The “humanization” of technology?

One of the perks of being a lifelong sociolinguistics nerd (full disclosure: there aren’t that many) is when I can take notice of the range of terminology people use to describe my own work. It turns out people have a wide variety of ways to think about and describe the relationship between technology and humanity. Most recently I’ve been hearing the term “humanization of technology” pop up a lot from companies looking to bring me in for speaking or advising services. I find it such a fascinating term for a few reasons.

What’s wrong with “humanizing technology”?

It’s not that the term is wrong, per se. And after all, it’s very similar to my own language around Tech Humanism, and all of the similar terms I use. It’s just that the nuance I infer from it — which is, to be clear, not necessarily what those prospective clients may have been implying — is that it suggests adding a human face to tech. It even feels almost manipulative.

If you think about it, most of the time we don’t actually use the term “humanizing” in everyday language — although we do often talk about “dehumanizing.” That suggests that when we talk about things that are dehumanizing, we’re starting from a default perspective that our humanity is intact. So forces that would dehumanize us threaten the fullness of our humanity.

The assumption with “humanizing,” on the other hand, is that we’re talking about a context where our humanity is not intact, and that there is something that must happen to ensure that we are granted our full humanity.

The idea that this is how people are approaching the discussion of technology is illuminating.

But I mean, I see their point, of course. Technology — especially as it’s used within bureaucratic business processes — can certainly be used in ways that disenfranchise and disempower our humanity.

What’s the alternative? Not humanizing?

Rather than “humanizing technology,” philosophically, I prefer to orient from where we already are fully human, and employ our human sensibilities to create the kinds of experiences that would most amplify our human wellness and fullness. That’s why my work centers on meaning, which I consider to be core to human traits and central to the human condition.

Achieve “humanization” by aligning business objectives with human outcomes

But again, I know where people are coming from with this framing and terminology. In fact, I’ve been asked in an interview before, by Douglas Magazine:
“So in other words, humanizing tech is good for both business and the consumer?”

And my answer at that time speaks directly to the business imperative underlying the terminology:

“If a business entity can create an experience for the human being that is more seamless and more frictionless and more delightful and aligned with what they’re trying to accomplish, then, yes, it stands to be a more efficient experience on the business’s side too. It improves both sides of the experience. There’s this natural harmony that can happen there.
“Business is responsible for creating most of the technology that’s out there. That technology is responsible for creating more and more human experiences. And so it feels like finding that right symmetry of the relationship between human technology and business, and really bringing that into harmony is the only way that we’re going to have a future that builds meaning and an awareness of human joy, and context and meaning.”

— me, as quoted in Douglas Magazine, September 30, 2020

So what are some “humanizing”-by-default approaches we can bring to our work to operate from a place of full humanity?

The best ways to bring a fullness of humanity into the work you’re doing is to adopt approaches that are humanizing by default, like:

Encourage “humanizing” language: instead of always saying “users” or “customers,” (or “students” or “patients” or what-have-you), say “people” when you mean “people.” This can help bring a humanizing perspective to the sales experience, the marketing language, the operations, and whatever technology you’re deploying throughout the organization.

Recognize that most of the data that passes through business is human data, and make an effort to think in humanizing terms when you interact with that data in the business model. This is part of what allows business to align its objectives with human outcomes.

Get clear on what human problems you’re trying to solve at scale, and encourage teams to translate their own work into how it helps the company solve those problems.

Why focus on words like “humanization” or “humanizing” — why do the words matter?

Language matters, and the words we choose to describe our work matters. In fact, how we describe the world is in no small part how we experience the world. Even the way we experience words and ideas changes us:

The upshot is that the current state of people’s bodies affected the words they used. This is again compatible with the idea that the meanings of relatively abstract words are based in embodied simulations of the more concrete things they’re described in terms of.

— Louder Than Words, Benjamin K. Bergen

And if we can agree that that is so, then how much more important is it that the actual embodied experiences we build around us — meaning, the ones we design into the built environment, into technology, into amplified, accelerated, algorithmically optimized experiences — represent the best and most enlightened ideals we have?

Meaning matters. Metaphor matters. Let’s be intentional with our words so that we can be even more intentional with the experiences we create for ourselves, our future selves, and future generations.

The Economy Is People

everything is connected

The following is an excerpt from my latest book, A Future So Bright: How Strategic Optimism and Meaningful Innovation Can Restore Our Humanity and Save the World:


I’m not an economist by education—as I’ve previously mentioned, I was a linguist—so it has taken me a few years and a lot of reading to arrive at what seems like an obvious statement in retrospect: 

The economy is people.

