Tag: Dynamic Skillset

Coming up with a manifesto to underpin my work

I don’t talk about my limited company very often on this blog. That’s mainly because when people pay me to do some consultancy for them, they want me to do the work. Dynamic Skillset Ltd. is just who their finance department pays, and the name of an organisation that occasionally appears on my slide decks.

While things are going well and I’m perfectly happy with current arrangements, it’s time for me to belatedly write a mission and manifesto for Dynamic Skillset. That’s for a couple of reasons.

  1. It’s just a good thing to do: it means I’ll know with confidence what I should say ‘yes’ to, and what I should probably decline.
  2. Writing a mission statement is something I advise all organisations to do if they haven’t already got one — so it’s a bit disingenuous for my own not to have one!

It was working at Mozilla that convinced me of the power of the organisational mission and manifesto. The idea is that everyone’s work is tied to the mission, and both new and current work can be tested against the Mozilla manifesto. In fact, the work I led there around the Web Literacy Map is actually linked to from the manifesto itself. I can remember being in meetings where someone would come up with an idea, only for it to be shot down with the (quite legitimate) response, “how is this moving forward the open web?”

So, missions and manifestos are extremely powerful. The mission ensures that you’re laser-focused on what the organisation was set up to do. For charities and non-profits, this is likely to be about making the world better in some way. You can see some examples here. For publicly-traded companies, it’s providing a financial return for shareholders. The mission is the ‘why’ of your organisation.

The reason you need a mission and a manifesto is because there are many ways to arrive at the same destination. The guiding principles of how you go about achieving your mission is what your manifesto is for. It needs to be specific enough to allow you to choose one course of action over another, but not so specific that you need to update the manifesto too regularly. There has to be some, what I would call, ‘productive ambiguity’ in there.


A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus and/or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual’s life stance. (Wikipedia)


In early 2017, I changed the strapline at dynamicskillset.com to read ‘helping people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology’. I’m happy with that. It seems like a decent enough mission. What I need to do now is come up with a manifesto. Note that I’m not plucking this out of thin air — I do think about this stuff, but just haven’t written it down before now!

Given that it might take a few iterations to get this right, please note that what follows may not be up-to-date if you visit this page after February 2017.

  1. Share openly — The open sharing of ideas and resources contributes to the development of a more progressive and inclusive society.
  2. Teach digital skills and literacies — No individual is born knowing how to use digital tools. Therefore, the effective use of technology is something that has to be learned.
  3. Embrace change — Change is in the fundamental nature of things, so adaptation is an important mindset to adopt.
  4. Trust, but check — Collaboration and teamwork is built upon trust. This, along with many things, cannot be measured using a spreadsheet.
  5. Encourage diversity in credentialing — People are more than their job history and academic achievements. Alternative credentialing systems can allow for more democratic environments that represent individuals in a more holistic way.
  6. Evangelise for stronger privacy and security — Privacy and security are related, but different concepts. We should care about privacy for the same reason we put curtains on our windows, and security for the same reason that we put locks on our doors.
  7. Go open source wherever possible — Open source software, hardware, and governance are ideal states that can encourage stable, inclusive platforms for innovation.
  8. Respect difference — Most people work best in different ways, at different times, and in different places than the 9-5 office based job.
  9. Discover what motivates peopleMoney, and other forms of financial compensation, are less effective than other incentives at encouraging desired behaviours.
  10. Focus on learning — Education is to learning what management is to leadership.

It’s not perfect by any means, and as soon as I hit publish I’ll probably think of other things and different ways of saying the above. However, after being prompted by the latest issue of Emma Cragg’s newsletter, I thought I’d better get something written…

Improving the style and content of dynamicskillset.com

Last April when I became a consultant, I threw together a website at dynamicskillset.com using GitHub Pages and bootstrap. I even created a video to show others how to do so. However, I wasn’t happy with it, so a couple of months ago replaced it with this holding page featuring an image from Bryan Mathers:

Dynamic Skillset placeholder

Today, while the rest of my family is away visiting relatives during half-term, I got a chance to mess about for long enough to create this:

New Dynamic Skillset website

I’m really pleased with it. The DNS is still propagating away from GitHub back to Reclaim Hosting, but you should be able to access the live version here in the meantime. Once that is done, you’ll be able to access via dynamicskillset.com as usual!

