Category Archives: Uncategorized

As A Man Thinketh by James Allen

This is a classic book on how your thoughts affect your actions and change your life.

Tony Robbins is a big fan, so it is worth a read just for that fact!

Some inspiring quotes:

  • As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
  • Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him to himself.
  • Just as a gardener cultivates his plot […] so may a man tend the garden of his mind.
  • Dreams are the seedlings of realities.

Download the pdf here!

Let it Go by Dame Stephanie Shirley

Refugee – Entrepreneur – Philanthropist. Wow!

I recently read this amazing book by the incredible Dame Stephanie Shirley after she spoke at Techhub London last year.

Dame Shirley was a refugee on the Kindertransport to the UK during World War II and remained in the UK. 
She had a flair for maths and technology, but in the 1950s these career paths weren’t really open for women so she had to forge her own path.

She worked at the famed Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill, building computers and code by day, and studying for an honours degree in mathematics by night.

In her second job, she realised that standalone software was the next big market opportunity in tech, so she set up Freelance Programmers Ltd.

Frustrated at the state of the workplace for women and also recognising the latent untapped talent that was available, she built her workforce almost exclusively with part-time, remote working ladies that she knew and trusted.

Over the decades she grew the business and successfully exited, making her millions.

However, this merely opened up the next calling for her, which was to fund research into autism and support for children with the condition. This vocation was created by the fact that her son Giles was himself severely autistic.

It’s an inspiring story and full of life and business wisdom. Get it and give it a read.

WoodCut Maps and the Dymaxion Projection

I recently stumbled across this old article about the Dymaxion world map projection invented by Buckminster Fuller (and therefore also known as the Fuller Projection Map). It is supposedly the “first two-dimensional map of the entire surface of Earth that reveals our planet as one, without inaccurately distorting or splitting up the land”. You can buy a poster of it here.

A team made up of artist Nicole Santucci and San Francisco-based firm Wood Cut Maps won the Dymax Redux prize to best show off this unique map projection on the 70th anniversary of its invention.

Source: Dezeen

Their entry, Dymaxion Woodocean World, can be shown in the photos above and below. It shows the density of woodland throughout the world by using different colours of wood.

Source: Dezeen

I was intrigued by the concept, and realised that Woodcut Maps offer custom maps for sale!

You can pick a spot on the map, have the site automatically create a rendered image suitable for manufacture, then have a woodcut map made of your selected spot. See my creation below based on the marvellous city that is London.


36 Questions to Fall in Love

The idea that two people could go through a process that causes them to build a stronger relationship or even fall in love is a fascinating one.

As explained in this article, which is based on this academic paper by Aron et al, there is a process that psychologists have developed that seems to do just that.

It is based on the process of “increasing mutual vulnerability”, which studies suggest when reciprocated leads to deepening feelings towards each other.

Apparently, two people can read the 36 questions below to each other, taking it in turns to answer them. Then, finally, they should stare silently into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes.

You can even read the questions together on this very useful webapp here:

Judging from a quick read through as I read the article, even going through these by oneself would be quite enlightening.

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
  7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
  8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
  9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
  12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
  13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  16. What do you value most in a friendship?
  17. What is your most treasured memory?
  18. What is your most terrible memory?
  19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  20. What does friendship mean to you?
  21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
  23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
  24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
  25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
  26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
  27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
  28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
  29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
  30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
  31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
  32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
  33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
  34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
  35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
  36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a classic book in the personal development genre.

I have recently read it (twice in a row) and gained so many interesting techniques and little nuggets of wisdom.

One thing that I found very interesting was the Personal Inventory Self Analysis Questions (download pdf here). It was a series of questions that yielded some very revealing insights.

Also, during my period of self-reflection between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when I set my personal 5 Oaths for the year, I will now use the Self-Analysis Questionnaire for Personal Inventory (click for pdf download) from the book.

What is Business Design?

Business Design is an emerging commercial discipline. The best definition of business design that I have seen comes from IDEO, the company that first introduced me to the concept:

Business designers take juicy, creative, human-centered innovation and make it succeed out there in the real world. We [IDEO] use strategy, analysis, and financial modeling as generative design tools, and help organizations turn their biggest, wildest ideas into businesses with long-term viability.”

Source: Rotman School

The Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto defines it as follows:

“Business Design is a human-centred approach to innovation. It applies the principles and practices of design to help organizations create new value and new forms of competitive advantage. At its core, Business Design is the integration of customer empathy, experience design and business strategy.

What does a Business Designer do?

