The Japanese have been putting their cool as hell ninja-in-the-fog tilt on contemporary marketing for about 2000 years, apparently. The Japanese have two expressions which should be part of every marketing curriculum:
One is hinshitsu which roughly translates to as a type of taken-for-granted quality. This is obvious in every interaction, the quality of what is being presented must be above reproach. This is what people are employed to do and have been slaving over in an analytical way since the industrial revolution.
The other is miryoku teki hinshitsu, which refers to a type of enchanting or bewitching quality. This is the quality which kicks-in after we accept the functionality and reliabilty of a product or brand, and become emotionally involved. Miryoku teki hinshitsu appeals to our sense of elegance, our desires, our need to find meaning in what we do.
A recent study by Standard Life shows that the employees the felt part of the business and understood its goals were willing and able to contribute their best to achieving those goals. Your internal communications plan and branding is a huge step toward employee engagement and here is a list of eight things to do about it:
1.Cultivate a culture that reinforces your Brand Contract and encourage employees to “live the brand”
2. Measure the effectiveness of your internal branding strategy to maximize the ROI on your internal branding initiatives
3.Insist that senior management models brand-focused behavior and cultural values
4. Set communication alignment goals (are you even measuring the effectiveness of your internal communications?)
5. Make positive examples of employee behavior that represents your values, mission, brand and business strategy
6. Reward employees for demonstrating their commitment to your brand contract and values
6. Show daily how commitment to mission and values is the touchstone that drives your decisions
7. Harness the entire creativity of every employee in bringing the brand to life
8. Involve all departments in branding, not just marketing – HR, operations, customer support, development, finance, and more.
"Harness the entire creativity of every employee in bringing the brand to life, and involve all departments in branding, not just marketing – HR, operations, customer support, development, finance, and more."
Lacoste has come roaring back from obscurity to become one of the hottest sports/apparel brands around. The company's US sales grew in the US of 1000% in 5 years. Not bad for a brand that was once languishing under General Mills's ownership.
What can other brands learn from Lacoste's comeback?
1. History Can Be Made Relevant to Today
Lacoste was established by Rene Lacoste, a brilliant French tennis player, who in the 1930s, won three French Opens, two Wimbledon championships and two US Opens. Lacoste are proud of their history and don't try to hide it.
2. If You Have an Iconic Identity, Use It
Lacoste's crocodile is one of the most widely recognized brand identities in the world .
3. Seize Relevant Trends
Lacoste profited from the return of the "prep".
4. Don't Be Scared to Innovate
A problem for classic brands, is that they are scared that they will loose their authenticity if they innovate. Lacoste weren't afraid to evolve their iconic shirt, to appeal to a new generation of women.
5. Patience Pays
The company has opened just 46 stores since 1995. A smart strategy, slow and steady growth allows a solid brand foundation to be built.
6. Scarcity Adds Value
When Robert Siegel took over the brand in 2002, the first thing he did was to cut back on distribution, taking the brand away from mass retailers like Macy's.
Lacoste is now at possibly the most difficult stage of its brand maturity. There's an opportunity to "cash-out" and expand the brand rapidly through licensing, the brand has just signed a deal with Movado for watches. In 2005, it signed a $25 million deal with tennis star, Andy Roddick, that it could be tempted to over-maximize.
Lacoste's return shows that brands with real history and authenticity have a surprising level of durability, they have the power to ride out storms and return a fresh, but only if that return is carefully managed.
The true story of the "Crocodile" begins in 1927. René LACOSTE liked to recount how his nickname became an emblem recognized throughout the world.The Lacoste site does a great job of showing you what the brand is all about, and... I have to admit... (as much as I hate to) I might be getting back on the Lacoste train pretty soon. (Their optics and footwear are pretty cool.)
"I was nicknamed "the Alligator" by the American press, after I made a bet with the Captain of the French Davis Cup Team concerning a suitcase made from alligator skin. He promised to buy it for me if I won a very important match for our team.The public must have been fond of this nickname which conveyed the tenacity I displayed on the tennis courts, never letting go of my prey!"