Developing my offer: what I’m planning for the next few months

Time horizons are funny things. For example, I don’t know about you, but I like to plan a few months ahead. However, there’s a couple of times of year when this feels more difficult. The most obvious of these is Christmas; in December I still find it hard to make plans for January of the next year!

Another of these times is thinking about beyond the ‘summer holidays’ This is partly because I’ve been conditioned all my life to think in terms of the academic year. This year, we’re planning to go away as a family for a good chunk of the summer, but as a consultant I obviously need to think about business continuity and paid work that I’m going to be coming back to afterwards.

Hence this post! I like to think out loud and show my work.

Since setting up by myself, as well as shorter-term work for other clients, I’ve had a steady stream of work with City & Guilds. That’s tapered off from initially working on a full-time basis with them, down to two days at the moment. It’s been great and, as all good teachers do, I’ve greatly enjoyed making myself progressively redundant. So from the end of August I’ll be working with City & Guilds on a per-project basis.

This, of course, means I’m looking for ways to make myself useful to other organisations. I’ve got a few things scheduled but, right now, lots more availability from September onwards than I’ve had previously. Given that so far all of my consultancy work has been ‘inbound’ (i.e. people and organisations have approached me, instead of me approaching them) I’m thinking about ways of packaging up what I do in ways that make immediate sense to people.

One such way that I’ve highlighted before is an approach developed by Bryan Mathers and the good people at wapisasa: the Thinkathon.

Ordinarily, Thinkathons last from 10am until about 4pm, with a break for lunch. The facilitators will have done some preparation beforehand, then on the day they meet with three or four people from the organisation who has requested the Thinkathon. Afterwards, the facilitators package up what was captured during the day into actionable next steps.

The great thing about Thinkathons is that they’re simultaneously ‘off-the-shelf’ (i.e. they’re a fixed price, you know the format of the day, and there’s an output) and bespoke (i.e. what we discuss and sort out is entirely dependent on your organisation and context). They’re also a great way to provide value in a ‘bounded’ way. The Thinkathon by itself could be all that’s needed, or it lead to further work. It’s up to the organisation.

Rocket (CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers)As I’ve mentioned before, we’re currently revving-up weareopen.coop, a co-operative consortium of limited companies including mine and those controlled by John Bevan, Laura Hilliger, and Bryan Mathers. The deal is that anything we do individually goes through our respective businesses, but anything we do that requires more than one of us goes through the co-op. That means Thinkathons are something you should approach the co-op about: thinkathons@nullweareopen.coop.

For the avoidance of doubt, the things you’re likely to hire me individually for as Dynamic Skillset are things relating to education, technology, and productivity. For example:

  • Digital skills/literacies keynotes, workshops, and curriculum development
  • Open Badges keynotes, workshops, and system design
  • Productivity and workflow analysis, coaching, and report-writing
  • Critical Friend services
  • Analysis (desk research and in-person) around use of technology in learning and training contexts.
  • Desk research, synthesis, and report-writing relating to anything I tend to talk about here or elsewhere.

In terms of weareopen.coop, it’s a case of ‘watch this space’ to some extent as our first planning meeting is next week). However, as our name indicates, we’re interested in all elements of openness, including Open Badges, but also helping organisations work more openly and transparently.

The Essential Elements of Digital LiteraciesThere’s plenty of other things I want to start offering as well as the above. One of these is a short email-based course based on my ebook The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. This would be a paid addition to the ebook, which (in line with my ‘OpenBeta’ approach) will decrease in price next month to ‘pay what you want’. Do let me know if you’d be willing to be a guinea pig for that. I’d like to do some testing before it goes live for everyone.

Another thing I’d like to offer is the kind of five-day sprint as outlined in the recent book from Google Ventures entitled Sprint: how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days. This would be an a large undertaking for an organisation, but likely to be hugely valuable. I’d be willing to do this at a 50% for my first one, in return for detailed feedback.

