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Outlandish is a digital agency that builds beautiful tools for positive social impact. We are a worker-owned co-operative, partnering with clients who share our passion for technology that makes the world a better place.

This is our playbook.

This playbook is a living document, a growing collection of what we’ve learned working with all different kinds of people and organisations. It also includes links to other sites featuring resources we’ve found invaluable.

We’ve made this playbook free to access and openly-licensed so that you can use and remix for your own purposes. All we ask is that if you make derivative works, you share them under the same license so that everyone can benefit!

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(note that external resources marked with a * may have a different license)

Playbook - Building OUT

Building OUT

Outlandish is enabling teams (within organisations who want to make the world better) to improve their skills of communication, collaboration, and co-operation so that they can better deliver their goals.

Our theory of change is to pursue this through a programme we call ‘Building OUT’, where OUT not only stands for the first three letters of Outlandish, but Openness, Understanding, and Trust.

We deliver public workshops around key working practices that have led to positive change within Outlandish.

Next workshops:

 

👉 Does your team/organisation need Building OUT? 👈

We want teams…

…to make better decisions ✅

…to improve the way they work together 📈

…to learn more about Sociocracy 🤔

Contact buildingout@outlandish.com to find out more about the services we offer and how we can work with you and your team.

Playbook - Design & innovation

We believe in putting yourself in the shoes of the people you’re trying to serve, launching Minimum Viable Products, and learning as much as you can as you go.

We want…

…to get organisations to think about people first, and learn what works 👍

…to improve the way we innovate as a team 💡

…to try it out! 🤠

Outlandish Reading List

📚 This is a list of things we recommend that everyone at Outlandish reads.

Power, politics and co-operation

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work, Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams

An excellent manifesto for the creation of a positive leftist alternative to capitalism in which technology plays a key role in alleviating the drudgery of work. It’s available from top lefty book seller Verso Books.

The Tyranny of Structurelessness, Jo Freeman

A critique and anarchist organisations from a structuralist/feminist perspective. It highlights that without some rules and structure the loudest voices get heard (often middle class white men). It’s available on Jo’s website.

The Tyranny of Tyranny, Cathy Levine

A critique of Jo Freeman’s critique, also from a feminist perspective. It broadly argues that both structures and the lack of them can create tyranny and that a balanced approach is important. Available free online via the Anarchist Library.

The Creative Forces of Self-Organisation, John A Buck & Gerard Endenberg

A great pamphlet outlining the theory, practice and benefits of sociocracy – a non-hierachical consent-based democratic system used by Outlandish. It was adapted from the system used by the quakers by a dutch businessman for use in his electronics company. It’s available free online.

The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx & Fredrich Engels

A great explanation of dialectical materialism and the capitalist mode of exploitation. Down with that sort of thing. It’s available for free, of course.

The Chaos Point: The World at the Crossroads, Irwin Lazlo

A marvellous book about how our thoughts shape our world.

Das Kapital, Karl Marx

Marx’s magnum opus on the nature of capitalism. Written in three volumes it’s generally considered pretty dense and some bits of it have been shown to be inaccurate. It’s telling that a group of German economists published “Understanding Capital” in five volumes (the book itself is only three volumes).

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential, Carol Dweck

A populist (almost self-help) style book by renowned educationalist, psychologist and academic Carol Dweck. It proposes the world is made of two sorts of people – those that thing they’re good at certain things and those that think they have learnt certain things so far. The book advocates the learning mindset and points out that you can improve at anything if you want to – being a great lover, a great artist or a great developer.

First, break all the rules, Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

A fantastically well researched book about the need for good management. It defines management as ‘getting the best from people’ rather than ‘telling people what to do’ and outlines the key rules for good management. They argue that it is important to select for talent (as opposed to knowledge or skill) since the latter are easier to teach. They define a talent as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied”. There’s a free executive summary available.

Combat liberalism, Mao Tse-tung

A surprisingly light pamphlet from Chairman Mao about the true nature of revolutionary struggle. While Mao got a lot wrong, he shares some interesting insights into what it means to be really committed to a cause rather than just working for one. If you find it a bit much just do a find and replace and swap “communist” for “Outlander” and “party” for “Outlandish”. It’s available for free. Ignore the bit about obeying orders – we don’t do that sort of thing here comrade.

Power and Love, Adam Kahane

Helpful ways to think about conflict.

Creating Freedom, Raoul Martinez

“Exceptional. This year’s essential text for thinking radicals.” — THE GUARDIAN. A book that challenges our traditional understanding of the concept of freedom. In a wide-ranging analysis of power and control, it explores the limits placed on freedom by human nature and society and it offers a radical new framework to make sense of the world and empower us to change it. There is also a documentary on the same theme. Find places to purchase it from on the official site.

Of the People, By the People – The Case for a Participatory Economy, Robin Hahnel

A proposal for how we can organise a new economy as a radical alternative to capitalism. Participatory Economics was created by Economists Robin Hahnel and Micheal Albert. In the socialist libertarian tradition it’s based around federated self-managed workplaces (Co-ops), federated consumer councils and a democratic, decentralised allocation system called Participatory Planning. You can buy from here.

