats why the music you choose to support the work you are doing should be in the background and down low.

One new study explores music as a source of creativity. Since music has been shown to improve cognition and enhance learning and memory in other studies, it makes sense that perhaps it has an impact on creative thinking, too. 

From: How Music Helps Us Be More Creative, November 17 2017.

Here is my Spotify playlist. It’s made up of LoFi beats and very chilled music – I use it any time I need to tap into my creativity. Maybe it helps you :)

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Features that delight and distress when switching tech tools

Normally I talk about the former, features that delight, when I review any new use of technology or features I’ve come across. But there is most definitely times when distress is the case. And so in this post I have examples of both.

Spike in delight

First up is a new email app I tried on my PC called Spike. I’m absolutely loving it. They talk about “The power of email. The simplicity of chat.” Therein lies the first surprise, the way they convert email threads into a chat-like look and feel.

But it’s way more than that.

It’s also a very credible note taker. I have tried and use tons of note taking tools from Evernote (now replaced by OneNote) to Outlook Notes, Apple Notes and IA Writer, to name but a few. This is one of the finer alternatives. Most of the simple gif above shows the note functions.

I also love the way it integrates the many email addresses I have into one simple unified feed. And setting them up was no problem at all. I normally use Outlook Web App (in the browser) for work but I have lots of different email accounts on the Microsoft and Google platforms and Spike made short work of bringing them in. Since I do so much work in the browser, I didn’t want to have to open new Tabs for each of my email accounts. I was using the Windows Mail App but that was causing lots of problems with my many accounts.

All in all, email needs disrupting and this tool comes the closest I’ve seen to doing just that. Spike also does a great job of setting you up for success from the get-go with super simple in product guides and communicated instructions.


Migration hell

This is not so much about a feature or tool but more about a technology (platform) selection. For many years I’ve run email with my own domain on G Suite with Google for free. Now that the freeloading has been stopped, as part of a revamp and renaming exercise (to Google Workspace), I’ve had to consider my options.

And it’s how the companies facilitate the consideration of options that has been a bit of a nightmare and distressing to say the least.

Some of the challenges I’ve faced:

  1. Do I stay or do I go. If I want to stay on Google Workspace, do you think they make it easy to establish the cost of the alternatives – short answer, no. You have to go into your account as an administrator and go through the upgrade process and after only a few steps do you find out. The free alternative that I did have insight into does not include email with your own domain which is why I started exploring.
  2. Migrating to M365. I pay for Microsoft 365 already and use email from that subscription with another domain already. My first thought was, can I add a domain to the account after using the handy migration tool Microsoft set up: Perform a Google Workspace migration to Microsoft 365 or Office 365. I had known about the migration tool and thought the automated option would be pretty straightforward.
    1. A question of domains. However, on the questions of domains, although you can add as many as 900 domains to an M365 subscription without paying extra, what I could not find an answer for was whether I could send and receive email from the added domain.
    2. Using domains in email. I use that domain address for many accounts so it was imperative I could communicate with it exactly as it was. Firstly I could find no formal Microsoft documentation that verified I could. And then I found lots of forum topics that said it was only possible to send and receive email from the default domain which I was already using.
    3. Documentation distress. Also in the forum threads, I read that an alternative was to create a shared mailbox and set up the shared mailbox address with the newly added domain – this would allow one to send and receive with that domain email address.
    4. Support heaven. It sounded complicated so I decided to create a support ticket from my Microsoft 365 admin interface. Here was one bright spot – the response was almost immediate and I received a call. It was verified that a shared mailbox was the best way to set things up if I wanted the email address to show to the receiver in its original form (otherwise it will show as being sent from the default address). We tested this on the call and it worked. Here is some detail on how.
  3. In conclusion. Now that I had established I could use my domain, I went back to the migration process. It seems not to be so straightforward and I will likely have issues and spend more time on it than I care to. Not anyone’s fault, it must be complicated. For now I’ve decided to pay for one year of Google Workspace (Business Starter edition) which was discounted for me. I will try and migrate all the accounts with which I use the address with and then stop using that domain for email since its not my primary email.
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The unbearable weight of doing

One of the things you gain from going on vacation (as I did recently) is that you are liberated, if only temporarily, from the pressure of doing anything. At least in theory. Sometimes the habit of “busyness” we often pick up at work permeates into our holidays. We struggle to relax. Hopefully we are soon over this and into our stride of being on holiday.