This fuzzy concept we call “the economy” is about a system of tools that enable people to provide for themselves, that measure how well people are able to shelter and feed themselves, and how much people are able to invest back into their own well-being.

You could say that this statement is the “everything is connected” of economic ideas. It sounds simple and self-evident, but it’s the layers of its truth that give it revelatory impact.

The COVID-19 crisis has robbed the world of so much, but I do have to thank the crisis for teaching me so clearly that the economy is people—both in terms of our well-being and our productive output. Also planet, as in the state of nature and natural resources. I hate that I spent so much of my life thinking of the “economy” as merely a monetary abstraction.

Measuring a human health crisis in terms of dollars makes no sense. We should be measuring it in terms of human lives impacted, in terms of human potential cut short, in terms of human experiences thwarted. But those are more nebulous figures, and somehow less motivating in a boardroom.

If we are to be proponents of capitalism, as I’d venture many of my readers are, then capitalism must be about solving people’s problems in alignment with a focused business objective.

The economy, then, should really be a measure of how efficiently people’s problems are solved. And we can apply this to discussions of the various subeconomies: the sharing economy, the gig economy, the knowledge economy. At the end of the day, what we’re talking about in every case is people: The economy is built on people.


— taken from A Future So Bright: How Strategic Optimism and Meaningful Innovation Can Restore Our Humanity and Save the World, available in print and audiobook format

The Great Resignation and the human future of work

blog header great resignation - background image shows woman holding her head while looking at a laptop in her home

Much of the speculation about the so-called “Great Resignation” began after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a record 4 million Americans had left their jobs in April 2021. Well, that was the record then. In August the number was 4.3 million. Another record. 4.4 million workers in September. And then yesterday we learned that 4.5 million US workers quit their jobs in November. How long will the trend continue, and what does it mean?

Plenty has already been written and said about the Great Resignation, and much has been said (and plenty by me) about the future of work, about automation and robots and how they will impact human jobs, and countless other related topics. But not enough is being made of what this might mean about the future of human meaning.

We’ve also done a lot of talking (and yes, me again) about digital transformation, and how much that has to do with data models and emerging technology.

But we haven’t talked enough about work as a form of human fulfillment, and we haven’t talked enough about the kind of transformation that happens at the human scale. What if we’re missing the big insights about the future of work and technology by not connecting all these dots?

What really matters about the human future of work and beyond

Most of the media coverage focuses on wages and benefits, and while those are undeniably important factors to understand, it strikes me as very plausible that much of what this trend is about deals with things most media coverage isn’t hitting: Gender inequality in home duties. Burnout. A re-prioritized sense of dignity. And for heavens sake, grief — or rather, the shifted perspective that comes from grief over lost loved ones.

For years when I have written and spoken about the future of work, I have said that the most important thing is for humans to have a sense of meaning. “What matters in all of this is that humans have the opportunity for meaningful experiences in the future, whether they derive from work or not.”

But even after separating those concepts, we’re still left with big questions about what a humanity-centered understanding of work looks like: what it means to accomplish, contribute, and achieve apart from income and sustenance.

And we’re still not sure what it means to address the overlapping trends of the Great Resignation (or Great Reset), and the waves of innovation around the “creator economy” particularly as it relates to Web3, the Metaverse, and emerging ideas and models of value. (I’m part of a group of future-forward experts that is forming around these topics right now. I’ll be sure to share more about that as I am able.)

One of the most frequently-recurring themes in my work is meaning, and I have very often said that I see no reason why humans shouldn’t have meaning in all sorts of different ways, work being just one.

I have also said (and been repeating a lot lately) that the economy is people. And in economic conditions where people are not cared for, they may be forced to ruthlessly prioritize themselves.

If all of this is true then the Great Resignation could be a sign that not enough people are finding enough of a sense of meaning in work. At least not sufficient to overcome the lack of meaning they are feeling in other areas of their lives, which makes sense given how much the pandemic has cut most of us off from our social circles, from our extended families, from leisure travel — heck, even from serendipitous encounters at coffee shops.

It also means these workers might become a bigger market than ever for employers who want to persuade them that they can find meaning at their place of work.

Still, if those 4.5 million, and those coming behind them, can’t find meaning in their workplaces now, why would they stay with the same employers — especially as they see machines taking over many of the functions in the jobs they face today?

Are we ready yet for a meaningful version of the future of work?