During a discussion with Lorenz Koder Fort at IDEO, I learned that the key activities of a business designer are:

  • understanding the business and the competition
  • providing industry perspectives
  • designing experiments for prototyping
  • measuring the results of those experiments
  • identifying risks and mitigating strategies
  • identifying differentiation strategies
  • developing business models/cases with financial models to support investment

Source: Medium post from Misa Misono, ex-IDEO

In particular, he intimated that Business Designers are focussed on the Viability segment of the Feasibility, Viability, Desirability nexus (diagram above). As such, IDEO assesses potential Business Designers along 4 core pillars within that:

  1. Market Navigation
  2. Prototyping & Offer Design
  3. Business Modelling
  4. Storytelling

There’s also a great summary of the typical work of a Business Designer given in the LinkedIn bio of Alvaro Rojo, Business Design Lead at Fjord:

  • Disruptive trends & competitive forces
  • Discovery-driven planning
  • Customer experience strategy
  • Value proposition design
  • New product/service development & execution
  • Market size & growth
  • Ecosystem mapping
  • Roadmapping
  • Go-to-market strategy & international expansion
  • KPIs modeling & tracking
  • MVP & in-market prototyping
  • Product/market fit optimization
  • Business model design & monetization opportunities

Finally, Tsukasa Tanimoto’s informative Medium post contains this succint explanation of the difference between a Business Designer and a Management Consultant:

Source: Medium post by Tsukasa Tanimoto

Who offers Business Design services to their clients?

Many companies offer Business Design-type services to their clients, but here is a selection of some interesting companies in this space:

  1. IDEO
  2. Fjord (owned by Accenture)
  3. EY-Seren (owned by EY)
  4. MAYA Design (owned by BCG)
  5. PA Consulting
  6. frog design
  7. SYPartners
  8. Fahrenheit 212
  9. ?What If! Innovation

How can I learn Business Design?

You can study an MBA with a major in Business Design at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

The Stanford Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, or “the“, seems to be a renowned institution for the discipline. This makes sense, as David Kelley, one of IDEO’s founders, founded the as well!

IDEO offers a lot of related short courses through their IDEO U website, but Designing a Business hits the nail on the head!

How can I become a Business Designer?

A lot of job ads state that MBAs are a “huge plus”, but in reality, it seems to me that they are pretty much a pre-requisite. In some ways, this makes sense, as a holistic view of a business is crucial to designing a good one! However, it does exclude the autodidacts among us.

Entrepreneurship experience is highly valued, as entrepreneurs have lived and breathed the design, prototype, and test cycle.

There’s further discussion of the role and what companies are looking for in a potential recruit on this post from an ex-IDEO Business Designer and the previously mentioned in-depth post from Tsukasa Tanimoto, a Service & Business Designer at Spotless.

Insight from IDEO: How to Prototype a Business

There’s a great post on IDEO‘s website on a topic that is fascinating to me: How to Prototype A New Business (from their Creative Confidence series).

The post is based around an interview (audio below) with Joe Gerber, the MD of IDEO CoLab, which is “a collaborative R&D Lab exploring emerging technologies and its future impact”.

Among some of the useful points, there is a nice lens that can be used to assess new businesses: Viability, Feasibility, and Desirability.

Source: IDEO

Prototyping is a key part of the Design Thinking process and this podcast shows how important it is in Business Design. This is because the hardest thing to predict is the desirability, so you have to test this empirically.

In the podcast, Joe goes into great detail about how you can do this by trying to sell the concept as if it were already a product to see if there is genuine customer appetite (he refers to setting up a “lemonade stand”).

There are some amazing resources linked on there such as Tom Hulme’s Business Model Canvas and a list of Prototyping Tools that can be used (both physical and digital).

Google to acquire Dyson?

Back in 2014/2015, I wondered whether it would make sense for Google to acquire Dyson.

Growth of Alphabet/Google hardware presence

In order to keep their advantage in the search and data sphere, Google (now Alphabet) ramped up their presence in lots of emerging hardware spaces via acquisitions such as Motorola, Boston Dynamics and Nest Labs. Also, Google has developed their own technology innovations at Google X (now simply X), such as the world-leading autonomous vehicle company, Waymo.

In order to fully commercialise such acquisitions and innovations, Google needed to have access to an abundance of world-class hardware product development and marketing experience.

Google made a step towards this in 2014 when they acqui-hired a design firm based in California called Gecko Design. However, I believed Gecko Design was not big enough to fill this void alone.

This left me wondering whether Dyson would be a good fit to help satisfy this need for design engineering firepower.

Dyson’s common interests with Google

Dyson was rumoured to be working on an electric car after it acquired battery company Sakti3 (which has now been publicly confirmed) and also invested £5m with my alma mater, Imperial College, to develop next-generation robots, resulting in the Dyson Robotics Lab.

Given Alphabet’s world-leading autonomous vehicle project, Waymo, and it’s previous interest in robots, I thought that an acquisition of Dyson would give Alphabet/Google a huge advantage with its massive team of 4,800 design engineers.

Dyson and Alphabet have other visions of the future in common. One notable example is Halo (see right), Dyson’s previous prototype of a Google Glass-type device that they built 10 years before Google launched it!