My post title is somewhat of a play on the title from the famous novel by Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness on Being. From the Wikipedia article are some other points of interest that I would like to bring to [bear] – the philosophical underpinnings of the novel:

Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche‘s concept of eternal recurrence (the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the story’s thematic meditations posit the alternative: that each person has only one life to live and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again – thus the “lightness” of being. Moreover, this lightness also signifies freedom. In contrast, the concept of eternal recurrence imposes a “heaviness” on life and the decisions that are made – to borrow from Nietzsche’s metaphor, it gives them “weight”. Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual’s perspective.

My views are firmly on the “light” side although I find nothing unbearable about this view at all, i.e. that we have only one life. If anything, for me it is liberating.

The parallels to work

When your work mimics a treadmill then you are in the same position of being in an eternal recurrence.

Every day is the same, boring, monotonous Groundhog Day.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable. We have tedious tasks that are repetitive but they have to be done. No job is devoid of them and sometimes they are just plain necessary.

Sometimes we make our own busyness. We equate it mistakenly with importance (i.e. it makes us feel important) and productivity when there is absolutely no correlation.

This adds a crushing weight to our work lives that in many cases, is avoidable.

For one, take frequent vacations. It’s amazing, if you really have let go of work and taken the time to disconnect, how light your perspective becomes.

The art of being

When we go about our work in a natural state of being rather than being pressured to do increasingly more, there is a freedom that impacts our creativity and productivity.

I totally get it all depends on your job, your economic circumstances and sometimes the inevitably pressured times that any job entails.

Most of the time, you can master the art of being. Just some pointers to consider:

  1. Don’t feel you have to join every meeting just because you were invited. FOMO is not real! Think carefully about whether you really need to join or could be more productive staying out of it and focusing on some other more valuable task, or just being for a while. If you really need to do something, meditate 🧘🏽‍♂️
  2. Aside from vacations, step outside every now and then and smell the roses, in every way. Make like famed philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau who built some of his most profound observations around them, and many others who knew the secrets of walking, and take a stroll.
  3. Detach yourself from the notion that busyness equates to importance or productivity. Sometimes less is more and the more time out you get, the more creative and ultimately productive you conversely are.
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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Power Platform and Teams Hackathon tips

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

This was not so much a question as a request to present to all the hackers participating in the company hackathon in a launch event. I put a few slides together, here they are in a pdf below. Below that, a few notes of elaboration on the slides that I think need it. This follows earlier advice I shared with the same customer on how to organise the hackathon, captured in this story: How to run a Hackathon for Microsoft Teams and Power Platform. And it also builds on this earlier thought rocket: Hackathons the MVP and lean startup.

Slide 3

I wanted to instil some lean startup, entrepreneurial thinking into the hackers minds. This is also a setup for some of the later slides. The main point being that you have to have an idea of what you want to build in the way of problem/s to solve or opportunity/ies to leverage and that by definition (being future focused), you are not going to be certain that you can achieve it. I wanted to juxtapose this with the need to start building and iterating fast and testing your work as you go and that this has to mapped against your vision and course correction will be required all along the way. Course correction will require either that you refine your vision or your solution.

Slide 5

The clear point here is that you should try and build complete solutions (as far as possible) at every stage of your build. It follows naturally from the previous slide too. I also made the point that they should not be myopic in their thinking and focus too much on the technology or “product”. For instance, building a wheel which on its own, is not really usable. Rather they should think about solving a transport problem and in the image example, a skateboard could be a great first version, perfectly usable in its own right. Hopefully you get the point.

Slide 7

While the hackers were mostly focused on building apps, automations, reports and the like with the Power Platform, I did want to bring Microsoft Teams into the picture as the platform through which they should consider publishing their work. I made two points really. One is that they could develop their solutions either in the respective standalone environment in Power Platform but they could also create solutions directly from within the Teams environment – more on that here: Create low-code custom apps for Microsoft Teams – Teams | Microsoft Docs. More importantly, that they should think about bringing their solutions into Teams to become collaborative apps – a concept explained really well here: Stay in the flow of work with new collaborative apps for Microsoft Teams – Microsoft 365 Blog.

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Starting a business remote first – 10 priorities

I mentor startups from time to time, in my spare time. I am doing so at the moment with one. I am bringing my past experience to bear starting and working in startups and I’ve also written an eBook on a related subject. In the current case though, it’s more my current experience I am advising and focusing on based on my professional work at Microsoft (disclosure). This is around the use of the Microsoft 365 platform (mostly) to support collaboration and productivity.

First some assumptions to be clear on:

  1. Remote first. The team members are all distributed and not all in the same country. So far, so normal 🙂
  2. Side job so multiple other tools. Some of the members have other jobs and so there is a question of competing and even conflicting technologies that need to be considered.
  3. Early stage. This is a very early-stage startup with founders just starting to work together on this – hence the need to start from scratch.

