One Small Thing: Fix Your Brain’s Clock With This App

During normal times, we already spend a lot of time looking at screens. According to Nielson, the average American adult spends nearly 11 hours a day staring a phone, tablet, computer, or television screen. Add in time for sleeping and bathing, and there really isn’t much left of the day for a lot of people.

But, as many of us have also become aware, that screen time can interfere with us getting that sleep time. Our friend Dr. David Perlmutter has a good summary of some of the research in a blog post: “blue light” from screens mimics daylight, throws our brains into a tizzy, and disturbs melatonin production. The result of staring at these screens late into the evening is less overall sleep, and lower-quality snoozes when you do get them.

There are a number of apps and devices on the market to help counter this deleterious effect, but my favorite is the simple and free f.lux. Simply install this lightweight app on your device, and your display will adapt to the time of day: cooler light in the day, warmer light in the evening.

The app is stupid easy and I love it. You plugin your zip code (or coordinates), it figures out when the sun rises and sets in your location, and it will gradually and automatically adjust your screen’s colors to be kinder to your brain. If you’re working late on some design or need true colors again for whatever reason, with a couple clicks in your menu bar you can disable the app for an hour, an evening, or for a particular app.

f.lux is available for macOS, Windows, Linux, and Android. (Apple introduced “Night Mode” for iOS a few years back, which works more or less the same on iPhone and iPad.) The app, first released in 2009, is ancient by digital standards – but because of that it is free and wonderfully lightweight in a way that few things are anymore. If you are so inclined, you can thank the developers and chip in a few bucks to support the team behind it on their site.

Now you can get back to your quarantine schedule uninterrupted:

We Gave Everybody an Oculus Quest 2 – Here are Our Notes

2020 being what 2020 was, we couldn’t hold our usual end-of-year team festivities. So, in an age when we’ve all been grounded and isolated, we decided what better team gift than a way for us to explore new worlds, get moving, and connect with loved ones – safely. The solution: gift every member of our team an Oculus Quest 2 for the holidays.

While backorders and shipping delays pushed some deliveries into the new year, our team has now all had a week or two to strap on their headsets and give them a spin. The overall first reaction is “whoa.” A number of us have explored virtual reality platforms before, and we’ve touched upon it in some of our work, but this new device from Oculus (owned by Facebook), represents the first truly immersive, accessible platform for a general audience. It’s incredible.

I polled the team today to get some of their notes and recommendations for anybody eying a headset or exploring this topic. Here’s what they had to say:

Everybody is going want to try, so be ready to share

Maybe it’s a sign that we’ve all been cooped up for too long and a virtual escape sounds extra-appealing, but as soon as you unbox your headset be prepared for everybody in your household to curiously wander over for a peek. You can’t blame them: VR is novel and exciting, and you should be prepared to share from the get-go. One of the great joys of the system is watching other people use it, so this isn’t a problem. However, adjusting the head-straps might get a little annoying if you are handing the device it back and forth constantly.

The simplest experiences can be the most immersive

I’ve been in an office or a bowling alley before, but I haven’t gone deep sea diving with sharks, so it’s a little harder to place myself there right off the bat. The more “mundane” settings of sitting in a digital living room watching Netflix, or hitting a ping-pong ball back and forth can be some of the most transportive experiences. As your session duration increases, you’ll get more familiar and more engrossed in your virtual surroundings as well, making the most exotic worlds work.

You’re gonna look silly

As mentioned before, one of the best parts of VR is watching (and laughing) along while somebody dances with a robot or ducks an assassin’s bullet. It’s just objectively silly to witness. So, if you want a little less giggling, make sure you close the blinds or shut the door before you power up.

Make sure your space if safe

You’re gonna flail around. You’re gonna take a few steps, raise and lower your arms, reach for things, and in general interact with a world that’s not there. But while you do that, make sure that the world that is there, in real reality, is safe for you to do all that gesticulating. Clean up your floor, make sure your pets and small children are safely out of the line of fire, and try to avoid falling down the stairs. All of us have reported a few close calls with walls, furniture, and furry friends.

