Posts About Business and Startups
Posts About Business and Startups
It's been a couple of weeks since we released our Job Board out into the wild. We learned some valuable lessons on hiring product designers from it. And we continue to learn more as we go. We mentioned during our launch that we did a survey asking designers what they did not want in a job. Today, we want to share our final findings.
We've worked with many designers over the past 15 years, learning what drove them. But we dug deeper whilst putting together our Job Board. We did an initial survey on what they were exactly looking for in a job and found the following made them happy:
- Passionate co-workers.
- The type of projects they worked on.
- A strong company culture.
- A flexible work schedule.
- A company with vision and goals.
We followed up with another survey of 80 designers. And they gave us what turned them off in a job. Here's what we they said.
1. Designers Don't Want to Be Micromanaged
41% of designers said they don't like meddling mangers. We've found over the years that designers like some autonomy in decision making, the ability to solve problems on their own. They like to have breathing room to make mistakes, to fail fast, so they can quickly achieve wins. It gives them a sense of ownership about their work. Too much bureaucracy can kill passion for a project. But this doesn't mean that designers should be left adrift, rudderless in a sea of work.
Designers need feedback in order to become successful. What's needed isn't a tyrant telling them what they did wrong, but a coach who asks questions and challenges assumptions. A micromanager is the opposite, someone who gets their hands on everything because they don't have a clear sense of objective. A good coach can rally a designer far better than a dictator by providing clarity on expectations.
2. Designers Want to Avoid Places with Dispassionate Workers
Another 41% of designers wanted to avoid jobs where their co-workers were apathetic to their work. It probably goes without saying, but might be worth repeating, designers like to be engaged with their work and those they work with. Dispassionate co-workers can quickly poison morale, their attitude spreading like a zombie virus.
No one wants to work anywhere where there's no clear vision, no shared goal. Everyone wants something to muster behind. Without that, companies can falter and bled away any passion in their workers, much like Yahoo during Brad Garlinghouse's tenure when he wrote his Peanut Butter memo. A focused, cohesive vision can be preventative medicine for apathy.
3. Designers Don't Like Cold, Sterile Workplaces
40% of designers disliked bland, corporate environments. Collaboration and creativity can evaporate in the shackles that come with cubical dwelling. Designers, and other workers, would much prefer environments where they contribute to a community, which allows them to act naturally. And that's a boon for creativity.
Our own offices are open with large windows that allow natural light to flow through. It encourages collaboration because we aren't separated by artificial barriers. Chance conversations can lead to solutions to complicated design problems. But those can't happen in environments lacking any personality.
4. Designers Don't Care for Office Politics
39% of designers despised politicking at the office. We avoid this by having a frictionless environment with a flat-structure where everyone can contribute and aren't bound by bureaucracy or overrun by middle management. And that also boils down to ...
Having a Strong Culture
Our culture is our glue. It's what binds us and allows us to be willing to have each others backs. Each of us are T-shaped with strong core skills but able to work across the business to help solve difficult problems and achieve wins for one another. These four pitfalls can be avoided by creating and sustaining a strong culture. One that allows for autonomy, for passion to be expressed, for collaboration to happen and for everyone to work as a solid team. Create that and awesome things will emerge.
We've been having a lot of conversations lately at ZURB HQ about mobile. Occasionally, our conversations come back around to Email. Sure, when it comes to the internet, we hang out in various apps and sites like Facebook or Twitter, but where is it we actually live? Email.
Which is why we realized that we have to provide a valuable email experience for people. We have to offer a pleasant interaction. At the same time, we have to be able to create an actual extension of our products. We had to ensure that email is the first service our apps are efficiently integrated with, particularly when it came to Notable.
Here at ZURB, we set out to give our customers a reason to love their email notifications from our app, Notable. So what determines an effective email experience for people using your apps and what really are the best ways to make that happen? Here's what we've learned:
1. Design Mobile First
First, you have to think about what your user is doing when they open their email. A customer could be anywhere from sitting at their desk or waiting in line at the grocery story when a notification hits. We've found that at least 30% of our customers were opening their Notable newsletters on a mobile device. Knowing this, it's crucial to design emails Mobile First. Check out how we put together our Mobile First emails for Notable:
There's one important thing we've found and try to remember. When working from a mobile device, people really just want to stay at their home base and don't want to be forced to hop around from one app to another.
