Over the course of 30+ years in the marketing and advertising industries in the UK and USA I’ve been promoted many times, fired a few times, and had to fire more people than I would have liked. But here’s the thing about a potential firing. It focuses the mind. It stimulates the adrenalin. It forces lateral thinking. It is a catalyst for insane creativity.
Which is why, as a workshop facilitator who engages with companies across the globe in every industry you can imagine, and some you can’t, I frequently ask teams in the sessions I run to come up with at least one idea that they know will get them fired.
How do we, as marketers, uncover the conversations that people are naturally having about what matters to us? The conversations that we can add to? And, how do we figure out where those conversations are happening, and who’s driving them? How do we, in effect, get invited to the right parties, with the right guests, and then know what to say to whom, when, and how?
This is a short rant and appeal to all those who participate at conferences. Take a breath. Or two. Relax. Look up. Compose your thoughts. And let others build on your genius. Speaking all by yourself is a lonely task. One times zero is zero. One times any other number is more. Lawyers call these folk Gunners. So, let others in, let others have fun too, let others share in your glory. Don’t be a Gunner. And then, perhaps, we’ll all stay awake and enjoy our time together just that little bit more.
What nature and mountain climbers show us is that for great things to happen, we have to sacrifice many, for the few to shine. The exceptional never happens without incredible focus.
Challengers accept this, they relish it even.
In order for our best ideas to reach fruition, we have to sacrifice. Sometimes that means letting go of the good ideas, sometimes even the great ideas, in order that the best of the best can survive.
Throughout our career as marketers we search for diamonds, those elusive
gems of creativity, insight or data that can transform the way we think, the way
our companies do business or even popular culture.
Which is why so many of us attend conferences, searching for those rare
diamonds, but often come away feeling like all we’ve seen are an array of duds.
The sad reality is that marketing diamonds are rarer than the real things. But why
is that? Why are so many conferences devoid of real value? I’d argue that it’s
because most presenters don’t think like Challengers.
The problem with path dependency though is that it is, always, ripe for disruption. Sometimes that disruption comes from within the industry, sometimes from a completely unexpected quarter, sometimes through external factors. In this case the disruption was quick, brutal, and absolute. Government funding dried up. For Devon, in southwest England, this created an immediate and spectacular problem. Or, using Challenger terminology, a very significant constraint: no money.
However, when there’s a significant constraint that is matched with an equally bold ambition, then you have the makings of a ‘propelling question’. And propelling questions, in the right hands, generate disruptive new solutions.