Motion sickness is real

Maybe you love rollercoasters and never get sea sick, but some VR experiences may still do a number on you. A number of us reported a little bit of dizziness when jumping into experiences with fast movement and unclear directions, like floating around the International Space Station. You might have better luck starting simpler and then easing your way into the more intense games and apps.

It’s a great way to bond with others, both close and far away

We’ve talked already about how fun it is to watch your friends and family use the headset, but the real magic of VR is placing you in the same room as people who are far away from you in real life. An early adopter on our team first bought the device to talk with his family overseas that he couldn’t visit. Another colleague used it to play games with far-flung friends during lockdown here. We’ve even dabbled in team activities and collaboration with our newly-remote squad.

VR in 2021 is the smartphone in 2007

Overall, I get the same feeling using the Oculus Quest 2 as I did when I first toyed around with the original iPhone. It feels like a little bit of a sneak peek into the consumer technology future. I get the sense that while it may not be perfect yet, there is something to this that will be a big deal in just a little bit – like a dam is about to break and change how we use technology. Remember that it was really the iPhone 3G and accompanying App Store in 2008 that really unlocked the full potential of that platform. I wonder what the “killer app” will be in the coming months and years that enables this technology to take a similar leap.

We’ve done some early work that has touched VR, especially in the travel and tourism space, but we’ve never had the luxury of a device this accessible. It’s certainly going to be exciting to explore.

Giving Virtual Thanks This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving just kicked off a holiday season that is likely bringing an onslaught of mixed emotions this year. Being physically isolated from friends and loved ones during a holiday about giving thanks is certainly a strange dynamic.

In a year of grief, loss, and heartache, it’s almost more important than ever to find those anchors that keep us rooted in gratitude and thanks. The guiding light on the darkest days, if you will.

For many, technology has provided a coping mechanism of sorts. Being able to stay socially connected to loved ones through platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Meets has cultivated connection despite being physically distant. And in a year of drastic uncertainty, technology has become one thing we can rely on.

We’ve seen so many stories emerge in the news about many workplaces transitioning to a fully remote operation. Office spaces and water cooler conversations have gone to the wayside. Now, we take work meetings from the couch with pets in our laps (and sometimes making appearances on Zoom). At Natives, we’ve seen great success in our transition.

As a Natives newbie, I’m thankful for the technology that has allowed me to seamlessly join the Natives team this Fall, despite not being able to meet any of the Natives team in person until very recently. Pre-pandemic it was rare to start a new job without meeting a single co-worker. But, in 2020, this is the new normal.

At Natives, we’re especially thankful to our clients for putting their faith and trust in us. Our desire to propel your brands forward is what keeps us moving, and we simply couldn’t do it without you.

9 Lessons from 9 Years

This month, we celebrate the 9th “birthday” of Digital Natives Group. Normally this is cause for a party and some celebratory meals, but 2020 is anything but normal.

Instead, looking back I wanted to distill nine of the most valuable lessons that we’ve learned in these past nine years. Each year has brought new successes and challenges, and we’re grateful to have picked a few things up along the way. Thank you to all of our friends that have helped us learn these lessons and get to today – here’s to the next one!

1. Clients want two things: results, and to enjoy the experience

Nobody goes into business to do bad work. But some people do good work for bad reasons. We have never done any project that is just focused on winning fame or an award. Our own goal in every project is to achieve the client’s goal, which is often revenue, reach, or something else, but never once has it been for the work to win us a piece of hardware.

In a slight paradox though, clients do actually also care about something else far from the bottom line: do they enjoy working with us? In any successful agency relationship, you spent a lot of time with each other through both the thick and thin, and it helps immeasurably to be in the trenches with somebody you actually enjoy spending that time with. And when your clients see you as a friend and a partner, you get more trust and therefore more freedom to do great work.