2. Make the Content Count
Every single email that goes out should have one, very clear call to action but still allow for the user to decide what they want to do. This allows us to create compelling content while still allowing the user to remain on the same screen. The shot below showcases this. It shows the exact note left on Notable with the clear action of "view and reply." But now the Notable customer can determine if they need to responde to the newest comment or let it wait.
Essentially, we want to give people enough information so the decision to take any in-app action is directly placed in their own hands. Showing users as much information as possible in one place is how we achieve this. When it comes to creating an email, we wanted to:
- Clearly show the reader what type of update they're getting
- What item the update is referencing
- All of the available comments and/or notes that are relavant at the time
Once the email has been read, the user has all the information they need and can decide where to go from there. Forcing a click over to the app could actually curtail engagement if someone isn't able to see what they're even looking for in the first place. Or even if they just don't have the time.
3. Write Clear Subject Lines
Another thing to keep in mind is the actual audience of your emails. A clear subject line is more likely to engage someone than an elusive one that just makes mention of your app. By doing so, you'll also allow people to create and apply organizational filters. In other words, you'll be fitting into their workflow rather than imposing upon it.
Additionally, grouping similar updates under the same subject can be a huge benefit. Many email clients will automatically group emails by subjet or by custom configuration, making it so much easier to manage multiple updates. One last thing to note, especially since there are still some email clients that remain text only, you should also include a plain text option, even if only to say "Hey, there's an update!"
4. Let Them Control the Frequency
Lastly, limit emails to one per task. This actually lets people use their emails as task items for later review. For those who don't need this feature, they should have the option to filter or even shut off these emails. Notable lets each account holder to determine the frequency of their notifications, which is great because everyone ha different preferences and means of organizing their emails.
5. Take Note of How Others Do It
There are other apps that have done a great job of integrating their emails — take a look at your notifications from Facebook and LinkedIn, for example. You get the valued information that you need regarding a specific update that occurred. However, they both still encourage a click over rather than letting you decide if you need to click over and take a look.
And if you don't have the time what's the most likely reaction? You're just going to read the email notification, delete it and then (probably) forget about it. This is exactly what we don't want to happen for our Notable users and, again, why we were so adamant on creating an unbeatable email experience for them. An experience that extends the app and keeps the entire procedure as fluid as possible.
6. Recreate the App Experience
As we said, forcing someone to click over can seem rather forceful, not necessarily creating a positive interaction. And what we've been saying throughout our tips is that you really have to replicate the same experience on email as your customer would have with the app. Recreating the app experience in an email allows you to provide valuable content and not just drop an alert in someone's inbox.
If you're able to provide all the value from an update in an email, then you should do it. Just like when we read our mail at home, we have the option to pay that bill now or come back to it later. After all, why shouldn't we have that same luxury when it comes to our email inbox regardless of where we are.
Today, we're excited to finally unleash our Job Board out into the wild. For the past year-and-a-half, we've talked to folks about how incredibly hard it is to hire great product design talent. It's thrilling to be able to finally launch our Job Board and expose companies to our network of 450,000 product designers, including those on Forrst and Pattern Tap.
With our listings viewed over 6 million times, we knew it was time to flip the switch and let this puppy loose. But we needed the private release to figure out what it really took to hire a product designer or engineer. We learned some valuable lessons and we wanted to share those with you.
1. Designers Want to Work With Passionate Co-Workers
We really looked into what entices a potential candidate during our private release. After all, we'd been on the hiring side when it came to brining on new ZURBians. What makes a candidate passionate about working for a company? What draws them in? More than that, what will sustain them when their workload is heavy and they have pressing deadlines?
We knew from experience what drove our designers. But does every designer think the same? Is it something that was universal? We decided we needed more data and surveyed some 120 designers. We asked what were the top five workplace factors that contributed to their happiness. The numbers were very telling and validate a lot of what we've long believed. We found they valued their culture, their co-workers and the projects they work on. Let's take a look at the top five:
- Passionate co-workers: 46.7% of those surveyed wanted their cohorts to have passion in what they do.
- Projects: 42.7% said the types of projects they work on contribues to their happiness.
- Company culture : 39.2% felt a strong company culture made all the difference.