Would Sir James Dyson sell?

As of 2018, a tie-up between the two companies has not yet emerged. In many ways it is unsurprising, as Sir James and his family appear to own 100% of Dyson, so why give up control? (On that topic, there is a great interview with Sir James on NPR’s How I Built This podcast about how he grew his business which explains that surprising fact).

Also, Sir James is a vocal advocate of keeping engineers in Britain and growing British talent to boost industry and our economy.

His leadership on this issue includes launching his own university with a £15m investment, called the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, and his £12m donation to Imperial College to launch the Dyson School of Design Engineering (as well as the previously mentioned Dyson Robotics Lab).

In short, I’m not going to hold my breath for this one. However, it will be fascinating to see how Google and Dyson both fare in the autonomous and electric vehicle markets. Perhaps future collaboration or a joint venture could be on the cards?

Randy Pausch on Time Management

After Randy Pausch’s phenomenal Last Lecture, he recorded another great one on Time Management lecture at the University of Virginia which you can view below:

The full slide deck can be downloaded here: Randy Pausch Time Management slides.

I have condensed the talk’s key points into this list of top tips:

  1. Make sure that you understand that time = money
    1. Understand what your time is worth to both you and your employer and use that to make better decisions about money
  2. The real reason to maximise your time is actually to maximise FUN!
  3. Maximising your time well makes you successful
  4. When assessing your goals:
    1. Why are you doing it?
    2. Why will I succeed?
    3. What will happen if I don’t do it?
    4. Doing things right vs doing the right things
    5. 100 life goal list – read it weekly and ask if you are working on something from it
  5. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Walt Disney
  6. To fail to plan is to plan to fail
  7. You can’t change a plan if you don’t have one!
  8. Break your to-do list down into small steps
  9. If you have to eat a frog, don’t spend a lot of time looking at it
    1. If you have to eat three, eat the biggest and ugliest one first
  10. Covey’s four-quadrant To-Do list
    1. If it is urgent but not important, DON’T DO IT!
  11. Keep your desk clear apart from one piece of paper that you are going to work on next
  12. Touch each piece of paper once
  13. Your email inbox is not your to-do list
  14. Practice “inbox zero”
  15. Filing systems are crucial – have one
  16. Have your desk in front of a window when you can.
  17. Get a second computer monitor to improve your productivity:
    1. One for your To-Do list
    2. One for email inbox
    3. One for calendar
  18. Get a calendar
  19. Get a speakerphone to counter stress (as you may be on hold a lot)
  20. Keep your calls short
    1. Stand for the call
    2. Start by announcing your goals for the call
    3. Have something on your desk that you want to do next
    4. Group your phone calls
    5. Call someone just before lunch or the end of the day if you want a short call!
  21. Write a thank-you note with paper and pen
    1. Have a stack ready on your desk so that you can send them
  22. Don’t have comfortable chairs for guests in your office
  23. You don’t “find time”, you make it!
  24. Be mindful of opportunity costs
  25. Learn to say no!
  26. Schedule dead time
  27. Reduce your interruptions
  28. Group items/requests for people
  29. Have a time log/time journal to see what you were doing with your time
    1. Randy hoped that time journals become automatic (which has come true!)
  30. Make a fake meeting to do something when you have a gap between commitments
  31. Think about how you could delegate effectively
    1. Also think about how you could stop wasting other people’s time
  32. Having a spouse and kids helps you to manage time as it creates a sense of urgency
  33. Prioritise effectiveness over efficiency
  34. Doing things at the last minute is really expensive
  35. If your deadline is way off, make up a fake deadline to do part of the work sooner
  36. If you procrastinate there is a hidden reason, like you are worried you might look stupid or fail
  37. Sometimes all you have to do is ask
  38. If you delegate, grant authority with responsibility
  39. Delegate but always do the ugliest job yourself
  40. Treat your people well
  41. When delegating be specific and make the consequences to them clear
  42. People like being challenged so delegate more!
  43. Give people objectives not procedures
  44. Brief people on the relative importance of each task
  45. Praise and thank people when they do a good job
  46. Meetings should never last more than hour
  47. Meetings should have an agenda
    1. Don’t go to a meeting that doesn’t have an agenda
    2. Nominate a scribe to write up the minutes/action points
  48. “Computers are faster, they just take longer”
  49. Only use technology that helps you
  50. Don’t delete email, archive it
  51. When delegating by email, send it to one person and/or name them explicitly
  52. It’s not a vacation if you’re reading email
  53. Get rid of your television
  54. Turn money into time (especially if you have small kids)
    1. Hire people to do the small tasks
  55. Eat, sleep and exercise
  56. Never break a promise (but renegotiate if need be)
  57. Most things are pass or fail
    1. Don’t spend too much time on the unimportant details
  58. If you don’t have time to do it right, you don’t have time to do it wrong
  59. Ask people in confidence for feedback

MirrorMirror: booth-based 3D scanner for online shopping

During the final year (2007-08) of my Physics degree at Imperial College, we studied a module called Research Interfaces (RI). This was a team-based module that focussed on transforming scientific research into commercial business propositions.