The main focus in the Great Resignation shouldn’t be employee dissatisfaction or talent acquisition cost or about technology taking over human employment opportunities. It’s good to create space for that discourse and to learn from it, but the underlying issue is far more fundamental: as much as we need to commit to making the workplace physically safe for humans, we need to commit to making it fulfilling, too. And that means honoring and respecting the humanness of human employees.

When it comes to digital transformation, the biggest lesson I share with leaders is often: it doesn’t start with tech. Surprise! Just as leaders too often want to begin digital transformation with technology instead of from human-centric values and experiences, too many leaders approach their talent strategy as if it can be driven by cost or satisfaction scores, rather than about infusing a sense of purpose and meaning into the organization at every level.

Figuring out how to build a purposeful organization and a culture of meaning, how to amplify relevance and intentionality in the digital experiences you bring to scale — all of this is part of the human-centric digital transformation effort I have been advocating, talking about, advising executive teams on, and leading workshops in for years. It was always important, but now, between the accelerating pace of digitization and the rising stakes in attracting and retaining talent, it’s more crucial than ever.

Even as intelligent machines, automation, and completely digitized experiences become increasingly pervasive, they won’t replace the nuanced value humans add in creative teams, in design of all kinds, in strategic thinking, and in the simple joy of a serendipitous human-to-human interaction, even if it’s only in a coffee shop.

The KO Insights Brighter Future Series: The Brighter Future of Education

header - brighter future education

In A Future So Bright, I wrote about the opportunity for a brighter future for education. It’s critical to ensuring we meet United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

These insights arise from my work with a wide variety of stakeholders in education at all levels, since I’ve been working with and speaking for clients like UPCEA (University Professional and Continuing Education Association), IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association), and a whole host of other educational organizations and associations this past year, and have several more educational entities slated for next year. Amidst the backdrop of the pandemic — what it introduced in terms of disruption to education in particular and the learning loss it brought on — it seems more important than ever to dig into this as a part of our commitment at KO Insights to improving human experience at scale.

But we also cannot talk about the future of education without talking about the future of work, because intelligent automation and other market forces will continue to increase demand for reskilling and upskilling of people in many job roles, including professionals like law researchers, journalists, and more. Even exploring this topic against the backdrop of the Great Resignation, we must keep a long-range view on the trends shaping jobs and work. And we cannot talk about the future of work without talking about the future of money, because we need to understand what the future of value might look like, and the opportunities for unlinking survival from jobs, and decentralizing value.

In addition, the key points when it comes to education overall are:

  1. Invest in educating girls worldwide
  2. Actively work to remove racism from education
  3. Re-imagine the delivery methods to redress education loss from COVID-19
  4. Keep trying to improve the learning opportunity with technology
  5. Develop more adaptive curricula
  6. Teach critical media literacy and digital literacy
  7. Teach young people the human skills they need for the future workplace

In short:
We must create a technology policy of education for all.

Even though we may not be able to see the fullness of the emerging frontier for learning and teaching opportunities, it is vital that we dream and think big of what might be possible in the future when access to information is so readily available. It’s important for us to continue our commitment to building knowledge economies by supporting policies of education for all, research and development of tools to improve learning, continuing to curate our data infrastructure, and taking action against the climate crisis.

We need to continue our work in designing and using technology learning tools that incorporate the latest research about how learners learn best, and be committed to helping our next generations fully realize their potential.

Preparing Young People for a Shifting Landscape

As we look at the future of education itself, it is also important that educators continue their commitment to nudging young people’s mindsets towards an adaptable, entrepreneurial, evolving mindset.

We must reclaim education as an opportunity for empowerment, rather than rote learning of information disconnected from its application, and systems of testing that disproportionately disadvantage students with atypical learning needs.

We must be committed to exploring new methods for learning that incorporate principles from other disciplines such as improvisation, empathy, and connection-building to provide foundational skills that will continue to serve us well in the future.

We need to not only teach students how to code, but also about computational thinking and systems design, because the future will likely revolve around technology, and we need everyone to be able to contribute to it.

We must champion teaching young people to be critical thinkers by helping them to digest information from multiple angles. This includes both media literacy and digital literacy.

We need to create opportunities right now for students to learn these skills by having access to mentors in their local community who can help guide them through projects that will teach them problem-solving, creative thinking or how to work together in teams.

We need to start teaching young people the human skills they need for future workplaces now by encouraging them to develop principles of active listening and empathy.