- Flexible working schedule: 32.5% said being able to take time off when needed was important.
- Company vision and goals: 28.3% valued a company's vision and goals.
Knowing what designers want, what is important to them is crucial no matter the size of the company or what industry you work in. These are the things we take into consideration when looking for candidates and something that has driven our approach on our Job Board.
2. Designers Want to Avoid Companies With Dispassionate Co-Workers
We recently looked into what designers weren't looking for in a job. Although our data is still preliminary, here's what we've found so far. And some of the results were very much the anti-matter version of the top five factors that made work enjoyable. Let's take a look at the top three so far:
- Co-workers without passion: 42.4% said they didn't like it when their co-workers were apathetic.
- Office politics: 40.7% didn't like when politicking goes on.
- Micromanaging: 39% dislike being micormanaged.
We're still in the throes of conducting the survey and we'll follow up with the final results soon.
3. Videos Help Increase Engagement
Our friends from Inflection participated in our private release, posting a job and while it did fairly well they decided to repost it. This time they made one change — they added a video about their culture. Less than week later, something amazing happened, something that made us go, "whoa!"
The time potential candidates spent reading the listing skyrocketed. They spent 3:04 minutes reading the listing, 53 seconds more than before. Not only that, but the bounce rate dropped, from 83% to 74%. But it wasn't just that they slapped a video up and called it a day. Inflection spent the time giving folks something of value, a video that really highlighted their company culture and outlining exactly what the company's vision is. It was the perfect compliment to the listing, giving potential candidates a real sense of where they'll be working and who they'll be working with.
4. No, Really ... Well-Written Posts Entice Potential Candidates
We've seen a lot of job postings elsewhere that lacked any spark and didn't seem to be interested in connecting with potential candidates. We found them a bit lackluster. Which is why we worked to tailor all job posts to fit our audience and the Design community. Here's what we learned from the editorial process:
- Don't start off with the job right out of the gate. You've got to start off with an introduction. Tell potential candidates a bit about who you are, what your mission and vision is. Most of all, highlight how you're going to work together.
- Don't be photo shy. Photos are a great way to illustrate your work environment and culture.
- What do you bring to the table.Just as important as the job requirements is telling a future employee how they'll be rewarded for their hard work.
We even put together a Notable post to help show companies what goes into making a great listing. A well-written post can make all the difference in the world. If a potential candidate isn't snagged in the first few lines, they may never apply. We even took our own medicine and rewrite our own job listing for a Designer.
It's tough to find great talent. But keeping in mind who your potential candidates are and crafting job listings that appeal to them will go a long way in bridging the gulf between companies and hiring great talent. Which is why we've launched our Job Board. We're in a unique position to bring companies closer to our audience of passionate designers and engineers.
We had a lot of fun when our neighbor Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of YouSendIt, dropped by and got on his Soapbox earlier this month. You might remember Brad from his days at Yahoo, where he wrote the now famous Peanut Butter Manifesto. While it was great hearing the story behind the memo, one thing that really stuck with us was when Brad talked about startups buying into their own hype.
Don't Be Another Groupon
Before Brad got on his soapbox, he chatted with Forbes about whether we were living in a second Dot Com Bubble. He said to the magazine that sometimes he doesn't know how certain startups will make money or even "live up to their private market valuations." He added:
There is something unhealthy happening in Silicon Valley where people are most focused on the hype cycle than building a great experience for their customers.
We asked Brad to elaborate on his comment during his Soapbox. He said we touched a nerve, but in a good way. It's a topic that Brad is passionate about. He sees a problem where some startups are more focused on getting their round of financing than actually building a product, or at the very least a prototype. As he put it:
[The] product they've built is around Series A financing and they built all this hype around financing. Put all that hype and energy around building something beautiful and usable that serves a need and solves a real problem.
We live in a very select bubble where there are a group of companies that are the "cool kids," said Brad. He even wagered that some of them won't be as successful as we thought. Case in point, Groupon.
Groupon was once hot stuff. It was valued at more than $12 billion before going public. However, the company's stock continues to plummet and the valuation is now around $3 billion. Behind the scenes, things remain turbulent for Groupon. CEO Andrew Mason recently got the boot and his duties were split between two board members.
