Remaining agile in interesting times

Posted by Veronica Wainstein on August 17, 2017 at 8:00 PM

Remaining agile in interesting times-668606-edited.jpegEmbracing change can be scary but agility, in the form of small incremental changes, is the key to success. Here’s how you do it...

We’re lucky enough to be living in very interesting times. Advanced technology, artificial intelligence and automation are pushing humanity toward a global village, where space and time are no longer barriers to communication. There are only really two ways that we can approach this change and disruption: we can hide our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, or we can face it head on, and embrace change for what it is. A new challenge.

Let’s face it, most of us are not as open to change as we like to think we are. Change is hard. We tiptoe around it, hoping not to upset the applecart - and for good reason.

What if we fail?
We’re all terrified of failure, and the fallout that follows. We’re afraid of embarrassment, being blamed, or getting fired, and this has us erring on the side of caution rather than risking a change.


The trouble is, failure is a far better teacher than success.


When we hide in our comfort zone, we miss out on countless opportunities for learning and growth. The best way to succeed in business (and in life) is to remain agile. Remaining agile doesn’t mean that you don’t have a plan. Everyone needs a plan. Your goals and objectives help you to focus, they just shouldn’t be set in stone.

How to remain agile without reinventing the wheel?
One of the stumbling blocks of change is that sometimes, in our enthusiasm to embrace it, we get ahead of ourselves and implement change for change’s sake. This is why it’s important to have clearly defined goals and objectives.

Goals and objectives should form the pillars of your company’s strategy, however, individual campaigns within your broader strategy should be treated like a living, breathing organism, with the ability to adapt and evolve when necessary. If you notice that something isn’t working, you need to be able to tweak your campaign, so you’re able to find an alternative way to achieve your goals. It’s a process of trial and error, making small incremental changes, testing them, analysing the results and going back to the drawing board until you hit the winning formula.

A great example of an agency, for example, remaining agile, whilst not reinventing the wheel every time, is the relationship between Dove and their agency, Oglivy & Mather who have been working together since the 1950s. Overall, since the 1950s, their strategy has been about making women feel strong, confident, and to know that their inner beauty is as important as outer beauty. Dove has built its modern brand around this “Campaign for real beauty”, which was implemented with that name in 2004 and is still being used today.

Dove Onslaught, 2007 (4.9 million views)

 
Dove Real Beauty Sketches, 2013 (67.7 million views)


Dove Choose Beautiful, 2015 (8.1 million views)



Dove keep their advertising fresh, by making small changes and tapping into current trends, however they are not constantly doing huge brand overhauls. Inspiration and creativity need to creep in around your small tweaks. This should be your playground. However, your bigger picture needs to allow for a certain level of consistency - because this is how you build the trust of your audience, and, if you’re a marketing agency, your clients too.

Trust your data, it won’t lead you astray.

The most important thing to understand about making changes to your campaign or marketing strategy, is that you need to let data drive your creativity. Many marketers view data as a restriction to their ability to be creative, when in fact data makes creativity not only possible, but also that much more insightful. As David Ogilvy said, “Give me the freedom of a tight brief.” Data tightens the brief so creativity can directly answer the heart of the consumer’s need.

In the past, advertisers would implement a creative campaign, and send it off into the world, with no real way of measuring whether or not the campaign made the expected impact. For the first time in the history of the industry, we have the ability to take a deep dive into the data, and analyse what’s working and why. This allows you to tailor your strategy to focus your time and budget on your strengths, instead of wasting time on things that have no visible ROI. When data drives creative, results will follow.

It is important to note, however, that data can’t operate in a vacuum - it can help to point creativity in the right direction, but it can’t be allowed to replace creativity. Fast Company Magazine published an article on 3 Ways to Remain Creative in a World of Big Data, in which they shared some great tips to leverage data to foster creativity:

1. Figure out your purpose, then gather your data.

Instead of sifting through masses of data to identify your goal, your goal should define the data.

“You actually need very little data to figure out why your customer needs you,” writes Fast Company Magazine, “In fact, the real problem isn’t lack of data. It is that intelligence in organizations is distributed. Everyone sees the elephant—in this case the organization’s purpose—from a different vantage point. The key is bringing those views together.”

Once your team have a common vision, it’s much easier to identify where, how and what data you need to gather.

2. Avoid numerification.

Our managerial obsession with numbers is based on the faulty view that companies need order to succeed” writes Fast Company Magazine. “Numbers are part of the general strategy that managers adopt to disguise their own insecurity and fear of risk-taking.”

Whilst data needs to drive creative, we need to know where to draw the line. An inexperienced manager tends to cling to data as their only decision making tool, but it’s important that you allow your staff the freedom to do their jobs. This can be scary, but you need to remember this: you hired them for their unique skillset, which means that they are experts in their field.

Set them free to be creative, and only rein them in if they have lost sight of the bigger picture. You need to be prepared to hear out their strategy, and let go of the small things. When your staff feel like their input matters, they’ll be more motivated to produce high quality creative.


3. Data for decisions = measurement of the action taken.
If you are using data to make decisions, it’s important to have some sort of structure in place to be able to measure the efficacy of your decision once it has been made.

“Many leaders misguidedly gather data to inform a decision and then justify their action with the same data” writes Fast Company Magazine. “A simple solution is to think backwards. Start with the desired outcome or action and then consider, ‘How will be know if our action is successful?’”

If you hide your head in the sand, and pretend that there’s no need for change, you will lose your competitive edge. As a company, you need to be willing to remain agile if you want to be successful. Agility is not change for change sake. It’s a series of carefully calculated, incremental changes that, over time, evolve into a winning strategy.

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Topics: Strategy

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