Commitment to Lifelong Learning

All this demands a commitment to lifelong learning for teachers, administrators, librarians, and innovative thinkers in education. We must continue to build on the work being done so that all students have access to technology tools that will enhance their learning (including universal broadband), whether it’s through helping schools train teachers or providing opportunities for continuing education for today’s educators.

The skillsets our students develop through learning today will become the foundation of their lives in adulthood.

Maintaining Adult Adaptability

And speaking of learning into adulthood, we must start thinking now about ways we can maintain multiple career paths and the flexibility to adapt to new roles as an increasing number of job functions become automated.

Finally, we must not forget that the most powerful tool we have to prevent learning loss is an equitable education for all.

We must continue our commitment to building knowledge economies by supporting policies of education for all, research and development of tools to improve learning, continuing to curate our data infrastructure, and taking action against climate change.

As we do all this work, let’s not forget that education is a way to create opportunity and unlock potential for human beings to create a better world.

The weirding of the future of money

everyone’s favorite ‘stonks’ meme

You know things are weird in the financial world when there’s a stock for Pepe, when a joke Internet meme becomes a massive investment opportunity, and when billionaires use Twitter polls to determine if they’re going to sell millions of shares of stock in their companies (ok, only one billionaire is doing that so far). Oh, and of course, when teenagers are getting rich selling NFTs of pixel art for millions of dollars. As in, like, real money. Between NFTs, meme stocks, market chaos, and all sorts of other weird trends, this has been an odd and, depending on your view, either exciting or uneasy time in the world of finance.

So it’s been a lucky break for me that in the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to deliver keynotes for conferences with audiences of credit union leaders, financial regulators, asset managers, and a variety of other financial and banking professionals.

This serendipitous convergence has been an interesting opportunity to re-examine my research and writing on the future of value and money from A Future So Bright, as well as the research and writing on the future of trust and truth.

So what does this weirdness mean for you?

Well, you’re going to have to accept it because money isn’t just weird now, it will continue to get weirder. Cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are two developments you should look at to understand this “weirding.”

Together these technologies will change not only how people view assets, but how they manage those assets and their resulting wealth. What’s important about crypto and NFTs isn’t that they’re part of the future, but the effect they have on shaping that future.

older white man seated in front of a laptop with a bunch of paper currency
This guy probably just sold a bunch of NFTs

People will have to understand the importance of decentralization, as well as just what a blockchain is. They’ll need to be tech savvy enough to invest in the future without getting scammed out of what they’re worth now.

In short, people are going to have to deal with a lot of weird stuff — which is why it’s so important for business leaders to look at the emerging trends now, for people to familiarize ourselves with the shifting landscape, and for social justice issues to be factored into that future.

In case you haven’t been tracking closely enough, here are a few key trends that may be showing up on your radar screen:

meme stocks – these are digital assets issued for companies that are based on memes and viral content.

cryptocurrencies and blockchain protocols – while some people view cryptos as the key to decentralization, others see them more like a payment method or commodity. Cryptocurrencies are likely to continue to play a key role in how people do digital transactions, but they won’t be the end-all, be-all for money or assets.

People also need to understand what a blockchain protocol is if they want to invest in the future of money and value. Blockchains are the decentralized ledgers that record transactions and timestamps on a network, and they were first introduced as part of Bitcoin (BTC). Those protocols will increasingly impact other industries outside of finance, but there’s work to do first in terms of educating people about their potential impact. (And that includes their ecological impact, as I wrote about in A Future So Bright.)

NFTs – these are the digital tokens that have created a new kind of asset class. They represent ownership, whether it’s decentralized or centrally managed, and they can be fungible (like cryptos) or non-fungible (unique like art).

Enthusiasts see NFTs as the key to decentralization, because they take people out of the center where their worth is defined by institutions.

digital scarcity – We tend to think of tangible goods as scarce and digital assets as freely reproducible, but NFTs limit the supply of a digital asset and create inherent value without institutions or centralization.

If none of that helped clear anything up, just understand this: every day, the future of money is getting weirder than ever before, but with that weirdness comes opportunity. If you’re not thinking about what that means for your business and industry today, you may be missing out on the chance to create new value and experiences. And you may be surprised when someone comes out with, say, a blockchain protocol that makes your business obsolete. You need to understand how this “weirding” will impact your space.

Remember: The Economy is People

I’ve made this point repeatedly, but it’s more important than ever to remember that the economy isn’t just an abstract concept of money and digital assets — it’s people. It’s about people and their well-being, how well they can provide for themselves, and what they want for themselves and their families. It’s also about who will be dis-empowered if we don’t work now to secure our digital rights.