"So my friend Robert GEORGE drew a 'crocodile' which I then had embroidered on the blazer I wore on the courts.
An attentive spectator at René LACOSTE's Davis Cup matches was the winner of the BRITISH Womens golf title, Mademoiselle Simone THION de la CHAUME, who soon became his wife and constant support.
In 1933, René LACOSTE and André GILLIER, the owner and President of the largest French knitwear manufacturing firm of that time, set up a company to manufacture the logo-embroidered shirt. The champion had designed this for his own use on the tennis court, as well as a number of other shirts for tennis, golf and sailing - as can be seen in the first catalogue, produced in 1933.
To the best of our knowledge, this was the first time that a brand name appeared on the outside of an article of clothing - an idea which has since become extremely successful.
This shirt revolutionized mens sportswear and replaced the woven fabric, long-sleeved, starched classic shirts.The first LACOSTE shirt was white, slightly shorter than its counterparts, had a ribbed collar, short sleeves with ribbed bands and was made of a light knitted fabric called "Jersey petit piquéIt continues to offer the same quality, comfort and solidity on which it built its name and which constitute its uniqueness.
I polled the other guys in my group and we built a damn good list of things that our IT manager did that led to him losing his $100K/year job. Note that I left a few specific things out because I don't need anyone getting pinched. If you repeat these things successfully, you too will get your team to hate you. If you are a reporting to someone that does these things, print this and do the old Office Space under the door routine.50. Assign enough projects with tight deadlines so that your team has no choice but to work a 60 hour week while you only work 30 hours
49. Cap overtime pay.
48. Do not offer project pay.
47. Constantly underestimate the time it takes to get things done and then penalize employees' bonuses because they didn't hit the goal.
46.Talk more than you listen.
45. Tell the team to begin planning for tons of deployments but never obtain the budget to actually implement any of them.
44. Don't trust written time cards. Make employees email you when they get to the office so you can see a timestamp when they get in.
43. Always take sides in disputes instead of moderating.
42. Avoid looking people in the eye.
41. Reprimand employees in front of the entire team.
40. Hire someone that is very weak to take the place of a veteran and expect the same results from the team.
39. Reprimand Mark but don't reprimand Tony when he makes the same error.
38. Consistency is good. Never ask you employees if they are challenged enough or want to take on more responsibility.
37. Make promises to internal customers but have no idea on the elements involved in getting the task done.
36. You know that Tony is a slacker, but he is really cool to hang out with so keep him around and give him good reviews.
35. Suzy can take 20 minute breaks instead of 10 because she's a little cuter than Paul.
34. Give your employees 2nd tier systems to work with but expect top tier results.
33. Never cross train anybody on anything. The skills they walked in with are the skills they are leaving with.
32. Mandate a new policy without consulting a single person that will have to live with it.
31. Give employees low raises because the more you save, the higher your bonus.
30. When talking to an employee on the phone, type away at your email. That's a great time to catch-up!
29. When someone comes to you with an issue regarding another employee, use a lot of big words to explain the situation but really take no interest or action.
28. Create a desk cleanliness policy.
27. When Suzy comes in late and leaves early, and we complain, do nothing about it.
26. Instead of offering to help hands-on, watch from a distance and provide support over email.
25. Mandate that the entire team use a single to-do list application simply because you think it's best.
24. Make your best employees train the newbies for weeks at a time but insist that all deadlines be met.
23. Never answer your cell phone.
22. Never be the on-call guy to share in the team burden.
21. Have a group of employees that you get a long with and go out to lunch with while those that you don't like get left out.
20. Send employees lots of chain letters, poems and other crap spam when they are hard at work.
19. Constantly give your employees vague project plans and get pissed when the result is not what you wanted.
18. Refuse to upgrade a system after the entire team asks for it and then be sure not to give a valid reason.
17. Blame everything on your boss because no one will ever call you on it.
16. Make all men wear ties.
15. Do not let employees expense cell phone use but require a cell phone number for the on-call guy.
14. Shut off access to Google and Ebay because it's not "required for work".
13. Never let employees hangout and use the corp. network to play games after hours.
12. Tell employees to do plan B because you will save $11 even though plan A is the safer, more efficient way to go.
11. I don't care what they are working on. No one should get a monitor larger than yours
10. Insist employees come to your wife's silly Barbecue.
9. Give advice on topics you are only partially educated in.
8. When the kudos are handed out, you should take the credit because you managed the team. Do not give credit to anyone else.