And finally (although I’ve got plenty more ideas in my notebook) I’m wondering if it might be worthwhile to build an extremely lightweight badging platform. I’ve had this idea with the codename ‘Self-Badger’ which would provide a much-needed antidote to some of the unimaginative approaches to Open Badges I’ve seen recently. I’ll may need some funding for that, however…

In terms of upcoming speaking engagements, I was supposed to be in South Africa this week speaking about badges and blockchain at the Groningen Declaration conference. However, having withdrawn from the BadgeChain group I felt that my presence there would have been somewhat disingenuous. Instead, I’m planning to use my Badge Summit keynote next month in Aurora, Colorado to ask some hard questions about all of this.

So, if you think I can help you and your organisation, get in touch! I respond to emails sent to hello@nulldynamicskillset.com within 24 hours, and I have a discounted rate for charities, non-profits, and educational institutions.

Images CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers (originally developed for the Community Alignment model)


Doug is a very creative, motivated and talented individual, who inspires others around him to think from different angles and to challenge constructively. — Patrick Bellis (Deputy Director, Jisc group customer services)

Always quick with a witty riposte—usually in animated gif form—or willing to dive into a philosophical conversation, Doug excels at his work. — Carla Casilli (Consultant & former Mozilla colleague)

Doug’s deep expertise in digital technologies for learning, productivity, change and teamwork together with his ability to coach and challenge, has really helped us develop as an education organisation. — Sarah Horrocks (Director, London CLC)

3 reasons you need a critical friend

chat

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my adult life, it’s that you can be considered a good conversationalist merely by being a good listener. That’s the thing: people want to be heard, to tell their story, to let what’s inside them out.

That’s great, but there’s at least one stage further than that: being good at asking questions. Socrates was great at it. This ‘Socratic approach’ not only stimulates debate, but thought and reflection. Knowing someone who can challenge you in a thoughtful, kind, and meaningful way is a hugely valuable resource on which to draw.

I’ve been prompted into writing about this as I’ve recently taken on what is now my fifth client for whom I am a ‘critical friend’. In none of these cases have I sought out this work, but instead have been approached by each client as someone who they think can help them. This could be a short term thing or, more often, is longer-term, and organised in a more ad-hoc, semi-structured way.

Thinking through what kind of things I talk about with my clients, there’s three broad areas where I’ve been able to help.

1. Motivation and encouragement

We’ve all been there: we know what we need to do in our professional lives, but we just can’t seem to traction. I’ve worked with those who would describe themselves as self-starters, yet have found value in helping me give shape to their plans.

Working with Doug is both a real pleasure and a kick up the backside! (Zoe Ross)

Doug is a very creative, motivated and talented individual, who inspires others around him to think from different angles and to challenge constructively. (Patrick Bellis)

2. Insight and analysis

Sometimes what you need is a person you trust to provide some objectivity on particular problems or struggles you’re having. These could be monumental professional struggles, or they could be #firstworldproblems. Either way, through discussion a way forward usually develops – either at the time, or reflecting on the conversation, by email.

Working with Doug has been one of the highlights of my career. His insights make anything I’m working on better. (Laura Hilliger)

The thing that Doug provided for me, above all, was insight. Through his incisive questioning and our subsequent discussions, Doug was able to help me to discover for myself, the very best way forward for my business and for me personally. He’s incredibly easy to work with and a thoroughly nice guy to boot. I’d highly recommend using his strengths to get the best out of yours. (Greg Perry)

3. Connection and inspiration

It’s easy to think that you’re slaving away, ploughing your own lonely furrow. In fact, there’s many people around the world with similar hopes and dreams as you. Learning from and/or connecting with them can be exciting, liberating, and confirm that what you’re doing is worthwhile.

I would wholeheartedly recommend Doug as a consultant, trainer, coach and all round wise and inspiring critical friend. (Sarah Horrocks)

As a freelancer, I am often alone with my own work. Being able to spend time talking things through with Doug was not only practical, but a catalyst for developing my ideas to help others. (Eylan Ezekiel)

Next steps

As I mentioned above, this is the first time I’ve offered this as a discrete (and discreet, if necessary!) service. I’m keen to help people, spending time to aid them in realising their hopes and dreams.

