Have some extra time on your hands? Use it wisely and get to planning. In this issue of the Insider’s Corner, you’ll learn why planning for an uncertain future begins by asking the right questions.
For more helpful advice, read Peter’s previous post about building trust in troubled times.
However much we may like (or dislike) working from home or in other restricted circumstances, if you are anything like me, you’ll miss the buzz which accompanies normal marketing activity, the stimulating interaction with colleagues and the pressure of the Dâmocles’ sword1 of deadlines chasing you to both the finish and the bottom line.
Having all the extra time on our hands, afforded by the whole or partial imposed quarantine, can certainly create frustration and boredom. But it is also a unique opportunity – one we seldom enjoy, even during vacations – to do some out-of-the-box planning about our business and perhaps even, our personal goals.
Where Will You Be Going, Then?
There is an old joke about a touring couple in a rented car, totally lost in Ireland. Seeing an Irishman walking on the road, they stop and ask for directions. “Where would you be going, then?” the Irishman asks. “To Dublin” the driver answers. “Oh” answers the local after a moment’s reflection, “if I were going to Dublin I wouldn’t be starting from here.”
If we are planning for the future, perhaps we might not like starting from here. But that’s where we are or may be.
A Very Different World
Our normal tendency is, understandably, to plan against known marketing goals and challenges using our existing and externally acquired data to support our planning assumptions. And while that’s certainly no bad thing, it has the tendency to put us back in the traditional box rather than out of it. We know what management traditionally wants and what got us last year’s bonus and promotion.
Imagine now that we emerge from the pandemic into a very different world than we have yet experienced. Imagine that having lived through these difficult times, our traditional marketing dependencies – agencies of record producing promotional materials for clients, internal corporate marketing hierarchies evaluating and accepting, modifying or rejecting the work, traditional media delivering the right number of the right eyeballs at the right cost – have all partially or dramatically changed.
Imagine being lost in that environment and ask yourself how you would plan the future of your marketing efforts and your career. This may be the best time you’ll ever have to address that challenge.
Asking Questions: A Good Starting Point
We are all familiar with the traditional planning paradigm; identification of goals or objectives, development of strategies to achieve them, putting in place the required means and resources, implementing, directing and monitoring all the steps leading to their achievement.
In a world turned upside down (or at least radically changed), we need a good starting point for our planning. Terry Heick from teachthought.com explains that:
Briefly put, questions are more important than answers because questions seek and frame and expose while answers, at their best, are temporary responses whose accuracy changes and shift [sic] and decays over time, needing to be reformed and remade and reevaluated as the world itself changes.2
The ’Harvard Business Review’ describes it this way:
Deep uncertainty merits deep questions, and the answers aren’t necessarily tied to a fixed date in the future. Where do you want to have impact? What will it take to achieve success?3
Noting the increasingly longer life of Americans, in 2014, Bank of America asked itself the open-ended question: how will this longer lifetime change the financial landscape? It was the starting point for the development of a plan. And it was the same kind of question that might get you started. What do you want to know that would change your current perspective?
You might try this exercise.
Ask yourself: If I had the responsibility for marketing a product or service in the unknown post-pandemic environment, getting from here to Dublin, so to speak:
There’s a planning challenge to keep you from going stir crazy.
I’d appreciate your thoughts, please leave them in the Comments below or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org