7. Monitor all phone use.
6. Charge someone .25 days off for a dentist appointment.
5. Lecture the team at least weekly.
4. Hold team meetings to provide updates even though the updates only pertain to one-third of team.
3. Buy the team lunch and always forget that Vegan in the corner...he'll come around.
2. Make the team fill out self evaluations but provide very vague feedback on what they type.
1.Sleep with that girl Suzy on the team. No one will suspect she's getting preferential treatment.
0. Call the redhead guy on the team Rusty. Everyone will laugh and you are sure to win their hearts.
-1. Make sure the cubicles are as close to each other as physically possible. The open areas surrounding the group will be used eventually.
-2. Make the entire team read a book and then set aside 3 hours to discuss it. This is sure to increase productivity.
-3. Let a couple people work from the house, but provide no reason for it or ways for others to obtain the right.
-4. Insist that employees complete projects that even you admit are worthless.
"It's a serious question. How do you know when you're successful--when you have enough market share or profit or respect or money? How do you decide what success is?"
"Too often, we let someone else define success. Critics, for example, want a movie to be only modestly popular and modestly approachable. Geeks want your brand to be new and edgy. Alexa-watchers want you to be bigger than MySpace. Stock analysts want you to beat the numbers that they told you they wanted you to meet. Your boss wants you to show up a lot and work late, regardless of what you actually do for her... A lot of organizational conflict comes from mismatched expecations of success."
1. "That will never work."
2. "... That said, the labor laws make it difficult for us to do a lot of the suggestions [you] put out. And we do live in a lawsuit oriented society.""
3. "Can you show me some research that demonstrates that this will work?"
4. "Well, if you had some real-world experience, then you would understand."
5. "I don't think our customers will go for that, and without them we'd never be able to afford to try this."
6. "It's fantastic, but the salesforce won't like it."
7. "The salesforce is willing to give it a try, but [major retailer] won't stock it."
8. "There are government regulations and this won't be permitted."
9. "Well, this might work for other people, but I think we'll stick with what we've got."
10. "We'll let someone else prove it works... it won't take long to catch up."
11. "Our team doesn't have the technical chops to do this."
12. "Maybe in the next budget cycle."
13. "We need to finish this initiative first."
14. "It's been done before."
15. "It's never been done before."
16. "We'll get back to you on this."
17. "We're already doing it."
18. You have to understand...this is the [insert company name here] company
19. Be patient with us.
20. We move slowly, but we'll get there.
21. You've obviously never worked in the [insert industry name here] industry
22. There just isn't enough budget for change
23. Do you have best practices to go with that?
24. No one ever got fired for putting TV on the plan (yesterday's excuse)
25. No one ever got fired for putting (traditional) Interactive on the plan (today excuse)
26. Our marketing mix modeling doesn't incorporate the approaches you're suggesting
27. Well that might work in [insert country A here], but this is [insert country B]
28. What you say is terrific, but it would just be too hard to implement
29. We need a certain amount of reach in order to be successful
30. Change is good...but not on my watch.
"When you want to get--and especially keep--someone's attention, what's your competition? What else could they choose to focus on at any given moment? The belief that we have 100% conscious control over what we pay attention to is a myth. The belief that users can and will choose to pay attention to our message/ad/docs/product/lesson, etc. is a mistake. So what can we do to up the odds of getting and keeping attention?"
"The secret is to be more provocative and interesting than anything else in their environment."
"If we want our users (members, guests, students, potential customers, kids, co-workers, etc.) to pay attention, we have to be provocative. We can moan all we want about how the responsible person should pay attention to what's important rather than what's compelling. But it's not about responsibility or maturity. It's not even about interest. It's about the brain."
