The Full-Stack Employee

Full-stack

Chris Messina (who invented the Twitter Hashtag) wrote a post last week describing what he called the ‘Full Stack Employee’. This is, says Chris, the type of employee that has a powerful combination of skills, are adept at navigating the rapidly evolving and shifting technological landscape, and ‘make intuitive decisions amidst information-abundance, where sparse facts mingle loosely with data-drenched opinions’.

Whilst not necessarily having deep vertical expertise in more than one domain, such employees have an intuitive understanding of the value of design and UX, engineering and algorithms, but also narrative and storytelling, and can work with simple prototypes to develop learning. They are able to dynamically deal with shifting priorities and expectations and prioritise well. But they also have a strong curiosity, an appetite for new ideas, best practices, and also a desire to be more productive and happy in their work. It is this curiosity and desire to stay on top of developments in their own industry and others that separates them out.

Polymath

In ‘How Google Works’ Eric Schmidt describes the people that can have the biggest potential impact in a business - so-called 'Smart Creatives' are the product folk who combine a triumvirate of skills around technical knowledge, business expertise and creativity: 'when you put today's technology tools in their hands and give them lots of freedom’, he says, ‘they can do amazing things, amazingly fast'.

Lord knows with 'Smart Creatives', 'T-shaped' and 'Pi-shaped' people, and now 'Full-Stack Employees', we're not short of monikers to describe people who may have strong vertical expertise, but also have lateral empathy, knowledge and attributes that mean they can work well in rapidly changing, ambiguous environments.

But the point remains a good one. As Chris Messina says, the conventional seams between disciplines are becoming ever more blurred, the set of skills necessary to succeed are broader and more nebulous than they’ve been before, and so being a polymath has real value to businesses. It may sound like a big ask to accommodate so many attributes in one person, but it is increasingly employees like this that make the difference within and for organisations, and as Chris says:

‘the nature of work is changing, and the highest value employees are those who can handle ambiguity and synthesizing enormous amounts of information into strategically useful tactics.’

Nobody's saying that those with deep, vertical expertise have little value - an organisation needs many different types of people to thrive after all.  But I like this idea a lot, not least because I have always found it hard to categorise my own skills and knowledge or even career focus into a neat box labelled with a job title. 

Photo Credit: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML


On To-Do Lists

To-do-list

I rather liked this approach to doing a To-Do list from Peter Bregman, taken from this write up (found via Fraggl) of his 18 Minute plan to managing your day and finding focus. What I particularly like about it is the more comprehensive way in which it is inclusive of elements that sit outside of work tasks. It's easy (particularly when running your own business I find) for the time for these non-work related tasks to get squeezed, and this is a good way of allocating them at least equal prominence and so being more disciplined about making them happen. It's a point made well by Paul Graham in this short post about changing the defaults in life to make sure you don't forget about the really important stuff.


Post Of The Month - March 2015 - The Winner

Post_Of_The_Month

Delighted to announce that the winner of Post Of The Month is Heidi Hackemer and Armando Turco's take on why Great Planners are Schizo. There was a strong showing for Pats McDonald's Unconscious Consumption post, and also Brian Millar's Why We Should Design Things to be Difficult to Use  but it was Heidi and Armando's talk that won through in the end. So well done to them. They now join the Hall of Fame. My thanks to everyone for taking part.


Google Firestarters Comes to Australia

FirestartersNYC

I'm really excited to announce that, on the heels of our events in New York and our recent one in Austin at SXSW, Google Firestarters is coming to Australia. We'll be running two events in one week - one in Melbourne on the 21st April, and one in Sydney on the 22nd April - both on the theme of 'Adapting Strategy for the Adaptive Age'. We want to delve into how strategy and planning is changing in response to the impact of digital technologies on the practice of marketing and advertising.

It's a broad subject, that will no doubt touch on themes that have arisen at previous Firestarters - the intersection of technologically-native practices like user experience, service and product design with planning, impact on agency remuneration and the way agencies work with clients, iterative strategy, and how agencies innovate. But it's also a defined enough topic for us to have some wide-ranging but cohesive debate and it will be fascinating to gain a new and potentially different perspective.

As always with Firestarters we have some excellent speakers. Google's Head of Strategic Planning out of New York, Abigail Posner, will be in Australia and on the roster for both events. And I will be there to moderate both events. Our full line up is:

Melbourne 21stApril, 6pm, Clemenger Auditorium:

Dave King, Director of Strategy at The Royals

Eaon Pritchard, Head of Strategy, Red Jelly

Roger Box, Director of Digital, Clemenger BBDO

Abigail Posner, Google

Sydney 22nd April, 6pm, Google HQ:

Simon Small, Exec Strategy Director, Isobar Australia

Sudeep Gohil, CEO, Droga 5

Jason Lonsdale, Exec Planning Director, Saatchi & Saatchi

Abigail Posner, Google

As always with Firestarters, I have some guest passes to give away to readers of this blog, so if you'd like one, please leave a comment below or contact me direct (stating whether you'd like the Sydney or Melbourne event). 

I'm so pleased that Firestarters is coming to Australia and expanding globally in the way that it is. It's a hugely exciting and positive thing. 


Post of the Month - March 2015 - The Vote

Thanks for the nominations everyone. Our vote this month is between:

Great Planners are Schizo by Heidi Hackemer and Armando Turco

Unconscious Consumption, The Rise of Low Involvement Digital by Patricia McDonald

The Web's Grain by Frank Chimero

Why We Should Design Things to be Difficult to Use from Brian Millar

25 Things You Missed at SXSW by Hugh MacLeod

Does Big Data Really Matter For Agencies? by Sue Unerman

Why Buzzfeed is the Most Important News Organisation in the World by Ben Thompson