23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang

Ha-Joon Chang destroys the biggest myths of our times and shows us an alternative view of the world, including: There’s no such thing as a ‘free’ market, globalisation isn’t making the world richer, we don’t live in a digital world – the washing machine has changed lives more than the internet, poor countries are more entrepreneurial than rich ones, higher paid managers don’t produce better results… You can buy from here.

The Tao of Leaderhip, Loazi

A re-interpretation/translation of the 2500 year old Tao Te Ching (which translates roughly as “The Book of the Way of Virtue”). The original book was a set of guidance from one or more philosophers to one or more powerful princes. The book sets out 81 lessons for leaders under headings as abstract as “Water” and as down to earth as “Equal Treatment”. The language is somewhat philosophical – e.g. “From watching the movements of water the leader has learned that, in action, timing is everything. Like water the leader is yielding, because the leader does not push, the group does not resists” – but it also contains clear, practical advice. There are copies in the bookshelf or you can buy it here.

Technology and design

Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug

Probably the best (and shortest) book ever written about user-experience. The key point he makes is that users don’t analyse a webpage and then ponder which would be the best link to click – they just click on the first thing that see that might be what they want. It’s also got all the basics such as page hierarchy, the need for clear labeling, etc. We’ve got loads of copies of this book in the office.

The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks

Possibly one of the best, and certainly one of the first, books on the human element in software engineering.

Selling and Marketing

Escaping the Price-Driven Sale, Snyder and Kearns

A great description of SPIN selling. – Selling to help people not as an Arthur Daley.

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters, Richard Rumelt

Whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions, the stimulus to at least think about things strategically sometimes makes sense.

Build a Brand in 30 Days, Simon Middleton

Simple guidance on brand (reputation) building. Includes some practical charts and guidance.

Marketing Judo, Barnes and Richardson

A nice little story of how to succeed as a David against a Goliath.

Organisational Development

Who moved my cheese, Spencer Johnson

This is a short book all about change (and cheese!). It explores how we can anticipate, acknowledge, and accept that change will to happen, so that we can be more effective at work and in life. It’s available online here, and we have a few physical copies of the book in the office too.

Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

This is a semi how-to guide written by the founders of 37signals, a very successful software company. They are also small and have many of the opportunities/challenges that we have at Outlandish. It covers topics from remote working, to marketing, to recruitment AND its easy to read. There are copies available in the office.

We the people, John Buck and Sharon Villines

Good introduction and full explanation of sociocracy with great examples of how it works in practice.

Beyond the Corporation: Humanity Working, David Erdal

It combines so many things I enjoy in a book:
– an emotionally powerful story – of hardship and hope
– detailed explanation of the issues involved, and a rigorous analysis of them
– the breaking of many, many much beloved myths
– advice for those who want to get on and do it
– a simple set of inspiring but practical actions

The Seven-Day Weekend: A Better Way to Work in the 21st Century, Ricardo Semler

Might be easy to criticise this as a description of the ‘third way’. But it also contains some important personal revelations and he gives a strong emotional sense of what it is like to work in an empowering company.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni

A simple book on group dynamics – easy to read and absorb.

On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers

A pretty fundamental subject for most of us. Perhaps a little academic but broken into shorter articles.

Co-Active Coaching, Kimsey-House et al

A classic on coaching.

Immunity to Change, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey

Want to change – here’s how.

Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life, Marshall Rosenberg

Language – an alternative approach.

Other

Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich

Written in 1975, this article argues that an over-indulgence of energy is just as harmful to society as an over-indulgence for an individual. Using traffic as his primary example, Ivan Illich argues that a society cannot be equitable beyond a certain level of wattage consumption.

“A people can be just as dangerously overpowered by the wattage of its tools as by the caloric content of its foods, but it is much harder to confess to a national overindulgence in wattage than to a sickening diet. The per capita wattage that is critical for social well-being lies within an order of magnitude which is far above the horsepower known to four-fifths of humanity and far below the power commanded by any Volkswagen driver.”

Available for free at http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/EnergyEquity/Energy%20and%20Equity.htm

Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich

Written in 1971, Ivan Illich argues in this book that the institutionalisation of education in modern societies has lead to the radical monopoly of schools to the detriment of self-directed learning. Illich argues that the compulsory education is both financially unfeasible and dangerous to society as a whole.

“The escalation of the schools is as destructive as the escalation of weapons but less visibly so. Everywhere in the world school costs have risen faster than enrollments and faster than the GNP; everywhere expenditures on school fall even further behind the expectations of parents, teachers, and pupils. Everywhere this situation discourages both the motivation and the financing for large-scale planning for nonschooled learning. The United States is proving to the world that no country can be rich enough to afford a school system that meets the demands this same system creates simply by existing, because a successful school system schools parents and pupils to the supreme value of a larger school system, the cost of which increases disproportionately as higher grades are in demand and become scarce.

Rather than calling equal schooling temporarily unfeasible, we must recognize that it is, in principle, economically absurd …”

The book is more than a critique—it contains suggestions for changes to learning in society and individual lifetimes. Particularly striking is his call (in 1971) for the use of advanced technology to support ‘learning webs’.

“The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity.”

Available for free at http://learning.media.mit.edu/courses/mas713/readings/DESCHOOLING.pdf

or

http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html