2. I’ve never regretted meeting new people

This is lesson is especially poignant now, six months into a period of seeing very few people in general, let alone new ones. In general, I’ve found it’s always been worth it to take the meeting, go to the event, or reach out for advice. You certainly get some duds, but throughout this journey, I’ve met some fascinating and incredible people in the places I’d least expect. To this day 90% of our new business leads come in through referrals, and it’s often the loose connections that make things happen.

3. Most things don’t matter that much… then some little things change everything

I’ll admit it, we could take or leave most of the things we’ve done to build our own brand and presence over the years. There are side projects we spent hundreds of hours on that barely made a blip, and then there are things we turned around in less than a day that got us boatloads of attention.

To the lesson above, most of the networking-type meetings I’ve been to were nice but not particularly fruitful. But then I responded to an old friend’s Facebook post one day and that set off a chain reaction of projects and referrals that make up a sizable chunk of our business.

4. Looks make a difference

As a designer by trade, I’m biased here. But making sure that everything we do (both internally and externally) has a certain level of visual polish has helped deliver the premium experience that our clients expect and deserve. And while it is certainly true that good design can paper over some deficiencies in content, the inverse is the more powerful truth: bad design can make waste of your good ideas and efforts before they ever have a chance.

5. We have a responsibility to others

We harbor no illusions that we’ve done any of this on our own. Everybody on our team is supported by not just those of us in the tent, but by a large network of support. This network is both the obvious, like our accountants, lawyers, advisers, cleaning crew, and the like, and also everybody that we rely on in our extended community, from the first-responders and public servants who keep us healthy and safe to the teachers that made us who we are. This mindset has informed us since day one, and we continue to try to give back each and every day.

6. Document everything

There are two reasons to keep detailed records. First, you want to do better work, cover your butt, be able to answer questions, and make it easier to add new employees. Second, we’ve had an absolute blast looking back at what we’ve done through the years and seeing how we’ve grown. Old inside jokes come back up, long-ago projects inspire new ideas, and we can even see how we’ve aged over a near-decade. Put a shoe-box in your closet and fill it up with all those knick-knacks and mementos, you’ll appreciate it later.

7. You’re never fully educated

If you think that you’re done learning when you receive your cap and gown, you are quite literally setting yourself up to be a dummy. This applies to everything in life, but double for our industry, where what we did in the spring is often out of date by the fall. To that end, we’ve long encouraged our team to take lessons, attend conferences and seminars, follow the news, and read/watch/listen to everything they can (if somebody wants a book, any book, we order it for them). This is an industry where half the time we’re selling our brains – we should do everything we can to make them as full as possible.

8. Things are what you make of them

Over nine years, there are certainly are bad days. Somebody might be angry because of this, or frustrated because of that. Business can be slow, and people can get tired. But there are things that happen to you, and then there is how you deal with things. In the words of Captain Kirk, “I don’t believe in a no win scenario.” There is always an upside, there is always a solution, and no matter what there is always tomorrow.

9. Don’t work with jerks

Life is too short, our time is too precious, and our reputation too important to work with people who suck. Every year, we’ve turned down clients that would hurt our morale or our morals. And probably every year we’ve parted ways with clients who weren’t aligned in how we want to do business. The work we do on this earth is a reflection of who we are, and we want to continually do that in a direction that reflects better upon us.

What We’ve Done to Fight COVID-Burnout

It’s been 153 days since my last in-person business meeting on March 12. Like most people at the time, we thought this all might be over in a few weeks, and then we’ll be back at it by the time things warmed up. And like most people, we underestimated it.

In the past five months, the world has changed, and on a micro-level our own lives have changed with it. We’ve had to think about how to run an agency and keep our team healthy and humming during this seismic shift. Here’s a few of the things we’ve done to keep us going – for however long this might be.

Extra Time Off

Especially in the dark and confusing weeks at the beginning of this crisis, people were stressed. For us, and for the biggest agencies in the world, business had slowed, finances were hazy, and we were all scrambling to keep the ship afloat and moving in the right direction. It was not a great time to take a vacation day.

