A weeknote, starting Monday 22 May 2023

Paul Moran
3 min readMay 28


It’s taken me longer than normal to write this week’s note. Primarily because I got absorbed reading this fascinating paper: Developmental Dyslexia: Disorder or Specialization in Exploration? which popped up in my LinkedIn feed. (Thanks Leonie Tame :-) ). It’s a long read but viewing dyslexia in evolutionary terms as a way of enabling some people to have strength in exploratory thinking and others to focus more on exploitation of knowledge struck me as really interesting.

Among some of the thoughts it inspired were some about our current work to establish discovery teams, and recognising that what we’re doing is facing into the tension present in many organisations caused by the trade off between exploration and exploitation. I touched on this in a past weeknote with a reference to organisational ambidexterity.

It is worth emphasizing that once a system’s components specialize, all of them become interdependent and thus essential. De-emphasizing those parts geared toward exploration tips the system excessively toward refining existing solutions. Cultural change may remain, but it is likely to become progressively less adaptive. Systems that refine existing solutions more rapidly than exploring new ones may be effective in the short-term but are self-destructive in the long-term (March, 1991).

Also, it highlights why diversity in teams is so important.

Removing obstacles to explorative learning, and instead harnessing exploration to increase adaptiveness may enable us to better confront the existential challenges presently facing our species and our planet.

And finally, it also feels like it kind of connects to this piece too: Harvard lecturer: ‘No specific skill will get you ahead in the future’ — but this ‘way of thinking’ will.

It was great to have a face to face day as a leadership team this week whiteboarding our way through an issue we need to resolve collectively.

As we talked things through it made me recall reading this piece from May Pang about maintaining healthy emotional balances and how this translates into positive influence. (Was free to read at the time, but possibly now a Medium member-only article). It connects with various things I’ve seen from Colin Mobey recently on the importance of relationships and building trust with people.

It also connects to being a ‘trusted agitator’ as discussed here by Laura Yarrow: How to be a trusted agitator (thanks Tash Willcocks for getting this back into my eyeline). Build relationships, be respectful of other disciplines, look for opportunities to collaborate — all makes perfect sense to me and is part of how I try to operate.

Really like this by Erika Hall for articulating some of the challenges of doing research but also the high value of creating shared understanding: The secret cost of research.

I enjoyed watching this short video about gaming company Valve and their approve to research using small multidisciplinary teams with clear goals who do frequent play testing with users.

Some tips:

1. test early

2. test often

3. shut up and watch

4. designers should run playtests

5. get the right people

6. challenge your assumptions

Other bits and pieces

Future reading


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Paul Moran

Head of Service Design & User Research @ Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, UK https://linktr.ee/pauljosephmoran