1. Be Visual
Pictures are more important to the brain than words, and unless you've already got their attention and are a good enough writer to paint pictures in their head, you'll do better with visuals. The more stimulating the better. Even graphs and charts are a huge help.
2. Be Different--Break Patterns and Expectations
As long as we're doing what everyone else is doing (or what we have always done), the brain can relax and think, "Nothing new here... whew... what a relief, that means I can now go back to scanning for something that is". Ways to be different include doing the opposite of what you normally do, or doing something expected in a different domain, but which is wildly unique in yours.
3. Be Daring
You know the story on this one--being safe is often incompatible with being provocative.
4. Change Things Regularly
This is about continually breaking your own patterns. Consistently shaking things up whether it's look and feel of your website to the product itself. (Obviously the definition of "regularly" and "things" varies dramatically depending on the type of product or service. MySpace can change daily to the delight of its core audience, while a financial app better keep its UI stable for a much longer time and find something else to change regularly (like the website, tutorial style, or online forums).
5. Inspire Curiosity
Humans often find puzzles and even questions irresistible. Just try to walk by a TV playing a quiz show and not think about the answer to the question you heard walking by. How many times have you watched to the end of a movie you didn't particularly like, just because you had to find out how the story ends? Our legacy brains love curiosity because it usually means more learning.
6. Pose a Challenge
The level and nature of the challenge work only if they're within boundaries that work for your audience, of course.
7. Be Controversial and Committed
Take a stand. Mediocrity is not a formula for holding attention.
8. Be Fun
Remember, brains love fun because fun=play, and play=practicing-to-survive. (And as we've said many times here, fun does not have to mean funny.
9. Be Stimulating. Be Exciting. Be Seductive
Keep in mind that seduction does not have to mean sexual. A good storyteller can seduce me into sticking with the story. A good teacher can seduce me into learning. A good software app can seduce me into getting better and better.
10. Help them have Hi-Res Experiences
This gets back to the notion of being-better-is-better. The more your users know and can do, the higher resolution experience they have. Whatever you can do to give them more expertise will help keep them interested in wanting to know and do more. But they need to be up the skill curve a ways before this really kicks in, so we must do whatever we can to help get new users past the rough spots (i.e. the "suck threshold").
1: Know your client—not only what she wears, but how she lives.
2: Have an action plan, and have total agreement from the senior leaders who need to execute the plan.
3: Evolve. Retail is not a static business; there’s great danger in staying still.
4: Constantly communicate with employees at all levels.
5: Stay positive and optimistic.
"In the marketing world, a 'Free Prize' is the added bonus of a product/service which give us something to talk about. For example, the Chrysler Sebring comes with cup holders that keep drinks hot or cold. These temperature controlled cup holders are not the first reason someone would buy a Sebring, but they are probably the first reason why someone tells others about their new Sebring. Dig? Credit Seth Godin for the "Free Prize" concept."
"Managers make sure that work follows an established process. They don't like change. Leaders, on the other hand, are restless creatures like gamblers who get excited about doing things a new way.
"Now, here's the problem: There's a great need for talent and a glut of unqualified candidates. It's going to take a leader to figure out how to move forward. And, Recruiting is full of managers.
"One solution: take recruiting away from HR and give it to marketing people who know how to sell. Another: give it to the operational leaders who have the knowledge needed to assess the candidates technical skills."
Per Kevin Wheeler, via The Recruiting Animal blog.
"[W]e must consider the possibility that if Design Thinking is critical, maybe restricting it to designers and protecting them from business people is not actually the most productive avenue to pursue. Perhaps eliminating the need for protection by turning business people into Design Thinkers would be more effective. To create a Design Thinking organization, a company must create a corporate environment in which it is the job of all managers to understand customer needs at a deep and sophisticated level and to understand what the firm's product means to the customer at not only a functional level, but also an emotional and psychological level... ...The great firms of the 21st century will be those that recognize the goal isn't to supplement analytics with design; it is all about integrating design and management."
> Roger Martin.
How to destroy creative talent.I've just witnessed a horrifying example of how some of our seniors managed to take down one of our most promising creatives.
The whole thing started when the planner complained about one of our designers surfing the internet. He kept complaining loudly until he got the attention of our creative director.
