Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is Your Company Fearless?

One of the most interesting things I’ve experienced during the past couple months of career transition is the inherent trepidation around decision-making and the culture of fear permeating many organizations. Perhaps it’s the economy? Maybe it’s the seismic shift in power to the masses with the advent of social media? Maybe it’s both, with some other things thrown in? Whatever the cause, there seems to be an epidemic of fear-driven, analysis paralysis throughout all areas of business, which effectively crushes innovation, creativity and authenticity.

A good indication of fear-driven mentality is the continuous reliance on comparative judgment to make decisions and bring on new talent. Many industries are trapped in role definitions that effectively frame their position requirements and organizations into a box, creating a culture and operational paradigm focused on the status quo. And let’s face it; this world isn’t standing still, so if your company is, you are actually moving in reverse.

In the world of marketing and creative communications, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many agencies continue to rely on their world of revolving talent, design rhetoric and self-promotional award shows to maintain a feeling of control in an industry that’s in a state of complete revolution. They look to the old-school, old-boys network, with their polished marble palaces and ridiculous client fees as sources of inspiration and aspiration.

Meanwhile, they push off the heavy lifting to their publishing ‘partners’, not learning a thing about how to execute convergence media programs or the underlying technology - nor how to strategically assemble vendors and platforms to create seamless consumer experiences for their clients.

I’ve heard expressed sentiment from many on the client/brand side who feel as though agencies are becoming redundant through their apathy and archaic focus on the pre-existing models of profitability and media margins. Many agencies in this jet-fueled world of rapidly developing technology and communication platforms simply refuse to accept that this model of shifting paper and writing reams of rhetorical briefs in every shape and form around traditional approaches to brand communication is just not sustainable.

As consumer power proliferates, and communication models shift, the brands and agencies who redefine the talent acquisition process and criteria through which they select their people and keep them engaged, are the ones who will emerge victorious.

It’s like the elite athlete – the sprinter – coming down the finish line, neck and neck with her most fierce rival – the minute she turns to look at her position in relation to her nemesis, her foe internalizes every bit of effort to look at the tape and charge ahead to win, while our heroine looks over in astonished dismay.

Now, that’s not to say we shouldn’t do a SWAT analysis on new hires, projects and products. Rather, in addition, there needs to be a cultural analysis on both a micro and macro level in order to meet the demands of this rapidly changing world and the many forms of workplace that inhabit it and compete for consumer dollars, clients and talent. Companies need to focus on people first and look ahead, not to the side.

People work. People talk. People decide. People create. People innovate.

If someone has a history of developing product that meets and exceeds goals then does it really matter if s/he hasn’t managed a P&L in excess of $10M? And if an individual’s direct reports, managers, and clients rave about that individual’s leadership skills and ability to build and maintain a refreshing and engaging work culture, how is the number of direct reports really relevant to success?

If your criteria are based on numbers, perhaps it’s time to start thinking in words and begin a conversation about your own company’s culture, thinking deeply about how fear is framing your decision-making processes.

The fearless are the ones winning and the ones who define the new world order of business and work culture. Like people, every company is different and has a different way of defining culture, evolution and success. Some are brutally Darwinian, others spiritually driven by faith, but it’s fearlessness to embrace the company culture and resonate that throughout every aspect of the brand that creates this holistic synergy, without the specter of fear, trampling on progress and harmony. The fearless snap up talent that go beyond numbers and who understand the value of human relationships.

The antonym of fear is love. Love is all things light and positive, while fear resides in darkness.

Follow your hearts. Define your culture, your company, your people, your products and your customers by the love you have for what you do. And if you don’t truly love what you do, what are you waiting for? Start the culture of change today and make fear a thing of the past.

Thanks for reading.

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