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A large part of this exploration is to determine the attributes or characteristics of the type of individual that would excel in dealing with the wicked problem we face. The ability to grasp the whole picture at once is critical to being able to face the challenge. And not just grasp the problem, but understand the interrelationships between each of the components in a marketing experience. With so many moving parts, so many balls in the air, keeping a sense of where they are at any given time is a critical skill.
The definition of situation awareness allows us to break the skill into three parts:
“…is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future.” (Wikipedia, 2009)
Looking at the first part, you can understand that in an air combat context the pilot needs to have the ability to find and track other aircraft in the immediate airspace around him/her. Non-aircraft objects (like the side of a mountain) are also tracked and kept in a mental ‘holding pattern’. It is not until one of the objects exits the theater in some way that the pilot can let it go.
In a fractured marketing landscape the marketing strategist is also required to keep many, many environmental elements in mind as they work towards the resolution of a clients problem. Each channel, the targets, the messaging, the client, the creative, the market, the culture…and so on. The strategist must be able to quickly pick out the salient points.
In the second part, the pilot has to make a quick assessment as to the meaning of the object – is it a threat, how is it operating, what are my options. Being able to grasp the meaning of the object and act on it quickly is the key to success. The pilot must intelligently ignore the irrelevant and focus on that which requires quick resolution.
In the face of the information overload that we currently face, it has never been more important to be able to separate the signal from the noise. Grasping the meaning of a change in consumer behaviour, the appearance of a new trend, the market actions of competitors and so on is critical to achieving success. The key is to also be able to translate that understanding into action that will result in meaningful results.
The third part is about knowing what will happen next. Based on flight path or other signals, a pilot can predict the future state of another aircraft and start preparing the right course of action. Experience leads to a deeper understanding of the possible options and the reactions start to become tacit.
We are all trying to be futurists in what we do. For example, we plan programs based on predictive models or set target conversion rates based on customer behaviour. Planning is really just building a scenario and then acting on it. Research, brainstorming, discovery are all inputs into a scenario – of varying degrees of fidelity. This scenario is then acted upon when the program is produced and delivered.
Those of us that live and breathe in the digital space already exhibit the type of behaviour that builds this skill. Following a large number of people on Twitter demands a certain constant awareness of where others are and what they are engaged in. This has been called social proprioception. I would posit that in a marketing strategy skill context it is better to look at it as situation awareness.
Preparations are underway for the next great discussion about the state of marketing strategy. After a slightly-more-than-two-week hiatus to digest the thinking from the last session it is time to spin up the brains again. This time around, the session will be focused on exploring several themes that were distilled from the raw notes of the first session.
As with the last event, I am really looking forward to engaging in some great debate with some phenomenal minds. I highly recommend you follow those that are on Twitter: @douglasreid @markraheja @passitalong @michele_perras @b_co @johnnygagne. The others are not on Twitter yet, but should be soon. This thinking springs from their great minds and the series of events would not be possible without them.
In the continuing spirit of openness, here is some of the summary that was distilled from the raw notes of the last session. Note: it is still mental raw material and there are several more themes to come.
1. Problem formulation
– Agencies have limited ways to formulate the problem
– The relationship between uncertainty, fear and risk
– We need to define failure differently
2. Canvas change
– Disappearance of the blank canvas that traditional agencies have depended on
– We now have a dynamic canvas
– Channels are outpacing the agencies that are meant to feed them
– Marketed at vs with
– In a conversation
– Engagement = journey thinking
3. Agency model
– Trad agencies have limited ability to adapt or understand big ideas
– Is there a way to educate the agencies?
– Digital teams are leapfrogging traditional creative teams
– Traditional teams are pushing back on digital
– When there is a problem, they want to circle the wagons – don’t have a plan
– A lack of integration with the trad agencies
– Too many layers of bureaucracy
– Too much short term thinking
Need to be:
– Open – tech, engagement, process
– Embrace – systems thinking and humanity
– Legitimize experimentation
– Outcome oriented
– Proper reward systems
4. Strategist profile
What is it about digital that makes the role so strong
– The platform and agile thinking
– A sense of engagement and a journey
– A better ability to adapt
– Respect for the person you are communicating with, knowing who you are communicating with
– Who is the story teller? Online, there is a storyteller
– Identity needs to be severed from the tools of trade
– Pure play digital works
– Is it more about repertoire vs the channel you are in?
– The transdisciplinarian
– They live with flux, the ground does not stand still
– Experimental, committed to take a chance
– To overcome that which is seen as risk
– What roles are good at orchestrating chaos?
– skills to adapt
– ability to frame problems
– embracing irrationality
– focus on outcomes
– defines failure differently
– more agnosticism at a low levels in an org
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