Chris Brogan posted a question this morning, looking for feedback regarding what people felt new marketers and new media marketing agencies should be doing. As always, Chris’ post and the related comments are well worth the time to read in their entirety.
So what do you do Jesse?
I’ve thought about what I do, and I think it can be boiled down to this:
I help organizations explode the traps of traditional thinking about business, and realize the value of every individual.
Every individual that has any form of relationship with your organization (employee, customer, partner, prospect, etc) has value beyond what’s on the surface. Anyone can be an evangelist for your organization, anyone can bring you the “next big thing”, anyone can help you fix a business problem. It’s your job to let them, engage them and nurture them.
What is “new marketing” specifically?
As someone who’s been in marketing for almost 5 years now, having had no formal training, my thinking about business and marketing is almost exclusively shaped by my experience and personal character. I love people, and am a firm believer in the value of every individual. From a marketing perspective, this means I believe that organizations need to be as closely connected and engaged with their customers and market as possible. Marketing is a conversation. It’s not just about what YOU do as a company. It’s about what the INDIVIDUALS IN YOUR MARKET tell you you’ve done/do, what they tell OTHERS you’ve done/do, what they tell you they need and how YOU respond.
What about all the cool new tools?
New marketing isn’t just about the new tools, the new mediums, the messaging… it’s about changing an organization’s mindset and approach to how they operate and interact with their market.
Enough about what I think, what do you think?
When it comes to innovation and the nurturing of new ideas, I’m a firm believer in participation by a very diverse group of people within one’s organization. You may not think that the lady in HR has anything insightful to add to a conversation about a totally new technology idea - but that is exactly why you should include her.
Something New or Different Introduced
Innovation by definition is “something new or different introduced”. Why not do exactly that in your process of nurturing new ideas? Introduce someone totally new to the process. Someone you would never imagine could have anything to add.
I venture to say you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.
One of the things I love most about working is having the opportunity to sit down next to someone else and work side by side with them on something. I literally go out of my way to work with people this way if at all possible. I learn so much, and it’s an opportunity for me to hopefully impart something worthwhile to the person I’m working with. Sure, there are always things that you simply need to just focus on and get done on your own. But when you need to interact with someone else on your team, why not work side by side with them whenever possible?
Working this way is a powerful tool you can use to help create a culture of innovation within your organization/team. Here’s how:
1) Preface your interaction/work session with something like this:
“My goal every time I work side by side with someone like this, is not just to accomplish the task at hand. I have two other things that I explicitly want to accomplish. I want to learn something from you – I want YOU to teach ME something. At the same time, I hope to share some bit of knowledge, or teach you something as well. So please, try and teach me something, I will try my best to do the same.”
It’s important to set expectations this way, especially if you are working with someone that reports to you. Some people will feel like you are micromanaging, so just be clear about your intentions and goals.
2) Recap – When your work session is over, tell your co-worker what you’ve learned and ask them what they learned. THEN, ask them if what you learned is what they were trying to teach you and vice-versa.
3) Encourage everyone on your team to do the same when working with one another.
4) Periodically talk about the things that you’ve learned over the course of a given week or month, and ask the rest of your team members to do the same. It’s probably good to vary the frequency of these discussions.
This accomplishes a number of great things:
1) It shows that you respect your team members, and that you don’t think you know it all.
2) It shows that you are not just task oriented, but that you have an interest in your team members’ development.
3) Knowledge sharing happens, respect for one another increases, and stronger relationships develop throughout your team.
4) Your team members learn, grow, and become more engaged.
All making your job as a manager/team leader that much easier, and helping to create a culture of innovation within your team.
Henry Ford was once quoted to have asked the question: “Why is it that whenever I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?”
Too many companies ask this same question everyday. They may not verbalize it, but they ask it day in and day out by NOT asking the people that comprise their organizations questions like: “What do you think? Do you agree? How could we do this better?”
Ask is the second step in the SANE approach to innovation. Once you’ve set expectations that you want everyone to be involved in innovation, you have to start asking. Ask your team members to think outside the box. Ask them for their opinions. Ask them if they argee with you, rather than just telling them what YOU think.
Ask, Ask, Ask. “You have not, because you ask not.”
There are far to many mediocre “me too” companies out there playing catch up, with nothing innovative to show for themselves.
If you want innovation to become part of your organization’s culture, it has to start with YOU (the CEO, manager, team leader, etc). It starts with management innovation. It starts with humbleness, and waking up to the fact that you aren’t better than anyone else. By hiring other people, you’ve already admitted you can’t do everything by yourself, so why shoot yourself in the foot by insisting that you always know best?
Ford was an innovative man in his time, but the kind of thinking reflected in his quote above will only get you where Ford Motor Company is today – struggling and chasing a competitor that “gets it” (Toyota), because their competitor believes in the value of every individual employee.
Yes, your employees have brains! Why not encourage them to use them, rather than stifle innovation by reducing them to a role or a cog? Treat your team members/employees with the respect they deserve, ask them for their opinions and ideas, and start creating a culture of innovation today.
As a leader, setting the expectations of your team/employees is YOUR responsibility, and is the first step in creating a culture of innovation within your organization.
So, how do you set expectations? Communicate them!
It’s important to communicate your expectations clearly. These expectations should be both what YOU expect from your team/employees, but more importantly, what THEY should expect from you. People need to know that you are serious about working WITH them, NOT just serious about them working FOR you.
Let your team know that you want each and every one of them to know that their ideas and input are as valuable as anyone else’s – including your own. (Stress that last point.)
You should then clearly define how you plan to manage innovation and creative ideas within your organization. Do you have a formal process? (I’ll talk more about this in a future post.)
You then need to lead by example by you yourself meeting and exceeding the expectations that you have set for your organization. This once again means NOT bypassing the system or process you have put in place for managing ideas and creativity. If you set specific guidelines, adhere to them. If you set goals, exceed them. (or at least meet them)