Then here is my list of top 10 things I am focusing on – not that they are necessarily the most important, just what I can and need to prioritise for the team now:

1 Create a new Microsoft 365 account and license the users. Just because I work with this tech, I did not want to push it. Many of the members have familiarity with other platforms and this needs to be considered. In the end, after some discussion (and I presented the case in a DanelDoodle), we agreed on M365. I chose an M365 Business Standard option and here is a handy guide when setting up for the first time if needed.

2 Assign a domain that can be used in email and beyond. The team already had a domain, I was given access to manage the domain through GoDaddy, the domain registrar. Assigning it was a doddle.

3 Create a Team for internal collaboration. I started with a great template for project management. More about Team templates here. We are using this for all collaboration naturally, asynchronously and through Teams Meetings on regular sync calls.

4 Orientation page or description with clear outline of purpose. In the General Channel for the project management Team I set up, I created a simple wiki page in a Tab with pointers to everything they needed to know to get started and up and running. It also collates links and info on the function of each Channel and the tools available in each Channel.

5 Simple Task Planning – Planner in Teams is the perfect lightweight option to get started with. Members access it from a Tab in the Planning Channel in the Team that was set up from the template. Tasks are listed by sprint buckets.

6 Viva Learning and powering a growth mindset. Setting up a Tab in a Channel is straightforward and other than to bring in content covering Teams and the broader M365 platform, you can choose from the 125 free LinkedIn courses to driving learning in other important areas to fill any skills gaps.

7 Automation for competitive intel – Power Automate. One simple automation I have started with (based on a template) is to bring in tweets with relevant hashtags related to competitive activity. Will be looking for more and much of these kinds of templated flows plus many you can build come free with the M365 license (but beware of the limitations).

8 Marketing – start a website prototype. I had already started working on that and I documented that in this post: Content management with WordPress evolved – full site editing 1. This covers both the content management and website creation side of things as well as eCommerce.

9 Forms for surveys to get feedback on prototypes and other things. Microsoft Forms which comes with the license is a simple and useful tool.

10 Chat Bot in Teams (employees), later for website (customers) using Power Virtual Agents (PVA). I started with a simple pre-made BOT to support understanding of Teams. It’s snappily called the Teams Training Assistant App – you can watch it in action in this video here. I’m not actually sure it was built on PVA but regardless, it is useful for the Teams newbies. I will look to build a customer facing BOT later using PVA.

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – what and why M365

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

Question:

The customer is just about to launch Microsoft 365 so the decision has already been made about buying and using it. The question was more in relation to a kick off session to all staff in which I was asked to present in 10 minutes what M365 is and why it will add value to the organisation. I’ve also been asked this by others so I thought this would be a good exercise in any event.

Answer:

I’ve started my thinking on how to address this with a DanelDoodle, always a good way for me to narrow my thinking and generally sense make. As you can imagine, 10 minutes in which to explain M365, a platform so vast in capability, is not an easy task. Maybe impossible. But it is a good exercise. And on this point, this is just an exercise. This is not a definitive answer and will likely change as I prepare for my session and use this to gather feedback. Some explainers below the doodle.

Click to enlarge
  1. I started with a brief explanation in the first two blocks on the nature of Microsoft 365 in relation to the commonly held understanding that it is the Office suite you buy upgrades for every few years. It’s much more than just a set of document tools like Word, PowerPoint, etc. It also goes beyond a new name and business model. So the first block tries to explain that it is a subscription service and you get continues updates and innovation as a result. It also covers many other tools covered in the second block, more on all of them here: Microsoft 365 | Secure, Integrated Office 365 Apps + Teams
  2. I then wanted to cover the concept of the Microsoft Graph which is really important. This is pretty challenging, not sure I’ve done that quite yet. More on that here: Overview of Microsoft Graph – Microsoft Graph | Microsoft Docs
  3. I then tried to choose an area that M365 covers really well which is documents and processes. I chose some examples for each of these that showcase the two main functions. There are so many to choose from this is really difficult. I chose these because I think they capture the essence of innovative new features really well. Here is a little more on each:
    1. Analyze Data in Excel (microsoft.com)
    2. Create professional slide layouts with PowerPoint Designer (microsoft.com)
    3. Microsoft Editor checks grammar and more in documents, mail, and the web
    4. Microsoft Lists | Microsoft 365
  4. The last block covers Microsoft Teams which has become the de facto “front end for collaboration” incorporating so many other tools and components of M365. This article covers the concept I am trying to explain really well: Stay in the flow of work with new collaborative apps for Microsoft Teams – Microsoft 365 Blog
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Finite creativity and the importance of time out

Creativity is important. In our personal lives as well as business. Creative juices are sustenance for our innovation output. Why then do we treat it as if it were an infinite resource that can be tapped at will.