And that’s what happened: nobody took vacation days. People were exhausted and fried, but weren’t even thinking about dipping into their PTO. So, we added time off to the calendar. First this was a couple impromptu dates, then we formalized with with extra time over the Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends, and an extension of Summer Fridays to cover an extra month. All told, these dates have already added up to nearly two full weeks of extra time off for our team.

But what about productivity and deadlines? We’ve maybe never been more productive. Our team is more energized and more focused, and we’re continually exploring ways to adjust the calendar further. We’ve always believed that great marketing is about connecting to humanity and culture, and the more time we can empower our team to do that, the better they are.

Hardware and Home

With the sudden change of setting, many of us quickly realized that our WFH setups were sub-optimal. As the days crept by, the back pain and headaches crept in. To help make everybody healthier and more comfortable, we individually worked with all of our teammates to make sure they had a work environment that works for them. Sometimes this meant we ordered new stands, monitors, cameras, and peripherals, and for other employees that meant taking their standing desk and chair home from the office. People got copies of client materials mailed to them, and we even troubleshooted a few finicky home wi-fi networks.

Keeping Community

We always had a Monday morning staff meeting, but as we added new employees and remote work continued on, we looked at the calendar and put two other culture-building events on the schedule. First, we instituted an “Enrichment Potluck” for a half-hour every Wednesday morning, where one member of the team holds court and teaches something to the rest of the crew, then nominates the next host. On Fridays, we put a 4PM recess hour on the schedule to host some games, watch videos, or just celebrate the end of the week. I’ll be candid that the Friday event has slipped a few times with days off and busy schedules, but it’s nice to still have that milestone on the schedule for when we can get together.

Audio Only

At the beginning of this, everything became a video call. Of course our meetings all became Zooms, but oddly so did most phone calls. If you’re at your computer all day, it’s easy to just click that button and see your client or colleague on the screen.

But Zoom fatigue is real, and when you combine those meetings with happy hours, birthday parties, and baby showers, it was just a lot. So, for many internal (and some external) conversations, we switched to video-off by default. We’ve found this to be significantly less mentally taxing, and it allows for more variety in the workday than sitting in your one perfectly-angled video chat setup.

Asynchronous, A-OK

If there is one defining characteristic of the world we’re in now, it’s that less is happening all together. When we’re not gathering in an office or at an event, we realize that a lot things can be done at not-the-same-time. We’ve long had clients, contractors, and employees in varying timezones, but this shift pushed that envelope further. To accommodate for either different longitudes or different home responsibilities, we’ve become more flexible about the “when” within any given day. Some people are starting and ending earlier, some later. We’ve nudged a few items on our team schedule to better accommodate these shifts, and we’ve embraced the opportunity to get “deep work” done without distraction when we can.

 


 

We don’t know what the next 5 months will hold, but we’re sure that things will continue to change. These adjustments have helped us curb burnout so far, but they are not perfect yet – and we’re going to continue fine-tuning our operations as we learn more. Like a great project, this is an iterative journey.

One Small Thing: A Simple Feature for Better Online Meetings

Like many of you with “laptop jobs” that have been working remotely for the bulk of this year, I’ve been spending a ton of time on Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, or whatever other flavor of video calling the calendar is calling for. It seems like in addition to every meeting become a video call, half of all phone calls became video calls too. (If we need this many video calls, with “Zoom fatigue” creeping in on us, is a question for another day.)

With this change, we find ourselves doing a ton of virtual presentations. As screensharing has evolved over the years, we’ve thankfully grown from only being able to share the whole screen, to being able to exclusively share an application window. Fantastic, nobody has to see our messy desktops and awkward notifications.

