Restructure your team to design for mobile first

Ok, that might be a tough statement but it makes the point I want to make today, the last day of 2011. By it, I mean that in the past 4 years or so we have seen the explosion of the smartphone and more broadly, the mobile web. This isn’t a new trend anymore, yet as we move in to 2012 I don’t think many organisations have really taken this seismic shift in to account. Their teams are still structured to produce content for the old web. Their designers are still web-designers. Their content editors are still editing content for the web. Their managers are still managing expectations for a web world. And this is shutting off opportunities everywhere.

I wrote recently about building great teams. It’s my contention that one of the best investments you could make in 2012 is to encourage your web team to design for mobile first, and the general web second. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as we explore that in 2012.

1. The stats

Fred Wilson posted some stats recently from one of his portfolio companies, Flurry. Flurry are an analytics provider to 140,000 mobile app developers around the world, so have a cacophony of great stats that display the trends we’re seeing.

This post outlines the main trends of the past year, and highlights where mobile adoption is currently, as well as where the most potential for increased adoption lies. This graph below is especially relevant. It displays which markets have the highest number of addressable market where people have not yet adopted a smartphone.

Finally, check out Fred’s seminal post on this topic: Mobile first web second. It’s been around for a while and is great reading.

2. Email counts

When I use the word design, I don’t just mean the actual look of your web presence. I also mean the entire experience people will have when interacting with your web presence. Email is a very important part of that, because it is a core part of many people’s mobile experience. Even with a traditional Blackberry, email is the core functionality. If you haven’t thought about how you’re using email to reach your people yet, then you need to consider this next year.

As a simple example, you can subscribe to this blog via email. You do so by just clicking the red mail icon to the right of this post above. Ev Bogue and Ross Hill also have fantastic email/web presences (much better than this blog!) and continue to refine that. Check their stuff out at and

3. Encourage the change you want to see

You can encourage your team to begin designing more for mobile by encouraging this change in them. This will be a big shift for a lot of people, so make sure you’re aware of the effort this will take from your team. One way to begin this change is to highlight just how well adopted mobile currently is. Ask them to take note of the number of people absorbed by smartphones in their daily lives. How many do you spot in your train carriage? In your bus or tram? Show them research to back up their observations. Anything by Jan Chipchase is brilliant. It’s a big change, but one that will only continue to pay dividends as time marches on.

4. What does procurement think?

Finally, nothing masks the proliferation of mobile adoption more than not being able to use your own corporate services on the your smartphone. We’re seeing the continued adoption of BYO technology in the workplace. This is a trend that will continue to be very important and won’t go away. Suncorp, a Yammer client here in Australia, moved to a BYO strategy earlier in 2011.

Given this, it’s important to have the conversation now with your security and procurement departments to ensure that mobility is ‘on the list’ when it comes to purchasing a new or upgraded system. Asking your web team to design for mobile first when they’re not able to access their email away from their work computer only serves to highlight a gap between your implicit goal and your explicit goals. (Or, more simply, do as I say not say as I do).

Real change will happen if your organisation is willing to move itself to where the puck is going to be. You can start the first week of 2012 by simply having the conversation again with your team. What would our presence look like if we designed for mobile, first?

How to keep a habit calendar

It’s almost 2012. As excited as that makes me, it’s also that time of year where our heads fill up with grandiose ideas of new things in our lives to improve. I’ve been partial to setting New Years Resolutions before, but have never really been that great at keeping them. Creating a habit calendar, however, can really help and is something I’ve been doing the past 3 months or so. It’s slowly changing my life. I’d like to share a few simple pointers I’ve picked up so far to help make a new goal or dream, a habit.

1. Draw it yourself

I don’t really have a calendar at home. We do, but it sits over the sink in the kitchen and it’s not really for drawing on. It’s also big and cumbersome. As weird as it sounds, this actually stopped me from starting some of my habits…because I didn’t have the right calendar. Please don’t judge me. 🙂

So, I just drew it myself. Grab yourself a piece of paper, and draw up the days of the month or the period you want to focus on creating a new habit. The one pictured here, was my habit calendar for the month of November. The habit I was trying to adopt, was stretching every day. I only missed 5 days in the 32 possible. Pretty good, I reckon, and I felt great!

Habit calendar

2. Don’t break the chain

The aim of a habit calendar is not breaking the chain. So don’t. Try as hard as you can to get on a streak and then keep it going. You would have noticed that I’ve been posting more to this blog in the last 2 weeks or so. I’ve had ‘blog every day’ on my habit calendar for December and this is the result. I’m feeling great about the writing I’ve been able to do here in the past 12 days or so, and have been pleased with the results so far. Now that I’m on a streak, not posting for even one day seems like a waste. I even posted on Christmas, which I thought would be hard.