"Shouldn't he be designing the x-book instead? Doesn't he have other things to do than to surf the web."
(CD) "What? Is he surfing again? Of course he has other stuff to do. What the hell is he doing? This guy is nothing but trouble."
"Yes he is."
(Suddenly they are aware that I am listening. That's kind of normal 'cause my desk is right between theirs.)
(CD) "Is it possible to disable someone's internet connection?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, is it possible to make it impossible for someone to have internet access?"
"Well, you know."
"Ah, yeah, we'll ask the tech guy (who happens to be an account as well)."
The next day, the tech guy comes in, and immediately the three of them team up around the CD's desk.
(CD) "Can you disable X's internet connection?"
(TG) "Yeah, sure. Why?"
(Pla) "He's surfing again."
(TG) "I can do this and then do that. But shouldn't I notify him first?"
(CD) "No, not at all."
(TG) "But he'll ask his colleague Y to fix the thing."
(CD) "Then we'll tell Y not to fix it. Oh, and by the way, do it this evening, while he's away from work."
(TG) "Consider it done."
This conversation made my blood boil. First of all none of these people cared to ask the designer about this face to face.
I went down and I did (more than once). The answer was pretty simple. The guy told me he cannot use his design applications while he's writing PDF-files or uploading images. It takes a hell lot of time and it bores him to death. So while his machine is busy he's visiting wikipedia, design websites and blogs.
While asking around I noticed that all creatives do surf once and a while when their computers keep them from working. Most of them surf private anyway.
Secondly, the Tech Guy as well as the Planner are constantly visiting sports and gunclub websites themselves, exchanging silly e-mails and playing games. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn't affect their work (and believe me, it DOES!). So who the hell are they to cut the wings of one of our best designers?
But the most frustrating thing was that I knew that the CD and the Planner were waiting for quite some time for an opportunity to nail this guy.
Here's what happened a couple of months earlier: this young designer "dared" to contest the CD's view, not in a rude, but in a polite, but decisive way.
Instead of telling him to tone down or even bullying him, the CD went straight to the boss, complaining about this designer's misbehaviour. Mainly the CD complained about his sloppy look, him taking his shoes off at work and just being too different to get a grip on. But he couldn't complain about the guy's work.
The same evening our designer had to come "upstairs" where he was told that he would be fired. Luckily for him (well, sort of) he started questioning the boss and the CD about why they wanted to fire him. In doing so he managed to counter every single argument. The boss started to like him and decided to give him a second chance. Our CD was outrageously frustrated.
Getting the picture?
Back to our internet story again. When I tell our designer what's about to happen he's pretty pissed off and so am I. We both have the feeling that this is not the right way to treat your employees.
Be straight with them, be honest. But stop scheming in the board room because people notice. And how on earth can these people claim any authority while they are too cowardly to confront people with their so-called mistakes?
Live update. My boss came peeping over my shoulder (I'm writing this while I am having my lunch break), and I feel like I've been ran over by a truck.
Frankly, I don't give a damn, 'cause I've made up my mind. People who treat their employees in such a degrading are not worth any of my time and effort. There not worth working for at all.
So here's the deal: I'll quit. Not only because of what happened to our designer, but because I don't want to work in a company that sells so-called communication-advice and creativity while restraining all creativity and neglecting to communicate with their employees and customers in a proper way.
(Oh, by the way, as a copywriter my work isn't valued as it should either. In our company people think everyone can write professionally so they rewrite and edit my copy whenever they want, however they want without asking. And if things turn out bad, they blame it on me without even asking me. So there you have it, definitely no place to stay.)
And believe me, I don't believe in fairy tales anymore although I am still very fond of them. But I still believe that honesty is the best policy. There's still a huge difference between telling something in a strategic way and telling a lie. In our company they think they're doing the first, while actually doing the second. During my time at university, I got stuffed with post-modern literature, so I know what it means to present things from different angles without telling a lie.
31.4% of Americans don't have internet access.
90% of the people in France have not created a blog.
88% of all users have never heard of RSS.
59% of American households have zero iPods in them.
