The idea of going blind is one of the things I’ve always feared the most. That is, until I briefly experienced it.
I was only blindfolded for 20 minutes, but it was enough to give me a new perspective. As part of an experiential workshop at Stanford University, I had to walk with my eyes closed and be led by someone else who was not allowed to talk or have physical contact with me. It was scary, to say the least.
As soon as I overcame my fear, I noticed new smells and sounds and experienced time passing. I discovered new things because I was out of my comfort zone. I embraced a new perspective.
In the marketing industry most of us are blind, but we don’t realize it. We believe we are good at understanding people, but most of the time we assume everyone shares our vision of the world.
That’s why I make a conscious habit to constantly push my team and myself out of the comfort zone. Instead of drinking our own Kool-Aid and seeing things as we always have, we should take measures to see things from different perspectives. It’s not easy. But the more you push people out of old habits, the more resistance you get.
Turning outsiders into insiders
Fresh eyes are, like common sense, not so common. Involving someone who wasn’t involved in a particular project or, better yet, someone with no experience in the matter can always see things that the rest of us normally are missing. Harvard Business School professor Karin Lakhanin discovered this in his research on problem solving — that the farther a problem was from the expert, the more likely that expert was to solve it.
As an industry, if we are not hitting more resistance, it is because we are not pushing hard. We tend to idealize startup culture, but are still risk averse. Nine out of 10 startups fail, according to Fortune, which is clear evidence of how hard startups are open to experimentation. Thanks to our friends at Impact Engine, we meet with different startups on a weekly basis to provide them with advice on business and marketing.
Seeing how a company is willing to go through their business model to start again, or how brands are built without conventional marketing is eye-opening.
Experimenting with new ways of working can help here. A couple of months ago, we started testing professional messaging app Slack to streamline our team’s communication and increase collaboration. We hit a lot of resistance, especially from the more senior team members.
But as time went by, people started to feel that the experience of a mobile-based work app was more similar to what they are used to in their personal digital lives. It wasn’t until this point adoption accelerated, increasing collaboration and drastically reducing the number of meetings.
Plenty of people in our industry, unfortunately, still believe that the creative department is the sole engine of creativity. And, that seasoned professionals have all of the answers. This hierarchical approach creates a vacuum that jeopardizes real creativity. Experimenting with projects where team members are chosen by skills or mindsets rather than by their specific disciplines definitely increases collaboration.
Azul 7, a human-centered design firm out of Minneapolis, has a very interesting approach to this problem. Once a team comes up with an idea, the "concept" is passed on to a different new team. The latter not only provides fresh eyes but, because they don't have emotional ownership, they have more freedom to take the original idea much further.
It’s worth remembering that clients can bring a different perspective, too; they are not only there to approve the work or pay the bills. They focus on different aspects of the business and can help make ideas bulletproof. They’re the ones who have the most vested interests in the campaigns. Involving clients throughout the process — sometimes in specific phases and, in other cases, from beginning to end — can drive great success.
Gustavo Razzetti is the managing director at Lapiz.