The builder ethos: driving success in the digital-first era

Illustration of two hands holding a molecular content model, building something, symbolizing the builder ethos
July 23, 2020


The builder ethos recognizes that outstanding digital experiences start with those who build them. It creates a culture that empowers people with the space, tools and time to tinker, experiment and build new digital experiences.

New solutions, experiences and fresh ideas grow in the minds of developers, creators and orchestrators. As much as we love sticky notes, technological innovation doesn’t typically start in boardrooms plastered with sticky notes. It begins with builders.

The builder ethos: a new philosophy for success 

We’re all familiar with the maverick developer stories — those individuals whose stories become more myth than history. They go something like this: a single person had a great idea, worked hard on it and created a successful product from scratch. Think Zuckerberg and Musk.

For a long time, these success stories were attributed to “genius” or the extraordinary talents of one person. But the reality is that everyone has good ideas; there’s a good chance that you have had a million-dollar idea. And these individuals didn’t go it alone; they relied on their team of builders.

The difference between having an idea and implementing that idea comes down to the builder ethos. The builder ethos is how to turn your team from people who have good ideas to people that build good ideas. 

What does that look like, exactly? A company that adopts the builder ethos offers a toolkit to its creators. This can look different for every company, but at its most basic, it comes down to providing flexible tools and tech, space and time, support through collaboration, and reusable content such as a design system

The builder ethos isn’t just for developers or programmers. The builder ethos is intended for everybody. We’ve found that some of the best builders are non-technical content creators, such as designers or technical writers. After all, it’s these people who are engaging with your product on a day-to-day basis. Developers, creators, marketers, editors, designers, and content strategists are all builders. 

Read the full article about why the builder ethos increases a company’s speed to market by adopting the right organizational structure for the digital-first era.

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Empower builders to create outstanding experiences

A company that adopts the builder ethos recognizes that the people who understand a project best are the ones building it. Here are a few tips we can offer as you start: 

Do provide flexibility to work in cross-functional, agile teams. While the idea might start with one person, the builder ethos recognizes that it usually requires a team with cross-functional skills to build it. To successfully build products quickly, your people need to work well together. Teams work better together when solving their problems as one. The role of a digital company is to step back, provide flexibility, space and the tools their teams need.  

Don’t make your teams start from scratch every time. Teams don’t want to start from the very beginning every time they have a good idea. Companies need to give builders the right building blocks to create and develop products quickly. This includes reusing content and having an extensible platform to add tools and apps. 

Don’t forget about the builder ethos when hiring. The CEO of Amazon Web Services Andy Jassy said in a recent summit keynote, “To move quickly, you have to make sure you hire builders.” In the hiring process, look for people who have ideas that will move your product forward. Builders are honest and open with what needs to be fixed in your product; they always come armed with a list of suggestions and ideas. 

Do align your tech with the builder ethos. It’s important to ask yourself: would my tech allow my team just to start building? Or would a new digital product require extensive restructuring, customization, and ultimately, a time-to-market that is months, not days or weeks. Builders want API-first, interoperable technology to help them deliver quickly and efficiently. 

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Try Contentful for free

Contentful has a Free tier to empower digital builders and companies that practice the builder ethos. It’s a no-strings opportunity with a complete set of features to avoid unnecessary restrictions. Everything you need to build a prototype or hack an ambitious project is available, including GraphQL API and provisions for users, records, content types and sandbox environments. 

Best of all, it’s free forever. Take your time experimenting and finding out just how far you can take your project. We’re making it as easy as possible for builders to create great experiences with Contentful. 

Learn how digital-first, digital-fast brands adopt a new cultural ethos, new agile team structures and new builder-centric technologies to succeed. 

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