30% of internet users in the US use a modem.
Detroit (one million people) has six Starbucks.
1% of internet users use Digg on an average day.
.37% of the US population reads the paper version of the New York Times daily.
Brazil consumes 11% of the world's coffee.
20% of the world speaks English.
98.2% of the households in the US have a TV, and virtually all of those TVs have cable.
The point of this list isn't to persuade you to give up your quest and become a producer for the Today Show or to go work for People magazine. No, all the growth and the opportunity and the fun is at the leading edge, at the place where change happens. I just thought it was worth a moment to remember that Rogers was right, and that we're living on a never-ending adoption curve.
"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
"If one cannot state a matter clearly enough so that even an intelligent twelve-year-old can understand it, one should remain within the cloistered walls of the university and laboratory until one gets a better grasp of one's subject matter."
"What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things."
"Even though the ship may go down, the journey goes on."
"You just have to learn not to care about the dust mites under the beds."
"Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."
1. GoinGreen sells small electric cars CHEAP to commuters in London and they do it at a profit. By being smarter, better and more passionate than everyone else, these guys have produced the top selling electric cars in the world, while creating a devoted customer base.
2. GoinGreen Really (and I mean REALLY) embraced word of mouth, selling 600 'G-wizz' cars "without dealers, showrooms, advertising, or sales staff." They did it by thinking outside the accepted square.
a) If you want to test drive a car, simply arrange a meeting and they will come to you.
b) Their cars are mini land-marks - with beautiful (tacky?) animal prints they can't help but stand out in a crowd.
c) It's a club. People who buy these cars enter the club, have get togethers, tell stories, have rallys...
3. For its launch, GoinGreen focused on a very targeted audience: Londoners. (G-wizz cars wont go fast or far, but commuters in London don't need either.) It isn't meant to be all things to all people, but it will be everything to some people.
4. GoinGreen redefined the concept of investing in a car.
a) Priced under $10,000, annual savings made by going electric will pay off your car in no time at all. Maybe even in its first year.
b) Yes people will pay a 1000 pound deposit online if you ask them to.
5. These guys have put their heart and soul into these cars. In everything they write and every interaction they have, their passion oozes out. Seriously, the best way to get people excited is to be the most extreme, the most evangalistic believers in the benefits of your product.
It's a tough challenge to move several billion mindsets and get us thinking seriously about our combined impact on the world. Faced with a car market that is dominated by massive dinosaurs, who would have thought a couple of guys banding together with no marketing budget, a revolutionary approach to sales and a product that ignores everyone who says it's too hard and IS 100% carbon neutral would stand a chance?
"High performers drive you nuts sometimes. You need to enjoy that. Steer them, frame their objectives, but don't repress them." --Terry Leclair, Senior PD Director at Intuit
"High performers are like 'thoroughbreds'. They require lots of care and feeding - but boy can they run." -- Tobey Corey, Founder US Web
"As a leader you have the obligation to define the 'what' to the nth level - to get to goals for the right level - to make sure the 'what' is right. But you don't want to dictate the 'how'. You want to give the team and the individual the determination of 'how'. -- Pankaj Shukla, VP, Quickbooks PD at Intuit "
"Olivier, perhaps you should stop sharing ideas with people."
_ I'm sorry... what?
"Ideas. I said you should stop sharing them."
_ I'm... not sure I understand what you mean.
"You have a tendency to share ideas. A couple of people here have complained about that."
_ About ideas.
"About the fact that you share them."
_ You're joking.
"No. They've complained to me about it."
"It wouldn't be fair for me to say. A couple of people."
_ Were my ideas... offensive?
"No, they're actually very good. They're fantastic ideas. Everybody really loves them."
_ ... But... this couple of people complain about them anyway.
_ Were they unsolicited ideas?
"No. That isn't the issue."
_ Um... I don't get it.
"It makes them feel that you're telling them how to do their jobs."
_ (Chuckle.) Seriously?
_ How so?
"Frankly, if you can't see it, I'm not sure I want to explain it to you."
_ What ideas are you talking about? I mean, what ideas specifically are you talking about?
"I don't know. I can't think of an example right now."