Brad said two years ago everyone was itching to work at Groupon. So much so that Brad was worried he might lose employees. Yet, as Brad said:
Now here we are. Who wants to work at Groupon?
What Brad is really getting at is that you can't focus too much on the hype. What's important is building the best product and service you can, one that serves a need and solves a problem. Hype can only get you so far before it bursts in your face like a soap bubble.
We've been having more and more conversations around content and mobile lately. Last week, while we were in the midsts of releasing Foundation 4, Bryan made an observation on how we have to take a critical eye to how content is placed in a mobile context. Which brought to mind, does that mean mobile also changes the way we write that content?
The other day, we came across LukeW's notes on Karen McGrane's talk at An Event Apart, "The Mobile Content Mandate." What particularly caught our eye was this bit in Luke's notes:
There is no such thing as writing for mobile. There is just good writing.
Mobile is a catalyst that forces you to write better, more concise copy without sacrificing clarity, Karen stated. There's no need to write separate copy for desktop, tablet and smartphones. If the content is well-written and engaging, it can carry you from device to device.
After all, well-written content in concert with form elements and visuals can make a page more desirable to use, regardless if it's on a desktop browser or a mobile one. But what makes good copy? SEOmoz says that great content has the makings of:
- Credibility: Think of this as write what you know. Better yet, write to your expertise, your strengths.
- Real effort: It really shines through when a post is well-researched and the writer has put time into it. That care shows.
- Actionable: This is the takeaway that urges readers or users to take action
- Begs to be shared: Good content is something that needs to be shared, but you should also want and be proud to share it.
But that's not to say there isn't a need for a mobile strategy, that you don't have to plan out how best to structure your content. It's a good rule of thumb to have just that. However, what Karen is saying, in the end, is that if you have all the makings of great copy, you don't need to write specifically for mobile. That your copy will transcend the device it's read on.
The other day, our friend and advisor Luke Wroblewski stopped by for a chat with Jonathan, Chris and myself. We're in the midst of working on the finishing touches to Foundation 4, polishing the chrome and making her seaworthy. And Luke's visit was a pleasant distraction.
Luke turned us on to Mobile First and his work has greatly influenced how we're approaching Foundation 4, which we talked about during our conversation with him. While we talked, Chris was furiously pounding away on the code — he can pat his head and rub his tummy at the same time.
Some good stuff was said and we didn't want you to feel left out. Here are a few snippets from our conversation:
Mobile First and Responsive
Luke: Step out to any street corner and people have their face in a smartphone. That trend doesn't show any signs of letting up. In fact, it's constantly growing. I think the whole idea of Mobile First is reaching all these audiences anywhere and everywhere. 'Cause you can pull out your mobile device anywhere and everywhere. All the kinds of things people are doing are all the kinds of things we used to make websites about — buying things, looking up information, talking to their friends, killing some downtime, anything and everything is now mobile.
Mobile First, in a responsive paradigm, for me, forces you to focus on the stuff that matters, front and center. So what you see is people designing things desktop site down. What you end up is that they cram everything and the kitchen sink into the site. They make it huge and bloated in terms of performance, in terms of content, in terms of features. What they end up doing to get down to a mobile view, they stack everything into one long list. It's huge and it takes forever. It basically creates a crappy mobile experience.
Jonathan: We're doing something different with 4 than we did with 3. When we did 3, we said "2 is dead." With 4, 3 is still there. Because even with our clients, it's going to be another year of us beating the drum as much as we can to get our clients to sign up doing things Mobile First.
The nice thing about Foundation is we've always built Foundation so that it's probably six months to a year ahead of where we are.
Luke: That's an interesting philosophy. Sorta building ahead of where your clients are and bring them there over time and learn the lessons.
Jonathan: We have to drag them kicking and screaming. On the way, we get there ourselves.
Luke: I talk with a lot of companies around this sort of stuff. All of them know the terms. They know responsive web design. They know Mobile First. They know that they should be acting on it. But what's really holding them back is their existing properties and processes. To be clear, what makes people uncomfortable is that it's a different way of working. It's different than what we've been doing for 20-plus years.
My counter argument to that is that it's a pretty different web, pretty different world than it was 20 years ago. If you're expecting things that worked for you 20 years ago work today, I don't think that's a viable way to run a business.