If you think I can help you, please do get in touch. The first 30 minutes we spend together is free, and I can tailor follow-up sessions to suit you, your time, and your budget. I reply to every email within 24 hours.

Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com


Note: some of the above quotations are taken from clients, and some from others who have been kind enough to recommend me on LinkedIn.

Thanks to Eylan Ezekiel for feedback on this post, and John Johnston for drastically reducing the filesize of the gif!

The Next Chapter

The week just gone was my last as a paid contributor to the Mozilla Foundation. I wrote about that here. It’s been a while coming — I set up Dynamic Skillset on 23rd December last year and had set myself the target of becoming fully independent by this September. In terms of planning, my brain still works in terms of academic years…

Happily, a couple of organisations almost bit my arm off when I approached them about doing some consultancy work. I’ve chosen to work with City & Guilds for five months (in the first instance) helping them with various things— including Open Badges. I’m really looking forward to catalysing meaningful change within organisations.

Although it’s perhaps not appropriate to name here all the people who have helped me over the past few months, you know who you are. I definitely couldn’t have taken this step without them. From encouragement before Christmas when I was considering a change, to practical advice on setting up as a limited company, I feel extremely fortunate to be connected to such a generous network. Thank you all.

As ever, I’ll be working as openly as possible and pushing others to do likewise. I’ve never been particularly driven by financial gain: it’s doing interesting and important stuff with awesome people that’s important to me. Life’s too short to spend doing things just for the sake of money.

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
— Thomas Edison

Please do get in touch if you think I can help your organisation. I’m particularly interested in stuff around digital/web/new literacies, Open Badges, alternative accreditation, open education — you know the kind of things I do.

Remember: I’ve only got so much capacity, especially until September, so let me know sooner rather than later!

"change the world or go home"

Your questions answered about Dynamic Skillset, my upcoming consultancy

I’ve mentioned in passing in a couple of posts so far this year that I’m launching an ‘artisanal’ consultancy in 2015. Dynamic Skillset Ltd. is already registered with Companies House, so (understandably) I’ve had many questions from friends, colleagues, readers and followers about what I’m planning to do with it.

To help answer these, I put together a short FAQ. Around 50 people have signed up for updates at dynamicskillset.com, so as part of Issue #1 of Dynamic Skillset’s monthly newsletter, I answered the following questions:

Why ‘Dynamic Skillset’?

It’s not enough these days to be merely ‘good’ in one field. To remain competitive, to integrate innovative techniques into your personal workflow or organisation’s system, a ‘dynamic skillset’ is required. Hence the name.

When do you launch?

We’ll be launching over the course of 2015 with a few select clients across the public, private and third sectors.

What relationship does Dynamic Skillset have to Mozilla?

While Doug will continue in a full-time capacity for Mozilla, there is no formal relationship or affiliation between Dynamic Skillset and the Mozilla Foundation. Doug will be working with clients at times outside the hours he is contracted with Mozilla.

What’s the best way to make an enquiry?

It all starts with a no-obligation email. You can hit reply to this first newsletter, or you can compose an email and send it to hello@nulldynamicskillset.com. More detail is better than less, but at a minimum it would be good to know:

  • Location
  • Organisation
  • Type of work
  • Timeframe

How much do you charge?

This is something we can work on that once you get in touch. Part of this being an ‘artisanal’ consultancy is that it is entirely bespoke to the organisation and context.

Note: for UK-based work (or that which doesn’t require travel) that Dynamic Skillset won’t charge for expenses such as travel and accommodation. There are also incentives for booking three or more days. This is to encourage meaningful individual/organisational change.

More questions?

Just ask! Again, hit reply to this email or compose one to hello@nulldynamicskillset.com.

In the next issue of the Dynamic Skillset newsletter I’m planning to link to research, interesting articles, etc. around open education and organisational change. Feel free to sign up on the Dynamic Skillset website.

Questions? Please do shoot me an email or simply add a comment to this post!

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