The importance of financing climate resilience

We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change; it’s going to be a key factor in our ongoing future. Left unresolved, the effects of climate change will have devastating impacts on human populations around the world. Because of its severity, we need to address this global crisis now, and there’s an opportunity here: finance innovation can help us better prepare for the worst of possible futures.

It’s about making sure that communities can survive when things get worse. It’s about allocating capital to projects that will help them thrive in the face of climate change. And it’s about investing in new technologies that will help people adapt to a changing world.

The future will always bring surprises, so we’d better prepare for those as well. It’s about laying plans for the best possible outcomes, while also being prepared to adapt to the worst, or just anything that comes next.

The future may be weird, but it can also be bright if we make empowered decisions today to invest in a better tomorrow.

What even is “portrait mode”?

The other day, someone asked my photographer husband to take his photo in “horizontal portrait.” Naturally, my husband asked for clarification.

The guy explained, with some prompting, that he meant horizontal orientation but with the background blown out — in other words, with a shallow depth of field like you get when you use “Portrait Mode” on the iPhone.

That, of course, is not what “portrait” means to a photographer. Leaving aside the broader topic of portrait photography, when you’re giving specifications to a photographer, “portrait” means an upright or vertical orientation assuming a rectangular composition. (The other orientation, as you probably know, is “landscape.”)

But you are probably way ahead of me because you know that in 2016, Apple launched a now-wildly-popular photo mode for the iPhone called “Portrait Mode.” At least that’s what their product teams call it; all it says on the label for “Portrait Mode” is “Portrait.”

Which means that users who aren’t as familiar with camera lingo are left to guess at understanding what aspect of the photograph the word “portrait” is describing. And I would imagine for most casual users who aren’t familiar with photography terminology, it’s not unreasonable to associate the bokeh-like blur effect with the portrait mode.

Which means that to this person that’s what “portrait” means. Whether a photographer considers that a correct usage or not.

Which means that, for all intents and purposes, Apple has changed the meaning of the word “portrait.”

The New Book Unveiled: A Future So Bright

I’m so pleased to introduce you to this new book.

book cover image of A Future So Bright by Kate O'Neill
book cover image of A Future So Bright by Kate O’Neill

The book detail page has all the details you need, but here’s the summary version:

This book, quite simply, explores some of the ways we have already begun to solve human problems at scale, and makes the case for us all to take an approach that’s both hopeful and strategic as our best chance at a truly bright future.

Even yesterday’s announcement of the new report from the UN IPCC that climate change is already on track to be hotter and more damaging than experts were trying to avoid years ago, and that some effects are inevitable and irreversible — even that includes recommendations for reducing greater impact on the farther-ahead future. Because otherwise we’re going to make things even worse. In other words, amid all that hard-to-hear news, there is still hope that we can do better than we’re on track to do, and a strategy for how we do it.

To get us started, I have published an excerpt from The Strategic Optimist’s Manifesto, the summary at the end of A Future So Bright, over at Medium. My hope is that even as only a small piece of the book, this excerpt might still offer encouragement and guidance over the next steps we must collectively make. Please enjoy, and feel free to share widely.

What happens between now and September 7th?

Over the next few weeks as the book gets its finishing touches and prepares to be launched into the world, this blog will preview some of the key ideas and themes from the book and offer some suggestions even before the book launches on how you can begin building the brightest future for the most people.

I look forward to introducing you to this book. In the past year or two I’ve heard from so many of you that you need this. You need a hopeful way to think about the future. I’ve listened and read and researched and talked to a lot of people and listened some more, and out of that I’ve put together the approach that evidence suggests and I believe gives us the best chance at a bright future. I hope you’ll be encouraged to buy it, read it, share it.

Thank you for your hope and your work.

Kate O signature

Engati Recognizes Kate O’Neill as one of the ‘Top 30 Marketing Influencers you need to follow for 2021’

Kate O’Neill has been recognized as one of the top 30 marketing influencers by Engati. The list includes marketing leaders, entrepreneurs, and thinkers the likes of Mark Schaefer, Chief Operating Officer at B Squared Media, LLC, Jeff Barrett, Global Influence and Communications Consultant at Adobe, Roger Dooley, a global keynote speaker and a Neuromarketing genius, and marketing technologist Michael King.