The other argument that I hear is that it costs more, takes more time. My response is: OK, so you can keep making a desktop and laptop site and just not have all these new audiences on tablets, on smartphones and all that stuff. If you want more usage on these more devices, more online time, you have to invest a little more. It's not going to come for free. Nobody just comes hands you a pile of money or customers if you do nothing.
Jonathan: At some point, it's just going to be the cost of doing business.
Forward the (Mobile First) Foundation
Jonathan: Luke got us turned on to the whole thing. We had lunch ... how long ago?
Chris: Back in November ... maybe September ...
Jonathan: About six months ago, we had lunch with Luke. And Luke was like beating us over the head with "Foundation ought to go Mobile First". And we talked about it before but that was the first conversation where we got to the end of it and was "like OK that makes some sense."
Chris: He made us look at Zepto too.
Jonathan: He turned us on to Zepto. So that was a good conversation. I think it was a confluence of — he made a pretty good case for it. Honestly, I think, at last to me, the best case so far. Since we're doing things mobile first, technically, we have the capability with Foundation to build experiences that don't suck for like really old phones and feature phones. We're not going to inherit all the styles we try to cram in there. It will actually be a mobile site.
So we can broaden our appeal by simplifying what we present for devices like that or older browsers like IE6 or 7. You could reasonably say you can build a site for IE6 using Foundation 4, which wasn't the case with Foundation 3. That was a win.
Luke: To build on that. The promise of tomorrow, for me, is more and more multi-device web. There's no shortage of devices.
Toward Tomorrow and Beyond
Luke: I think that it's encouraging to see that more and more people are understanding this opportunity and jumping on it. You guys, potential working with clients, using Foundation — it's a great vehicle understanding kind of what they're inevitably going to have to do on the Web. I appreciate that you guys are moving it forward and pushing it past where the clients are right now. In the end, I think it's going to be good for you and for them. It's not a negative thing for me. I do agree that change is hard. It's inevitable to deny that the mobile thing is here. And you're going to have to deal with it. And eventually deal with it in a good way.
Jonathan: Pretty stoked to where Foundation is going. We wouldn't have taken the direction we did if you hadn't badger us for the last year and a half.
We want to thank Luke for dropping in and chatting with us!
Over the last few years, we've heard many of our customers dismiss the need to address their web presence on mobile devices. It was understandable considering the small mobile adoption rates of their Enterprise customers. But it's no longer feasible for any business not to think about how they're solving problems for the Mobile Web. Mobile growth is outpacing desktop usage, and people are becoming more comfortable getting work done on portable devices.
We can use our own business as an example. We're a business-to-business company that has quickly shifted to a multi-device office. On a regular day at ZURB, you'll see people sketching on iPads, projecting design work on a TV and reviewing agenda notes on a phone.
Comscore is reporting that mobile consumption is growing with one third of all page views in the UK are from a connected device. For some customer perspective, our newsletter email opens are now 40% mobile. 7.5% to 20% of our visitors come to our various properties on a mobile device. Those numbers continue to climb each month for us, especially overseas.
It's our hope with the upcoming release of Foundation 4 that many business will not only make the decision to move forward, they'll look to start their efforts around small devices first. It's a concept our advisor Luke Wroblewski has been pushing for quite some time: Mobile First. With the proliferation of connected devices and US mobile usage surpassing desktop in 2015 (it's already happening in India), designing the mobile experience first is a solid bet. Actually, you really don't have a choice if you want to remain relevant.
Leading the charge at ZURB since 1998
At one time or another, we've all wished that we could predict the future. That we could take out a crystal ball and peek through the cloudy haze, getting a glimpse of what is to come. But we can't predict the future with certainty. We can, however, forecast it.
But we shouldn't be weathermen about it. Our friends at Human Factors International recently did a paper arguing that designers should really take a page from the futurist playbook.
Of course, it's crucial that we design with the future in mind, especially since we no longer have control of the screen-size our products will appear on. Our products must work on any device, if not all of them. Which means a designer has to be aware, be prepared — like a futurist. As HFI writes:
So that's what the futurist is trying to do all the time. Not trying to predict with certainty ' because we need to have enough room to change what is going to happen. That's the goal of the futurist.
What's needed for a designer to shape the future is to listen, act and design for now with tomorrow in mind. Let's take a closer look at what that means.