_ Well... It's kind of important that you do because I really want to understand this. These are good ideas that everyone loves and thinks are great... but a couple of people are complaining about them? I... They must have complained about specific instances. They would have.
"I can't think of one right now. But you should stop sharing ideas with other people. It's just not something everyone is comfortable with here yet. We've been doing things a certain way for fifty years, and not everyone here feels comfortable with change."
_ Um... You do realize that it's my job to actually come up with ideas for products and marketing and business opportunities, right?
_ And that we've already made and saved a lot of money because of these ideas, right?
_No, I mean. That's what I was hired to do. It's my job.
"Yes, I understand that, but these people would like you to just focus more on your other work."
_ That is my work. There is no other work.
"I'm sure there are other things that you do."
_ Actually, no. It starts with the ideas. Without the ideas, there is no work.
"Look, I am just conveying to you what has been brought to my attention. There are people here who have worked very hard over the years to put this place where it is. You have no idea how much we've grown over the last twenty years. The advances that were made before you came. When you share your ideas and it gets back to those people, they feel like you don't appreciate that and are telling them how to do their jobs."
_ You can't be serious.
(Incredulous and condescending look from the HR person) "I honestly have a difficult time believing that you didn't think that something like this would happen."
_ Believe it. Look. I don't know what we're even talking about. Other department managers send me articles about stuff that's marketing related, or design related... I send them stuff too. We have meetings to discuss them. It's a dialogue we have. It's collaborative and enriching. It's simple stuff. Good stuff. I learn, they learn... It's actually a very cool way to be exposed to new ideas, technology, and emerging trends. It helps us get better. It isn't like I say Hey, you're doing this wrong. Do it this way instead. It isn't like that. We share case studies... Most of the modernization in the plant has been a result of this dialogue. Are you telling me that's all been a bad thing?
"They don't like it."
_ So... wait. I still don't get it. Is it the ideas? The delivery? Am I being condescending or arrogant in any way?
"No, no, no. It's nothing like that. They just don't think it's your place to be sharing any ideas."
(Stunned look.) _ Huh?
"Olivier, I am going to be candid with you. You think that we don't see your talents, but we do. We're all very aware that you are years ahead of the curve. Decades, even. That you're smarter and more market and design savvy than anyone here. You are undoubtedly the most articulate and creative person that has ever worked for (this company). Bar-none...."
(picking my chin up from the floor.)
"...But you've only been here three years, and these people have been here for over twenty years. You just haven't paid your dues yet. You need to be patient. When the time comes and you are asked for your input, then maybe your role here will evolve. But right now, you have to understand that some people... who have never worked anywhere else... can feel threatened by someone like you. So you should keep your ideas private. I'm not suggesting that you dumb things down. Just that you... give people time to adjust to the fact that things in the outside world have changed and that they may not have all of the answers."
_ I'm sorry... I'm still stuck on what you said a few minutes ago. So... you guys realize that I have these skills? That I know what I am talking about? That I am right about most of this stuff?
"Yes. We are very aware of that."
_ But... you're asking me to put a lid on it. To stop sharing ideas and no longer participate in the dialogue.
"Until you've been here a lot longer than three years."
_ Like, how long?
"There's no set amount of time. Most of our VPs have been here more than twenty years. One day, if you keep your nose to the grindstone, you might move up the ladder enough."
_ The grindstone? You think I plan on still being here in twenty years, having conversations like this one?
"I've been here almost that long. They've been great years."
_ You know... we don't have twenty years. The market is changing now. Today. Things need to be done this year, not twenty years from now, in order for this company to be successful again. Second, why wait? You have me now. I can do this now. You've seen the work my team has been putting out. The changes we've already brought about. Our customers are coming back, our reps are excited again, we actually have a story to tell now, for the first time in twenty-five years. You would have me stop all of that? Put off innovation for what... ten more years, just because a few people feel uncomfortable with... change?
"Don't worry. (The company) will still be here in ten years and we'll have plenty of time to catch up then."
_ You can't be serious.
"It wouldn't be the first time we've done it."
