A small fraction of my plywood panel bounty.A small fraction of my plywood panel bounty.

In the summer, bleached blue skies and shimmering waves of heat, make thought, movement, and industry all but impossible. So they say. But, instead of spending my days seeking out the deepest and densest of shade, I have been bouncing all over the place, working through some practical conceptual problems in product management and, in some cases, literally hewing wood and carrying water.

In mid-June, after waiting months for a national plywood shortage to resolve itself, I received the literally hundreds of square feet of cut-to-size maritime pine plywood I’d ordered to replace the old shelving which had been falling off the walls. (I’d foolishly and hastily torn those out in February, causing all remaining horizontal surfaces to be entirely obscured by my displaced chattels.)

On examining the panels closely, I discovered that some were the wrong size and some were missing. When these deficiencies were finally rectified, I embarked on the installation — this was a journey of discovery from which I am still recovering. You can read, obliquely, about some of it here.

I gave an seminar to about 70 directors in the Singapore Government about how taken-for-granted management best practices” are making their teams less nimble, adaptable, and ready for change — and some counterintuitive management practices they can implement instead.

I went to London to collect some 3D-printed furniture components (more on that in the future when I finally install them), to talk to UCL colleagues about taking over executive education and professional development efforts in APAC and EMEA, and to speak at a software company’s leadership offsite.

The talk was on one of my pet topics — why better strategy (whether it is for sales, hiring, innovation, or whatever) comes from understanding what uncertainty is and differentiating it from risk. (I’ve also written a plain-English overview of strategy here.)

In early July, returning from Banyuls, I stopped just outside the Cevennes to pick up a long-awaited delivery of cork tiles. These got glued down and sealed last week in an overnight frenzy of activity before I headed to Ljubljana to teach for the European Institute of Technology’s masters summer schools. This is now my fourth time teaching a course on uncertainty, innovation, and adaptation, and each time I teach it it seems more relevant and vital than before.

In Ljubljana, I also gave a talk about the seductive mirage of AI. This seductive mirage is that AI systems seem to be able to do everything humans can because they produce outputs that are increasingly indistinguishable from human outputs — but actually can’t do the most important thing that humans do, which is to make subjective decisions about value (what I call meaning-making).

This talk brought together the different facets of meaning-making and AI I’ve been writing about for the last few couple of years:

  1. Why meaning-making defines human-ness (for now).
  2. How only humans can do meaning-making work.
  3. Where AI beats humans.
  4. The seductive mirage of AI replacing humans. (Coming soon.)
  5. The need for a new approach to product management that understands the importance of meaning-making. (Coming soon.)

Finally, I recorded a podcast episode with Charley Johnson about meaning-making in AI. We talk about what meaning-making is, why it is important, how it is misunderstood, and what a new philosophy of product management that engages deeply with meaning-making could look like.

The sunstruck pebble beach at Banyuls-sur-Mer, 4 July, 2024.The sunstruck pebble beach at Banyuls-sur-Mer, 4 July, 2024.

Updated 19 July, 2024