We have heard, by and large, that 2016 was not a popular year. We get it. Some things that happened in 2016 were… not great. And even though we think the year was, on balance, not quite as terrible as people seem to believe, we understand the desire to put it all behind us and close the book on the year entirely. The problem with that approach—and there is a problem with it—is two-fold:
First of all, there were some good things that happened in 2016, both for the world at large and for us as an organization. If we dismiss the whole 12 months, then we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s short-sighted and dismissive of some of the big, wonderful things that happened.
Secondly, and this is the one that people seem to forget, you can’t just shut the book on a chunk of time. That’s not how time works. In reality, the book never ends—you just turn to a fresh, unblemished page and keep going forward.
So we’re not throwing the year away whole cloth. But 2017 is here and we’re feeling motivated to make some changes, just like everyone else. We’re just doing it in a very specific way. We’re not interested in declaring “this is the year we _____”, suddenly deciding we’re going to master something we’ve never tried before. And we don’t want to simply hit a restart button.
Instead, we’re taking the lessons learned from 2016 and forging ahead with new insights, new understandings, and new ideas. We want to build on our knowledge, not ignore it. Which is why when we set our goals this year, they aren’t resolutions. This year, we’re making New Year’s Iterations.
New Year’s Iteration 1: Let Data Lead The Way More
Data is having a moment. Actually, it’s not having a moment. Data is a sweeping sea-change that will not merely come and go. It isn’t going to just alters things for a moment—it’s going to change things forever.
Because we work deep in the digital world, we’ve had the chance to see what data can do first hand. We’ve helped clients use data to improve their products and offerings for their customers. We’ve participated in the gathering of it and in the parsing of it to gain meaningful insights. We’ve even written about the potential for the positive and far-reaching impact of data on major enterprise organizations. Data is a powerful tool for all, at nearly every level.
This year, our first iteration is going to be how we work with and use data. Leveraging our pre-existing knowledge of how to collect and harness data, we'll build on it to optimize our deployment of it.
In 2017, we’re pushing ourselves to broaden our scope of understanding about data. What are the inherent strengths and weaknesses of not only the data we collect, but also how it’s collected, and the influence it has on our work? How can we make shifts and alterations to improve on the way we use data?
Because data isn’t going away. And we know that when it’s properly understood, it can be a powerful tool in the arsenal for understanding our customers and the work we produce for them.
By better understanding data—its collection, dissemination, function, and possibilities—through more proactive engagement, we’ll be better equipped to help our customers. We'll streamline our processes. And ultimately, it'll enable us to deliver better, more informed and more thoughtful work.
New Year’s Iteration 2: Re-invigorate Our Innovation Focus
We’ve always been big proponents of innovation. We set aside an allotment of days for every staff member, regardless of role, to work on side projects. We have a shared work board that lets people know about ongoing personal projects and ways they can help out. We even award the staff member who has best exemplified the value of "Innovation" as we see it once per quarter.
But we noticed something the past couple of quarters that we want to improve on: Nominations for "Innovation" champions are down.
For a tech company, this is a disturbing trend. The tech sector lives and dies by the quality of its innovations. (Not to mention, experimenting and testing out new ideas is a huge motivator for most of our staff.)
It's not that we don't value innovation. We do. But sometimes, in spite of all our efforts, we get swept up in our work work. We end up immersed projects that are challenging and exciting. That’s great! We love that we love our work. And most (if not all) of our projects provide opportunities for some type of innovation.
But we recognize that's not the only worthwhile work our staff produce. We don’t want to limit our outside interests by only devoting ourselves to our work. It’s great to zoom in and get passionately absorbed in a project. But this year we want to make sure we’re still prioritizing time to experiment. We want our staff to play around with an idea and test it out—even if they're 99% sure will fail—just to try it out.
Innovation isn’t a new idea to us, but the way we pursue it is one thing we’re going to be iterating on over 2017. We’ll be using our professional development sessions to encourage use of Awesome Days, discussing interests and ideas of individual staff members as often as we can. We’ll be re-examining how we schedule our teams, seeing if there aren’t ways to provide more room between projects to play with concepts. We’re even introducing an entire team devoted to rapid concepting, to help foster an environment that breeds innovation.
And along the way, we’ll be using our new focus on data to help us track how each new iteration is working.
New Year’s Iteration 3: Seek More Balance
Our final New Year’s Iteration might be considered a cheat, of sorts, because it’s a perennial effort. It's an ongoing iteration, one we’ve been working towards since our earliest days. This year, we’re going to use our iterative processes to improve on our balance.
From our first year, mindfulness was a practice and philosophy we embraced. But as we have found with innovation, it’s easy for it to get pushed to a back-burner. When you’re immersed in an enterprise project and a deadline is looming, carving out even 15 minutes to take a meaningful pause is tough.
Towards the end of 2016 a few staffers started to re-engage with our office mindfulness practice more actively and we saw (and felt) immediately how it was paying dividends. And not just for them, but for their teams and for their work. Which got us thinking about how important it was to be targeting balance more broadly.
What can we do to foster better work-life balance? We’ve already started re-evaluating the way we structure vacation time and coverage. What about the day to day? How can we support an environment that encourages a healthy mindset in that regard?
How can we achieve a work-community balance? We love our enterprise work. The opportunity to impact thousands of people through a workplace tool is one we relish. But we know we can have a more local impact, too. We recently joined forces with the Livelihood Project, for example. Whether it's joining with an organization to help others, or supporting our staff in mentorship and outreach, or some other way to engage in our communities, we'll be there.
And we’re always looking for ways to improve our individual-team balance. How can we empower individuals to work towards their personal goals? How do we support them in building skills and working on projects that matter to them, while still fostering collaboration and an internal team dynamic that strives to improve as a unit while bringing the company forward, too? It's a tall order, but one we'll happily work towards.
This year, we don't want to just re-ignite the old practices, but to find new ways to bring balance to our work.
So there they are, our New Year’s Iterations. There are no brand new ideas; we’re not re-writing the script. But we’re making edits, tweaking and adjusting where necessary. We're iterating to find ways of making 2016 a year that taught us a lot, and gave us the foundation to be even better in 2017.
Make 2017 the year you iterate on your career choices and come work with us! Apply now.