Creativity depletion deniers will say there is no limit to our capacity to be creative. But it is the possibilities that are limitless, not our capacity to be creative.

You can fill a glass only so much. What overflows is not necessarily of the same quality.

The antidote is time out – OuterVentures

Time out from the daily grind, from the incessant, plodding monotony.

Time out and immersion in different cultures, experiences, environments.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to enjoy the possibilities. I have just come back from a vacation. I regularly get out for hikes and travel frequently (although less so of late for obvious reasons). I had forgotten how beneficial this is.

My latest OuterVenture has taken my wife and I to Cape Town for the last two weeks.

What an amazing, vibrant and richly cultured city. Full of entrepreneurs and innovators making the most of sometimes challenging circumstances. What beautiful landscapes too. Such refreshing experiences overall.

This site is all about InnerVentures – an inward looking pursuit most times.

As you may have gathered, OuterVentures is the opposite.

As much as it is important to spend time investigating inwardly, it is equally important to lift our gaze from our navels. As Marcus Aurelius, the renowned Roman philosopher famously exhorted, stop thinking and act!

Anyway, some of the best snaps from my recent holiday below. Next is a 7 day hike in Scotland on the West Highland Way.

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Navigating the modern work landscape – impact and effort

As things have shifted so dramatically over the last few years and there is no sign of it abating nor of going back to normal, I wondered what that meant for modern work. Time for a DanelDoodle. This is a really high-level view and naturally I will have missed key elements. But I just wanted to map the landscape (the important factors being effort and impact) and then plot some elements I thought worthy. Some notes after the doodle.

What’s needed to get ahead at work in the next 10 years

Pick one or two at most, because you cannot excel at all.

  • Business Outcomes Achiever. My views on this are no secret, I’ve written countless posts with the tag. It is the most powerful of the activities in my view. If you can show how you are driving the company forward and to success, you will be successful. But it’s not easy.
  • Innovator. How are you thinking differently, doing things differently? This requires equal parts creativity and execution capability. Do it right and you will be rewarded handsomely because competition is so high and change so fast.
  • Productivity Pro. Because being able to withstand the pressures of distraction and so many things to do and focusing on the things that matter, matter. Not hard work but the right work.
  • Technophile. If you don’t master technology, it will master you. And get it to work for you, that’s why it is positioned as high impact and low effort. As every company becomes a software company and automation takes off, this becomes key.
  • Sense Maker. Navigating the onslaught of information, challenges and opportunities out there and making sense of it so you and your company ultimately make the right decisions.
  • Collaborator. As we work more from home and use tools to connect this becomes ever more important but it has always been. Because you go further together than alone.
  • Authentically Nice. Because you don’t have to be an arsehole to win. But it does have to be genuine.
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Content management with WordPress evolved – full site editing 1

Last month WordPress announced that full site editing was coming to its WordPress.com users of which I am one. I’ve been meaning to take it for a spin but haven’t managed to until now. This post is an attempt at documenting my experiences as I try and learn the new functionality as well as get to grips with how to test new features and functions like this on my active site without breaking it. I’ll track it all with my WordPress tag.

So on the very last point mentioned, I came across this option for How to Create Your Own WordPress Staging Site. I was going to explore that option but before I could, I came across this video below – a recording of a webinar run by WordPress on full site editing.

It does a great job not only of showing how full site editing works, but also goes through an alternative site staging option. It shows how to create a new site on WordPress and export and import your current site content and test that with a new block theme that works with full site editing. This way you test the new site theme and functionality in a kind of staging environment with existing content until happy and then you could switch to this new site when happy. Or upgrade your current site knowing what works and how.

But as attractive as this last option seemed, I soon ran into problems.

Problems with using WordPress.com as a staging site

  1. I’m currently on a Business Plan which is needed for enabling WooCommerce.
  2. My site has ecommerce functionality based on WooCommerce and using the Storefront theme currently. The Storefront theme is not currently capable of full site editing.
  3. I found a cool alternative: Wowmall – WooCommerce block based theme
  4. The problem is on a free WordPress site you cannot run WooCommerce and nor can you upload the Wowmall theme – you need to be on a Business Plan at least. This is cost prohibitive.
  5. My Plan B is to try run this on a an Azure plan I have, i.e self hosted WordPress on which I can instal WooCommerce and upload the Wowmall theme after grabbing it from here. Good article here on how to run WordPress on Azure.

So that’s all for now. I’ll update my progress in another post.