While KO Insights is not a marketing company, per se, we follow the Peter Drucker reasoning on marketing: that its purpose is to know and understand a customer. And since we value knowledge and understanding, particularly that of humans, we’re excited to share this honor with you.

The Groundhog Day Review

Well, the groundhog has spoken. Six more weeks of winter, in this economy?

And look, whether or not groundhogs seeing their shadows has any bearing on the weather, we who have already been through a heck of a year have work to do and goals to reach. We don’t need some rodent dictating our schedule to us.

Think of it as Groundhog Goals Day

On the other hand, maybe this is your chance to review the goals you set a month or several months ago for 2021 and see if they still make sense by the light of early February.

If you need a little longer — say, six weeks? — to make something work before you launch it, and no one is counting on it today, why not take that time? Whether in six weeks or six months, the world as we’ve reluctactly gotten used to it is going to start changing again, and the liminal sense of time many of us have experienced will also shift.

It hits a little different this year anyway

Back in November, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece about how people were starting to abandon their yoga pants and sweats in favor of dressy clothes. But that wasn’t the vibe I was getting on Twitter. Instead, while few people could say they have really enjoyed our collective quarantine/lockdown time, some of us appreciated the few perks it offered, like day-to-night-to-day-again loungewear.

The pandemic has been devastating, no question — tragedy upon tragedy unfolding daily. But even while that’s true, for many of us, the extra time at home has meant that life is a little quieter, and despite our complaints about that, there’s a tiny part of it that we’re going to miss when it’s over. Did we do organize every corner of our homes, alphabetize our soup cans, and fold all our socks, while writing a novel and learning to play harmonica? Perhaps not. But we don’t need to finish every project we had the audacity to start in order to feel like we made good use of this time. We just need to emerge in one piece, alive and intact, and be ready to adapt yet again to whatever the world throws us next.

So maybe these “six more weeks of winter” can offer us the chance to review what we want to finish, and what we want to start in the next chapter.

Still the right values

I happened to run across an old copy of the values for my old company, [meta]marketer. (Well, I have them in my Evernote. I have everything in my Evernote. I’m bound to run across something random every day. Which is fun.)

Anyway, I read them over again because I was curious what kind of perspective on them hindsight might give me.

And it turns out, I think we were really onto the right stuff, and that I still try to follow these guidelines in my work today. Perhaps they may be useful as thought-starters for you. See for yourself.

Make everything easier, better, or faster each time you do it.
Every time you perform a task, you have the opportunity to observe the task from multiple levels of abstraction: the doing of the task, and the overview of how the task is being done. In other words, if you can tell that there is a way to improve the way a task is being done, by all means make it better.

Relevance is a form of respect. Champion meaningful experiences.
In marketing, it’s easy to get caught up in pushing the message that the company wants to push. But the way to treat customers with respect — and usually, the way to make more money — is to present potential customers with relevant opportunities in language that speaks to their needs. It’s often our job to remind our clients that their best chance at long-term success lies in creating lasting relationships with their customers. We believe, and have seen it play out in results again and again, that an emphasis on customer experience leads to profitability.

Relationships matter. Cultivate happiness.
We think work can be a place where you’re happy and having fun, all while thinking hard and solving interesting problems. We want our team members to be happy, our clients to be happy, and our clients’ customers to be happy as well. These relationships–between team members, the local community, our clients–all matter.

Have an attitude of willingness and get the job done.
We’re big on having fun, but don’t that doesn’t mean we’re not a productive team. Every team member must pull his or her weight, and that means sometimes doing tedious and unglamorous work. If it has to get done, do it.

Empathy leads to understanding, understanding leads to insight.
Looking at a problem from a different angle–for example, the customers angle–sometimes leads to groundbreaking insights. It’s important to consider issues from many sides to gain clarity.

Learning is more important than success; learning leads to success.
Come to work with the desire to learn something new every day. You never know what that’s going to be.

Speak truth to power, but confront with compassion.
People sometimes don’t want to hear what they could be doing better, even if it means that they could be making more money. When you have data on your side, it’s important to allow that data to be known and understood. Sometimes people, out of fear, laziness, or disbelief, won’t want to make changes that correspond with the data, but it’s our job to make sure that the decision-maker has the data to make a good decision, even if it seems like bad news, before making his or her decision.

Know the big words, use the small ones.
We spend so much of our day thinking about things in the abstract; when we meet with clients, it’s important that we try to translate that abstraction into concrete language they’ll understand, and to try to avoid industry jargon and buzzwords if we can make our point in plain language.