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Experts And Insiders: Marketing’s Worst Enemy?


Experts And Insiders: Marketing’s Worst Enemy?

There is no real cause for failure in this new world of marketing. There are only things we can learn.

There is more data available than ever before to pivot or pursue in real time with messaging, content, and experiences. Failure occurs for those who persevere on pride even when the customer user experience data informs them they should have concluded their experiment months ago. Some schools of thought welcome risk because trends are emerging and transforming at such a fast pace that there are more unknowns than knowns in the business world. We can learn from failure in marketing, but only if marketing involves everyone, not just the marketing department, as shown next.

The Neuroscience Of Screwing Up

In 2009, Wired magazine featured an article entitled “Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up” that addressed this very issue. In it, author Jonah Lehrer talked about how two lab teams were given the same problem. One of the teams was made up of single- subject experts; the other was people with different backgrounds and expertise. Which group do you think solved the problem more efficiently?

The group of single-subject experts took weeks to solve the problem by using a traditional method involving tests of various approaches. The diverse group solved the problem in ten minutes in an informal group meeting.

What lesson can we draw from this? For one thing, teams of “experts and insiders” can be marketing’s worst enemy. Because they believe there is only one approach to finding a solution, they tend not to accept outlying ideas. When marketing teams represent a cross section of disciplines, the problems are quickly solved and the solutions are often applicable to other areas of business as well. One reason industries are being overthrown is that they don’t allow outsiders into their inner circle to provide new ways of thinking.

Marketing is about communication—but it’s not communication with people who look, dress, and think in the same way. To succeed in this new era of marketing you have to stop thinking like an MBA in a suit and tie and instead dress down, simplify, and realize that everyone has some tools to help you with your marketing.

You need to find people who aren’t like you, and be inspired by the things they say, even if those things are weird. Indeed, outsiders shock us out of our cognitive boxes. To succeed in this future world you have to escape the cookie-cutter mindset. You have to think like a prospect, a customer, or the target audience you wish to persuade and inspire.

The moment you place yourself outside the company and—from an empathetic viewpoint—think about how your products, services, and communications will be accepted by others, things will change. This is why it’s so critical that you uproot the tangles of your professional life every two years. You never want to get too comfortable in one position for too long.

Design Thinking In Disruptive Marketing

Tim Brown, author of Change by Design, describes design thinking as using designer skills to match people’s needs with market opportunity. The goal of design thinking is to reach an improved future state. In this regard, it’s a form of solution-based or solution-focused thinking: starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of trying to solve a specific problem.

This approach differs from the analytical scientific method, which begins with a statement of the problem by defining all the parameters in order to create a solution. The design-thinking process stresses the “building up” of ideas, with few or no limits during a brainstorming phase. This freedom of thought reduces the participants’ fears of failure and encourages varied participation in idea creation. Think of it as a brainstorming session on steroids.

Hire More Generalists, Fewer Experts

The phrase “thinking outside the box” was coined to describe the brainstorming session. The practice aids in the discovery of hidden elements, ambiguities, and potential faulty assumptions.

So, if you’re a team leader who is a specialist, don’t hire only people like you. Hire generalists who can learn quickly a number of subject matter areas and who enjoy conducting marketing experiments. Although in the twenty-first century it will be commonplace for professionals from one industry to take jobs in other industries, twenty years ago such moves were considered anathema. Traditionalists hated when management hired outsiders, but many of those outsiders came with new ways of thinking, new processes, and new efficiencies.

In any business, people spend a long time learning about a particular specialty, with the goal of becoming an expert in that field. Usually we do this because we are rewarded for that expertise. The troubling thing about becoming an expert, though, is that we become entrenched. We put on blinders, rendering us unable to see anything beyond what is happening directly in front of us. This makes sense from a biological perspective; as humans, we find it easier to partake in implementation thinking, which is the ability to organize ideas and plans in a way that they will be effectively carried out.

Implementation thinking, which is tactical, is the crutch of conventional marketers. Entrepreneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain, founder of the World Innovation Institute, doesn’t believe in expert theory:

“I believe that people who will come up with creative solutions to solve the world’s biggest problems . . . will NOT be experts in their fields. The real disruptors will be those individuals who are not steeped in one industry of choice, with those coveted 10,000 hours of experience, but instead, individuals who approach challenges with a clean lens, bringing together diverse experiences, knowledge and opportunities.”

Learn how to keep your brand relevant in the 21st Century in my new book Disruptive Marketing.

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