Pay Attention to What's Around You
Ever hear the old joke, "pay attention, it's free"? Well, it's true. Paying attention doesn't cost you anything, but failing to pay attention can cost you dearly. Not paying attention cost BeenVerified's co-founders dearly, burning through $550,000 in funding because they built a product that wasn't needed.
It's important to not just listen to what's happening to you, but to really take it in. Absorb what's going on around you. Doing so, opportunities will reveal themselves, and you may pick up on patterns. It's what futurists do, as HFI points out, scanning what's around them to see what patterns they can ferret out.
Take Steve Jobs. He's probably the quintessential example of this. He constantly had an ear to the ground on what was going on, spotting opportunities that others missed. For instance, when he saw Xerox's computer and mouse, he immediately noticed what they had missed. Xerox saw a device for experts. Jobs saw a device for the masses, figuring out how to make it better and affordable. He was inspired to improve on what they had done.
Actually hearing, not just listening, also keeps you on your toes. Box stayed ahead of the competition by paying attention to it. For example, the scare of G-Drive was enough to spur them to turn to a fermium business model. Seeing what the competition was doing also forced them to ensure their product didn't look like anything else on the market. It also forced them to focus 100% on the Enterprise Cloud.
Imagine where the company would be had it just keep its blinders on. They might very well have suffered the same faith as BeenVerified.
Don't React, Act on Data
A futurist is investigating when he pays attention to the world around him. He's on the hunt for data, which he can use to forecast tomorrow. Designers can do the same.
We've said it before, designers shouldn't be afraid of data. Decisions can be better influenced and not based on intuition. Hard data can tell us a lot of what's going on, where we are and where we need to be down the road.
Data can allow you to see where your efforts need to be focused (or refocused). Which came in handy for One Kings Lane to stay ahead. As CEO Doug Mack said at his recent soapbox, sales in mobile have skyrocketed, going from 0% to 25% last year. During Thanksgiving, there was a 40% spike in the usual holiday traffic that carried through the Christmas season.
Those numbers showed One Kings Lane that mobile is changing the way people shop. Now, they're focused heavily on mobile, working on its iPad app and retrofitting its iPhone app. They're also making the site responsive for Android users.
Design for Now, Keep Tomorrow in Mind
A designer has to design for now, but keep it scalable and flexible enough for tomorrow. Or design with trends in mind and change user behavior. Let's go back to our friends at HFI one last time, as they put it:
The designer needs to realize that this is something that isn't happening yet, but will happen five years from now.
In order to shape and influence the future, it must be on your mind. But don't look so far down the road that you don't see what's in front of or around you. If you don't pay attention to the market and data of now, then you might not be able to meet the needs of tomorrow.
This morning, Appcelerator released their latest version of "The State of the Mobile Enterprise," which highlights how the enterprise is approaching all types of mobile development.
Their survey of 770 enterprise leaders resulted in some interesting mobile insights. We dove headfirst into the insights from the report, and dug up three key takeaways that we believe all designers should note as we rocket more into a mobile-first world.
Mobile Development vs. Desktop Development
The first core takeaway is a necessary (and possibly obvious) one — mobile has arrived and will only continue to grow in importance. 87% of enterprise survey respondents believe that mobile app development will outpace their desktop counterparts.
Our next iteration of Foundation takes mobile first to heart, as we believe that designers will shift the way they design as more and more devices sprout up on a daily basis.
Developers Want to Develop for the Mobile Web
Platform preferences are also another key area to find nice insights. The report examined how interested the enterprise and developers were in developing for specific platforms — the mobile web being one of them.
It turns out that the mobile web is a key area of interest for many developers. 56% of enterprise respondents said they'd be "very interested" in developing for the mobile web. Developers seem even more bullish — 63% of developer respondents weighed in at "very interested."
We've outlined our thoughts on HTML5 vs. Native before, specifically highlighting Mark Zuckerberg's thoughts on the matter. We've chosen to prioritize the responsive web because we realize it won't go away, and we're confident that a well-designed responsive app that works on all devices is a great play for the mobile-first future.
Great App Design is Crucial to Remain Relevant
User experience is a highly-important factor to creating a great mobile app. The study found that 85.6% of enterprise founders believe that UX matters just as much in B2E/B2B apps as B2C. Beyond user experience, great holistic product design is crucial.
