Hi. I’m Duncan Davidson.

I am a Startup Advocate and CTO in Residence at Microsoft for Startups in Berlin, Germany. My job is to provide advice for startup founders and CTOs and help them prioritize, focus, and think through their work.


Thursday, December 5, 2019

It’s time. Let’s turn the tide on climate.

Eliminating CO2 emissions from the smelting process of aluminum is a pretty big deal.

Kudos to Alcoa, Rio Tinto, and Apple on this.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

I finally got a chance to spend some quality time with one of the new Apple 16" MacBook Pros. The new keyboard is good.

I like it. I think I like it a lot.

Friday, November 29, 2019

How (not) to destroy an aspirational OKR

Imagine you’re in a meeting with some of your company’s management in a monthly status meeting. It’s halfway through the year. You’re reviewing your group’s OKRs (Objectives and Key Results, for those of you that haven’t heard the acronym before – it’s the latest management by objective hotness with its own TED talk). One of your objectives has a key result of finding 5000 dingleberries for the year. That’s pretty aspirational, given that you only found 1200 last year.

It’s good to have a challenge. Nobody in the group knew if there was a way to get to 5000, but setting the goal means that your team would go and try to see if there was a way to acquire significantly more dingleberries than ever before.

The bad news, however, is that it’s halfway through the year, and your group has only managed to find 650 dingleberries so far. Either your group’s efforts to significantly increase the number of dingleberries found haven’t yet panned out, or they’re the wrong efforts. The pessimist on your team might say that your group hasn’t really tried anything new, but let’s give the benefit of a doubt here, shall we?

In any case, using the OKR framework, this result tells you that you’ve got more work to do to break free of your current dingleberry acquisition curve and get onto a new one. It might be time to try some new things, or maybe you need to give a bit more time to see if your current efforts will pay off soon. This is valuable information!

Here’s where it can quickly go wrong, however.

Everyone room sees a target number of 5000. Of course, that was supposed to be an aspirational number, but with enough repetition, it’s on the verge of being transformed into something that will grade the group’s performance. And the group is on track to hand in a result of finding 1300 dingleberries.

Failure, even with an almost 8% increase!

At this point, it’s all too tempting for someone in the room to flinch and ask: “Should we revise that number downward so that we can make sure to come in on target?”


In a single stroke, especially if it’s the boss that asks the question, this can destroy the usefulness of the aspirational objective and make clear that the highest priority is the internal need to appear successful. Worse, it’s a great way to encourage your group to sandbag the targets for all of their OKRs next year — not a great outcome.

Now is the time where you need to brace, be strong, and embrace the fact that you’re learning valuable information about what your team has done so far. Now is where it’s time to say, “Well, it looks like whatever we’re doing so far hasn’t panned out yet.”

And then ask, “Why is that? What else are we going to try?”

Otherwise, you might as well just call your target a key performance indicator (KPI), celebrate the 8% increase, and skip the aspirational part of the exercise.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

There is no sign of a slowdown in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere.

Current CO2 level: 407.8ppm.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Marco on using the new 16" MacBook Pro:

The biggest change is that I finally don’t feel like it’s constantly fighting me. Its design doesn’t feel spiteful. It’s a computer that doesn’t seem to hate being a computer. I’m not afraid to use it in the world, and I’m not avoiding using it because it’s unpleasant. The butterfly keyboard was the opposite, it never got better, I never got used to it, and good riddance to it.

Mountain ranges near Baffin Bay in October.
Glaciers flow towards Baffin Bay in late October.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Near the Global Seed Vault, GitHub has started archiving some of the world’s open source code in Svalbard, Norway.

A new 16" MacBook Pro with a Magic Keyboard.

Finally. I swore I wouldn’t buy a new MacBook Pro until they fixed the keyboard. Let’s hope it meets expectations.