This was a highlight of the degree for me: I loved the collaborative nature of it and the entrepreneurial challenge was much more aligned with how I wanted to live my future life.

Our product design: MirrorMirror

Our team designed a product with the working name of MirrorMirror. It was a booth containing a network of cameras with a central computer that would stitch together the images to create a 3D scan model of the user’s body.

This would then be used to generate an avatar that would help them choose clothes that fit and suit them perfectly when shopping online.

Additionally, they could see their body on a screen in real time with different clothing options projected over the image as if they were wearing it (so-called “Augmented Reality”). This reminded us of the magic mirror from the Disney film, Snow White (hence the name MirrorMirror).

There could also be other uses like tracking weight loss for dieters and muscle gain for bodybuilders (if a new scan was made regularly to show the incremental changes) or the visualisation of the results of cosmetic surgery.

Technical Design

We produced several outputs for the class including this Technical Design Review.

In that document, we estimated the cost to build the prototype of £1.45m, a total future manufacturing cost per booth of £13,900, and a price point of £50,000.

This is exceptionally high and I believe it is a result of the fact that we were not actually required by the course to do any prototyping work. If we had, I think we would have focused on looking for a cheaper way to execute the plan.

Our original design required a screen behind a half-silvered mirror. I think in 2018 this would not be required as screens are not of incredible quality and image processing technology has come on exponentially in the last decade.

User experience

We believed that there are many high-end lucrative markets (such as wedding dresses, evening wear and saris) where a quicker and less stressful garment trial process would greatly add to the shopping experience.

Our team also saw the potential for future uses such as generating an accurate avatar of the person that can be used as a little virtual model for the clothes that are being selected. Imagine being email a picture of yourself wearing the latest items from your favourite designer and a link to buy exactly the right size for you?

We envisioned that booths could be installed in shopping centres, allowing customers to create a 3D image of themselves which they could then use to shop online. Additional lucrative applications could also include high-fashion hairdressing.

Our plan of the user journey is mapped in the image below:

User Journey for MirrorMirror

Business Case and Financial Model

You can see the basic financial model we generated here: MirrorMirror Costing.

When I say we, it was actually me that had the responsibility for putting it together and I could have circulated the draft to my team-mates before the deadline so we could have had more eyes on it before submission. We got our lowest grade by far for this part of the module, so I did feel a bit guilty! However, it was apparently the same for all the other teams, so my guilt was slightly assuaged.

After 10 years working in and around startups and scaleups, here are what I see as the big errors and omissions:

  • No time series for the values (everything is static)
  • Lag time between initial burn and revenue
    • A proper cash-flow model would have helped clarify this
  • Significant errors on the business model (i.e. how we could get paid)
    • For example, would we really want to make money on the hardware, or would we prefer to make money on the service provided by the software (i.e. charge money for every image processed – a digital version of the Nespresso model)
  • No R&D tax credits, Government grants, or other potential subsidies included
  • No marketing and sales budget included at all!

It is quite satisfying to look at old work such as this and compare it with what I have learned since then!

Final Pitch

At the end of the 3-month module, we had to deliver a pitch to a packed auditorium and a simulated panel of investors (made up by the professors from the Business and Physics department that ran the course).

You can see our final pitch document here.

This was a really enjoyable part of the course. I delivered it with 2 other teammates and we got everyone in the team up on stage for the Q&A at the end.


We actually won the Elevator Pitch Prize at the end of the module which was a very personally satisfying way to end the project. We all received a good first for the course (>85%) which was very satisfying for all of us.

We entered into the wider university’s Business Challenge entrepreneurship competition, but we didn’t get past the initial screening phase. As a result, we all agreed to disband the project outside of the RI module and did not take it any further.

What didn’t we do?

It is quite telling that we didn’t build a prototype!!!

The reason that we didn’t build anything is that we didn’t have anyone that is super-focused on the tech side i.e. that could be a CTO. I also believe it is because we all saw this as a purely academic exercise and not as a true opportunity to start an entrepreneurial endeavour and make a return with it.

This tinkering on a prototype would have actually helped us see the true costs, challenges around manufacturing, and gaps in the business model. In fact, IDEO’s Design Thinking methodology (diagram below) expressly integrates prototyping as part of the design process. This project was perfect evidence of why that is the case.

I wonder if the Blackett lab requires the students on the RI course to build a prototype as part of the course nowadays?

Design Thinking Source: IDEO Mydhili Bayyapunedi @myd | @Young_Current