Is a marketing team different than any other workgroup? Sort of.
Marketing is one of those disciplines that can look easier than it is. Those who are great at it are constantly updating their tactics to stay fresh and continually grab attention. They stay on top of breaking news; customer feedback; new technologies and media; and the vast amount of first-, second- and third-party data. The best marketers then consolidate all the ingredients into integrated, immersive programs to achieve the company’s goals.
Because marketing teams do not produce traditional widgets, a truly great marketing team will be extremely diverse. Ideally, marketing teams leverage data to come up with concepts that deliver results — revenue, users, subscribers, customer experience and more. They use words and visuals in select mediums to encourage desired actions. This requires that the team have strengths in analytics, creative design, content development, project management, marketing communications, product development and cross-functional leadership. The one skill that cut across all functions is creativity. (Yes, data scientists and project managers are just as creative as designers and writers.)
Managing such a diverse team can be a challenge, but surprisingly, it is not too different than managing other groups of people. According to R. Keith Sawyer, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, anyone can learn to be creative, and good creativity is further stimulated by working with other people. But for businesses trying to create a dynamic, productive atmosphere for their creative teams, here’s how to start:
Overall, optimizing a marketing team’s performance can be tricky. Good managers can find a way to do so, such as how people rank individually and collectively on department goals. Better managers will find ways to not only quantify everyone’s efforts but foster a dynamic culture — it’s going to take time and buy-in, but the results can create a solid, efficient team.
Steve Jobs is widely regarded as one of the most creative business owners in American history. Not only was he one of the “founding fathers” of the personal computer era, but he was able to take a struggling company – Apple – and set it on a trajectory to become the company with the highest valuation in the world (as of March 31, 2014).
In 1982, Jobs won the Golden Plate award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington D.C. During that speech, Jobs discussed his theory on creativity, which essentially boiled down to emphasizing the importance of unique and wide-ranging experiences. Few dispute the validity and value of that lesson; however, many have sought out a more concrete way to understand creativity – both where it comes from, and how we can generate it more reliably.
Recently, an article from the Columbia Business School addressed the very question of whether scientific principles can be applied to creativity. Can science, in fact, be at the foundation of creativity?
In the article, the author indirectly expands on the ideas that Jobs shared more than three decades earlier. However, instead of simply relying on personal experiences, the act of reading and learning from the experiences of others can be used to generate creative ideas. Creative ideas don’t simply come “out of the blue,” the author states. Instead, they are built on the great ideas that came before them. This principle is self-evident from the very fact that this author was likely influenced – whether directly or indirectly – by the speech Jobs gave in 1982, and the creative business philosophy Jobs engaged in during his life.
The article also discusses a study conducted by Professor Oded Netzer, who was able to uncover a “schematic link between the various components of an idea and its perceived creativity.” In the study, which was fairly involved (and can be read about in greater detail by clicking here), Netzer was able to make several conclusions.
The results of Netzer’s study are obviously on the cutting edge, and it will probably take some time before the ideas truly take hold in the mainstream. Nevertheless, there are a number of lessons from the study that marketers can use in their own efforts.
Most importantly, marketers who want to be innovative and creative must have a strong sense of balance between novel and familiar ideas. Too much in either direction will lead to suboptimal effectiveness.
Beyond that, everyone (marketer or otherwise) can learn from the inherent truth found in the study — namely, that many things in life (marketing and business included) require a level of “harmony and balance” if they are to be successful. While this might seem a bit too philosophical for some, those who are able to internalize these ideas will be combining the best parts of science, business, and innovation into their own lives.