But in our line of work, as a marketing agency with a lot of presentations and multimedia content to share, that still isn’t quite enough. Exporting presentations as PDFs and showing them in Preview is fine for sharing some reports, but if we want to run a presentation with builds and animations, we were stuck running Keynote and sharing our whole screen. It works, but then we lose our ability to keep notes in another application, research answers in a browser, chat via backchannels, or even see our audience. It would get even clunkier when you had to admit guests from a Zoom waiting room.

Thankfully, Apple’s latest version of Keynote has solved this pesky nuisance with a simple feature: “Play Slideshow in Window.” Find it in the “Play” menu up top, and then the application does just that, plays your presentation as if it were full screen, but in a separate window that you can select for sharing. Animations work, videos work, interactivity works – and there is no “chrome” around the window with titles or buttons to get in the way of your message.

Keynote Doodle

Here’s a little doodle of how I organize my space now when I give a presentation on a video call. This lets me see everybody’s reactions, access questions and comments in chat, and keep notes organized in Evernote. Beyond meetings, I’m also excited to use this setup for teaching class when we get back in the fall, and running virtual events like our next Queens Tech Night later this year.

Was this the biggest problem facing humanity? Of course not. I recognize how fortunate we are to even be able to do our work with everything going on. But we’re also grateful to be able to do that work just a little bit better with things like this.

Q&A with John Paul Farmer – Queens Tech Night

This week, we’re excited to be joined by the visionary John Paul Farmer for our second Queens Tech Night meetup. John has had a diverse range of experience in civic technology, a path that has included stints in the Obama administration and at Microsoft, and now he serves as the Chief Technology Officer for New York City. In advance of his keynote, we had a chance to discuss a few of the topics he’ll be covering, as well as his thoughts on some tech topics more broadly.

 


What is the one innovation, investment, or policy that New York City will live or die on in the next decade?

We want to close the digital divide, which is why we introduced the New York City Internet Master Plan earlier this year. It frames the City’s goals for the next generation of internet technology, identifies the partnerships and infrastructure required, and sets a course for ending the digital divide in New York City. This is a policy initiative that must live and flourish over the next decade.

Are there any other municipalities that you look to as a model for what you can and should implement in New York City?

We look at cities around the world and leverage best practices when it comes to smart cities and Internet of Things deployment, closing the digital divide, protecting digital rights, and implementing digital services that serve everyone. We’ve been lucky to have cities like Seoul, Berlin, London, Paris, Copenhagen, and others help promote our Challenges to quality applicants. Our NYCx Cybersecurity Challenge captured 169 proposals for 77 cities representing 18 countries from around the world.

It was recently announced that Seattle is running a mobile voting pilot program. In what ways do you see technology helping increase civic engagement, either at the polls themselves or in the day-to-day work of government beyond election day?

It is also important that we convey that democracy doesn’t just happen on the first Tuesday in November. Democracy happens every single day. I’m excited to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with Commissioner Sarah Sayeed and the Civic Engagement Commission. People like Columbia’s Dr. Hollie Russon Gilman are working on civic engagement in forms such as participatory budgeting. Institutions like Civic Hall are leading the civic tech movement, meaning the use of technology for public good. And non-profits like DoSomething.org are joined by newer groups like DataKind. Each is using technology to bridge divides and involve people in the daily work of our communities.

What are the most overrated and most underrated trends in tech today?

One of the most exciting things about working in technology is that the field is always changing and sometimes those changes happen very quickly. Generally, people grab onto exciting ideas and take that excitement too far or, at the very least, too far too soon. Current candidates for being overrated include chatbots, autonomous vehicles, and smart home technologies. That doesn’t mean they won’t be transformational, but it does mean that transformation won’t happen overnight. I’m not sure if it is underrated, but in terms of misunderstood, I would say diversity in tech. The conversation focuses on increasing diversity in tech as the right and moral thing to do, and that’s completely true. While some progress is being made, we have a ways to go. The piece of the conversation that I don’t see or hear enough of is the acknowledgement that diverse teams perform better. And in a day and age when teamwork is increasingly how work gets done, there is no better way to increase your odds of success than ensuring you have a diverse team of people working with you.