_ Let me get this straight... you actually realize that I know what needs to be done and how. That I can help you win back a huge chunk of market share... that my team can do all of this... That we can do it now and that there's a need for it now.
"Yes. I do."
_ But... you're asking me to sit back and do nothing.
"Not nothing, no. Just... less. More um... routine work."
_ Until I've paid my dues.
"Until you've paid your dues, yes."
_ And you equate my "paying dues" with sitting on my ass in a back office rather than continuing to make this company loads of money like I have been, and helping put you back on the map?
"It would make things easier for a few key people, yes."
_ And when you hear yourself say this, it sounds reasonable to you?
(Pause.) "I am just telling you how it is, Olivier."
_ That's quite a business model you've got there. Really. You guys should be proud.
"Yes. It's worked well for us over the years."
Conversations like this can be pretty entertaining if you have a sense of humor, but they're also heartbreaking. It's kind of like watching your best friend who had been sober for three years fall off the wagon and start drinking again... Or like watching one of your kids give up on a dream.
It's just sad.
I guess the questions you have to ask yourself are these: Do you really want to work for a company that doesn't value innovation? That refuses to push the boundaries of its comfort zone?
Do you really want to spend your life "safely" tucked in the belly of a slowly sinking ship? (Even if on the outside, the ship looks cool and has a popular name?)
These are serious questions, and yes, you do need to answer them.
Sometimes, doing something, moving the needle, helping make a company great again goes completely against the grain, no matter what the soundbites and taglines say. Lots of companies love to talk the talk when it comes to innovation and growth and taking chances, but very few of them actually walk the walk.
Playing it safe is still the corporate religion.
To quote Jason Oke again:
"Most people are driven more by the desire to avoid failure, and more specifically to avoid blame for failure, rather than a desire to achieve success.
"(...) Most companies compensate people based on short-term growth, rather than long-term vision, and stigmatize failure. Nobody wants to be the person who lost a chunk of shareholder money. Really, how many organizations actively encourage risk-taking and challenging convention? Not a lot."
"I just don’t understand how SVPs of marketing departments can afford to play it safe. Playing it safe means trying to please all the people all of the time. Playing it safe is the bedfellow of “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” (...) It’s the antagonist of courage…and of change. It’s paying attention to office politics. It’s the tradition in traditional advertising. It’s complacent. It’s the same spread in the same pub for the fourth month in a row. Playing it safe has never, ever merited good results. Playing it safe always gets found out. Exposed.
"Playing it safe puts your job in danger. You were not hired to play it safe, were you? I’m not saying that you have to be a loose cannon – but come on. DO something. Will your resume say, “Played it safe at company X for 5 years,” or “Moved the needle. Changed the culture. Pushed the boundaries. Shrunk comfort zones. Made a difference.”
"Is the choice really that tough?
"Marketing can be meaningful. But you have to make it that way."
"I’ve been thinking about this exact point for a while as well. In my experience, it seems that most people are driven more by the desire to avoid failure, and more specifically to avoid blame for failure, rather than a desire to acheive success. Most people would rather have safe 1% growth on their brands than aim for 50% or 100% growth and changing the category, because that entails risk of failure (if it was guaranteed, everyone would have done it already). This is partly driven by the inherently conservative nature of people - people who have kids and mortgages and so on - to not want to put their neck on the line. It’s partly driven by a cultural belief that failure is bad and demeaning, rather than an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s also partly institutional culture and economics - most companies compensate people based on short-term growth, rather than long-term vision, and stigmatize failure. Nobody wants to be the person who lost a chunk of shareholder money. Really, how many organizations actively encourage risk-taking and challenging convention? Not a lot.
"This is why so many decisions are not made by individual judgement, but by committee, or by research. These are structures that mitigate individual responsibility for a decision. I’ve seen people approve something which no one really believes will work because “the research said people liked it” - even if everyone kind of knows the research was flawed. But they approve nonetheless, because if it fails, they’re blameless: “the consumers told us to do it.”
"It takes a brave individual to base a decision on their own judgement, especially in defiance of conventional wisdom or company politics or research. That makes it a rare individual. But these are usually the people who change the world."