Being Intentional

Last month, I talked at CS Forum in London. It was a beautiful day. I had five minutes to talk about something I think about every day. Here’s the long version of what I wanted to say.

From what I can tell, people need our help. I don’t see that changing. For all the smarties in the field, there aren’t enough of us. We’re scarce and overcommitted. It’s time to think about our path as individuals and a community. It’s time to strategize content strategy.

Our future in leadership

We talk about strategy for our clients, their content, and their organization. After all, we’re leaders by nature. But what about us? What does our future look like? That’s where being intentional comes in. Intentional means deliberate. So when I talk about an intentional strategist, I mean someone that leads and acts with purpose.

Act purposefully

We can think before we act, choose our clients, and be less reactive. It’s up to us to choose where we go. Richard Feynman had this figured out years ago:

Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.

Feynman says we’re all problem solvers. People are relatively new to the universe, and the web is even newer. The future is messy, and we have work to do. Feynman says the best way to make a difference is to learn, refine, and share what we know. So let’s do it. Here’s how:


Working at Apple taught me that focus means saying no to great ideas for even better ones.

Tim Cook in 2010:

We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose.

Protect your attention. This is extremely difficult. Practice saying no every day, and think really hard before saying yes to anything. There aren’t millions of us; there’s only one of you. Maintaining sanity is imperative. Vote with your feet. Every project says something about what you want to bring to the web, and it also says something about you. What does the world need? We should nurture that.


We can change our techniques to best serve our clients and the web. We already learn from mistakes quickly, so we have to be okay with imperfection. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. We have to be flexible and take risks. Let’s not be the dinosaurs of the design world. We can be smart about everything, especially research and deliverables.

Listen to your client. Maybe they don’t need a blog or content audit. Maybe they can’t support social media right now, but they could do that later. Smaller is better for focus and quality. Templates are not our friend. Avoid them when possible. I only use them for portions of contracts. We can consider what we make and how it evolves over time. Check in with clients months after a project and learn from it. Change the way you do things when they become regular. Stay curious. And stay foolish.

Help each other

It’s our responsibility to teach our clients, peers, and coworkers. We’re in this together. We’re a community, we’re growing, and our work is fluid. We have to be okay with sharing what we know. Everyone gets credit for showing their work. There’s no reason to protect how we do things. Every client is different; every project presents new information to learn from. We should mentor and share openly. We can spark new galaxies of strategists. And damn, we need the help.

We can mature past the status quo. We’re more than content planners. We don’t just make content audits, page tables, and site maps. We change much more than content. We change organizations and people’s lives. It may sound ridiculous, but we change the world.

I think we have more power than we choose to use. Our time is for ideas, information, and community; we are here to simultaneously experience and shape it. Better communication helps everyone. So get your ass out there. Share what you know. And don’t be afraid to do what you love.