You’ve had an impressive career that has taken you from the baseball diamond to the White House. What is the biggest lesson you’ve taken away thus far, and what advice would you give to those just starting their careers?

Talk to strangers. It is terrible advice at age 8. But fantastic advice at 18, 28, or even 58. I can attest from my own personal experience, because some of my best friends and even some key professional opportunities in my career arose from being curious enough and open enough to strike up a conversation with a total stranger.

If you were master of the universe for one day, what pipe dream initiative would you institute in New York?

If I could snap my fingers, I would make sure every New Yorker has affordable, high-quality, privacy-respecting broadband at home and on the go. The internet is foundational technology that empowers people to access opportunity, education, healthcare and so much more. Of course – as the NYC Internet Master Plan makes clear – universal broadband is not just a pipe dream. It’s an achievable challenge. And it’s our job to make it a reality.

 


Hear more from John on Wednesday, February 5 at the Museum of the Moving Image for Queens Tech Night. We’re proud to host this event alongside our friends at Kaufman Astoria Studios, Plaxall, and the LIC Partnership, and we’re excited to have further support from LaGuardia Community College, NY Designs, New York Hall of Science, Pursuit, QEDC StartUP! Competition, Queens College Tech Incubator, Tech:NYC, Sac’s Place, SquareWine, and Capitol Foundry. Tickets are nearly sold out, so book yours ASAP.  And don’t forget to join the ongoing community on Meetup. See you there!

Our Agency Resolutions for the New Year

Though New Year’s resolutions catch a lot of flack from those that say it’s just another day, I’ve always believed that it is helpful to use this milestone as a focusing event to reflect, and ultimately improve. Any time that people can use an excuse to better themselves is good in my book.

That being said, we’re closed for a few days to observe the holidays and it’s a nice time to look on the year ahead with a clear head and nice cup of tea. As we are gearing up for 2020, here are three resolutions, or intentions if you will, that we have in our sights for the new year.

Paint the Painter’s House

Every time we update our website, I think of the old adage “a painter’s house is never painted.” (There is another popular variant: “the shoemaker’s son walks barefoot.”)

We’re so focused on a day-to-day basis producing great work for our clients that we often forget to do the same for ourselves. It’s natural for any agency to fall into this trap. This past year we began to recommit to “self-painting,” with more blog posts, social media content, and emails that share our story and our point of view. Next year will only be a success for us if we continue that path and devote more time to our own public activities and sharing our knowledge.

Reuse and Recycle

A model we like to talk about is the great man-eating content monster – there is always a hunger for more and more content across every network, every day. To feed that beast for our clients, we’re looking to explore more ways to repurpose older material and get a longer shelf-life on the premier videos, podcasts, infographics, and articles we produce for our projects. It’s increasingly apparent to us that not everything has to be in the running for an Oscar in terms of production quality, and that we can make our client’s dollars go further by slicing and dicing what they have already put time and resources into. We still need to make premium content for many occasions, but we can also make those items more effective by spinning off more than just one piece of content from these marquee productions.

Help People Work Better

We’re always on the hunt for tools and practices that make our work more efficient and enjoyable at Natives. Each year we’re using new platforms and strategies to keep our team in sync and driving in the right direction, and in 2020 we need to continue evaluating the “how” of what we do more and more. Last year we paid a lot of attention to how we can limit distractions and allow our team to focus on what researcher Cal Newport calls “deep work.” This year we’ll continue that practice, as well as examine how we can promote healthier relationships with technology in general. This may mean we remove and streamline some things, or it may mean that we add things to the process – either way, the point is to be intentional with our own workflows.

We’re looking forward to a great year ahead, and we wish you a very happy and healthy one as well. There’s lots more to come.

Holiday Card: What’s your 2020 Vision?

Every year we try to do something a little special for our agency holiday card. Last year we planted a tree in honor each one of our recipients, and the year prior we recruited our friends and colleagues to send postcards to nursing homes in hurricane-stricken Houston. We once even literally sent the shirts off our backs to show our commitment!