Appcelerator analyzed their findings as such:
This heralds the fact that we now live in a user-experience-centric world where beauty, functionality, and user delight triumph, whether for mobilizing internal enterprise processes or for transforming consumer relationships.
Ultimately, all this tells us that the enterprise realizes that great design is crucial, whether or not an app gets in front of a consumer's face.
If design is deprioritized or ignored in a mobile app, it's likely that users will abandon it for a better-designed, pleasant solution to use. Companies that can capitalize on design, especially with apps that target the enterprise, will quickly gain an edge on their larger, slower-moving competitors.
We're big fans of superhero teams, such as The Avengers or the Justice League. When we were kids, a lot of us probably thought, "why does Superman need to be part of a superpowers team?" He's the most powerful superhero around after all. Sure, he's more powerful than a locomotive and has heat vision, but he also needs someone to balance out his tendency to trust everyone no matter what. That's where Batman comes in. And Batman needs Superman as well.
It's the same with teams. Individually we can do amazing things. But combine forces with someone who can see things differently, then we can truly achieve greatness. That's something Keith Yamashita, of SYPartners, has spent a lot of time thinking about.
Keith knows a thing or two about collaboration, having worked with dozens of companies, such as Apple, and helping them further solidify their teams. Watch the talk below and take note of the three habits that Keith says allow a collaborative ensemble to soar.
What really spoke to us was when Keith started talking about the inherent contradiction between being a soloist and part of a larger team. As he puts it:
We tend to think of creativity as the work of a soloist ... interestingly, virtually all acts of greatness are the work of an ensemble.
Often, we're taught to think of the solitary artist — the writer, the painter or the designer — as a force to be reckoned with, the one who creates the next great thing. The Steve Jobs, so to speak. But even Steve Jobs had a partner in Steve Wozniak.
We all need someone to bounce our ideas off of, which can spark ideas that we might not have considered had we been working in solitary confinement. After all, chance favors the connected mind.
Yet, how do we reconcile the soloist and the ensemble? Let's take a closer look at the three habits of great creative teams as Keith outlines them.
See, Don't Look
At the top of the list is focus. Keith says that we often look but don't really see what's in front of us. More importantly, what lens we're using can also shape how we actually see a problem. Is it an obstacle? Or is it an opportunity? If we're not seeing properly, opportunities can fall through the cracks.
But what Keith is talking about is Focus with a capital "F", which is the type of concentration needed to help businesses and teams grow, which has been pointed out before by our own Chief Instigator. It's so easy for us to get our noses to the grindstone that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Strong teams, as Keith puts it, need to see the entire landscape. Focus (big "F") helps us because it allows us to balance the short-term gains with long-term goals.
Know Your Superpower
One way to help galvanize a group of soloists is for everyone to know their superpower, or the strength they bring to the team. Keith mentions it in human psychology terms, such as an energetic person complimenting a person who is a systems thinker. But we'd take it another step further.
Another way to think about superpowers is skill sets. What is the particular skill set that a person brings to the team and can they work across other disciplines in a business, or what Tim Brown calls the T-Shaped individual.
For Keith, it's crucial that teammates bring their superpowers to any collaborative interaction so they can feel that they individually make a contribution. Being T-Shaped allows for that. That's because each person is contributing their strong skill set and expertise, allowing their unique talents to drive decision making. At the same time, this helps reconcile the contradiction between the soloist and the ensemble.
Form a Dynamic Duo
The smallest unit of trust and collaboration is the duo, says Keith. You don't know yet when you bring two individuals together what spark can be ignited. Occasionally, that can cause friction. One way to resolve that, as Keith puts it, is to start by extending trust rather than apprehension (or love rather than fear).
One benefit of a small dynamic duo is that it also helps move projects along faster. That's why a lot of our projects only have a designer and a lead. It allows for both collaboration and for individuals to make decisions that get projects done without a middle manager running interference.
Cultivate These Habits
Collaboration is essential to creativity and greatness. Without partnership, without someone to trust, it's hard to achieve both. You can't see the movie of what you're working on when you're in it. We all need someone to look at it from the outside, providing the feedback and insights we need. Cultivating these three habits allows you and your team to become a victorious collaborative ensemble.
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