3. Watch Nick Crockers great TedX talk

This is where I started. Nick walks through how habits get formed and also discusses why this is actually so very hard. It’s been great for me because of this very fact. It helps me understand why I haven’t been able to run every day, stretch every day, save more money etc etc. Check it out.

4. Read Xaviers great post on creating and keeping a habit calendar

Xavier and his brother Jared wrote a fantastic blog during the earlier parts of this year, which focused on building skills and being awesome. The whole blog is great and you could do worse than read through most of the archives, but Xavier’s post about using a habit calendar is great reading. See it here:

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. You will miss days. Use the calendar to remind you of the habit you’re trying to keep and to encourage you to get back on the horse and work towards another streak! Good luck, and have a happy new years eve!!!

Is your life getting better? (Film review: American History X)

I just watched the film American History X, with Rose. It’s a powerful and moving film. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s well worth adding to your queue.

The film follows the life of Derek Vinyard, a skin head who has been sent to prison for committing a hate crime. The story follows his attempts to stop his younger brother from following the same path as him.

One of the more powerful scenes takes place about two thirds of the way through the film. In the scene, Derek is comforted by his former high school professor, Dr Bob Sweeney. Sweeney comforts Derek, but then confronts him about the hate he feels and why that’s the case. Derek lists all the reasons why he’s still confused, and why he can’t stop hating just yet. Sweeney then confronts him.

“Has anything you’ve done, made your life any better?”

This was one of the core themes of the film and something that stood out to me. The film deals with the power of leadership and how important good leadership is. When we see Sweeney confront Derek with this question, it’s challenges his very basic idea of who he is following and why he is following them. Derek himself then goes on to inspire leadership in the others around him, and leaves prison to attempt to begin and forge his own life with a new found determinism.

Check the film out, when you’re next looking for something good to watch.

Building a great team

I want to recount a story I was told as I was growing up, playing hockey in Victoria. The story is about one of the most successful clubs in the Hockey Victoria competition, Camberwell. Quite a few years ago, my dad was speaking to someone involved in the coaching and administration of the club about how they manage to keep that success sustainable. It takes an enormous effort, by many people, to keep a hockey club running at such a level of success.

“Well, all we need to do is find one junior player that is capable of playing State League 1 every year. If we can do that, then we will have constant success, because we will have a consistent stream of great players, at all ages, coming through the system.”

Southern United Hockey Club

I’m not sure of the exact validity of the quote anymore but it’s core still holds true. The hardest things, are often the simplest and most important.Southern United, the club I used to play for (and the guys pictured above), have invested heavily in a similar philosophy these last 5-7 years with success. The story has also remained relevant where the culture of an organisation is concerned.

Building a culture of success is a hard thing to do. Not everyone can be successful, which is why building and maintaining a culture that continues to be generative for it’s members is the important thing. The story above still holds true, even though strategy and budget concerns circulate much quicker than in the hockey world. Think about the times you’ve seen one person take ownership of the organisations new direction, or a new role they’ve taken on. You can understand the potential such a story can have on culture. Imagine seeing one of your team go through such a process each month.

In a year, that’s 12 people that have contributed towards owning and driving a positive culture. Now imagine it spread across various departments and groups, and across years. It has a very large impact on the culture of the company. Creating a generative and successful culture is simple, it just takes a lot of work and time to happen. It happens one person at a time. The challenge is to consistently have one person making the relevant change. That’s what leads to a great culture and great team.

Considering mortality in 2012

I visited my grandpa today. That wouldn’t normally require a blog post, except that I haven’t seen him in about 18 months due to my living in Sydney. The other thing, is that he has Alzheimer’s disease. The long goodbye, as they call it.

It caused me to consider the current moment that we’re in. It’s very nearly 2012.Jan wrote a beautiful post about it today, discussing how it feel liberating for her consciousness not to need to post something every moment. She’ll go offline completely for a few days, and consider what the current moment means.

In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, there is a passage which I’m often reminded of that resonated with me again this morning after seeing Grandpa. It essentially says ‘consider the day of your death, because it’s the most important day of your life.’ Not being prepared for this, it posits, it one of the greatest crimes of modern man. And I wonder how that remains true in 2012.

Alzheimer’s is the long goodbye. But this morning I wanted it to be the long hello. Grandpa and I don’t really know each other. Not as equals, anyway. He grew up and rose through the ranks of the Victoria Police Force, raised my Dad and his three siblings and played golf. But he didn’t journal, that I know of. There are stories that remain, but not many artifacts of the man that once was. And so, it’s hard to tell if he is or will be ready for death. It was hard to tell if anyone in the hostel we visited this morning was ready. And it was another reminder that I continue to ignore that question, too.

Today, I couldn’t help but wonder what it will look like in the future as our digital selves continue to echo, healthily, through time.