This holiday, with 2020 on the horizon, we decided to sponsor the gift of sight to people in need through donations to OneSight. There is a lot of beauty in this world (including some things we designed!) and even though most of our team needs glasses to take it all in, we’re fortunate that we get to see it. OneSight is on a mission to bring eye exams and glasses to the over one billion people around the globe who lack access to vision care. In honor of each one of our clients, we’re bringing vision to one patient.

Beyond the great work of this organization, we want to know what your vision is for 2020 (and beyond). Please take a moment and fill out this brief survey, and we’ll keep you posted with a fun project based on these results.

We hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday and a prosperous new year. There’s a whole lot to see in 2020!

Our Team’s Book Club Favorites From 2019

Once a month, we order in some lunch and get together around a big table to discuss the latest installment in our company book club. We’re big believers in the continual pursuit of self-improvement, and there is always something (or many things) we can learn from others in our space and adjacent to it.

With the year drawing to a close once again, we looked back on our shelf of dog-eared book club tomes and picked out our favorites. As is the case every year, not everything we read in 2019 was great, so these are just the hits.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, of Basecamp fame, have an uncanny habit for writing just the right book at just the right time. In 2010, their book Rework was the perfect guide for starting a company and establishing our agency. As we began to grow in 2013, Remote was an insightful outline about how to manage a team with people spread around the map. And today, in 2019 It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is a needed manifesto on how to build a productive team in an age of buzzing and dining distractions. Each time we read something by these brilliant founders we get inspired to change our work for the better, and we can’t wait for the next one.

Make Time

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

In the same vein as the Fried and Hansson book above, Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky is a necessary little guide about how to reclaim your focus and energy in an increasingly chaotic digital world. We’re often in the business of promoting be-present-in-the-moment experiences via travel and healthy bodies and minds via publishing, so it’s important that we find a way to manage our own day-to-days to “make time” for deep and meaningful work (and play). This book is a helpful, down-to-earth, and step-by-step guide about how to have healthier relationships with our devices, platforms, and schedule.

This Won’t Scale

Drift Marketing Team

Honest and transparent storytelling about what it takes to find customers, build a team, and scale a business are what you’ll find in this quick read from the team at Drift. The big takeaway – focus on conversations with customers, not conversions (makes sense this is the team that coined the idea of Conversational Marketing). That’s one of the key topics covered in this manual, which runs through 41 key tips from the team that built this rising star in the marketing SaaS space.

Applied Empathy

Michael Ventura

We typically don’t read our client books in book club, but this one was too on-the-nose for us to let anybody get away without reading it cover-to-cover. Michael and his team at Sub Rosa are some of the best marketers in the business, and this book is the story of how they have developed a secret sauce that has led to an unbroken string of incredible work and unmatched results. Applied Empathy helps you see the world through somebody else’s eyes and develop ideas and solutions that spark innovation and solve tough challenges. Nobody today has such a clear articulation of what makes great marketing.

Ruined by Design

Mike Monteiro

Lastly, speaking of great explainers, nobody working in design has a better moral compass and sharper wit than Mike Monteiro of Mule Design. Like Rework above, Monteiro’s previous book, 2012’s Design is a Job was the right book at the right time earlier in our growth – it taught us how to run a good business, how to present work effectively, and how to handle tough conversations. His latest manifesto is an angry-but-hopeful look at how technology and design have contributed to many of the ills faced by our world today. It’s a survey of what’s wrong, how we got here, and then ultimately how we in the creative and technology industries can use our powers for good to help right the ship. We’ve always been a community-minded company, but this year we have doubled-down in our pursuit of sustainability, education, and economic empowerment – and we’ve turned away work that doesn’t meet our ethical standards.

Do you have any recommendations for things we should read in 2020? Tweet us at @NativesGroup with your recommendations and we’ll add them to our list! Happy reading all.