A Re­nais­sance take on di­ver­sity; Sharp lessons on brand­ing; and Ger­man in­no­va­tion

The Australian - The Deal - - News - An­drew Bax­ter An­drew Bax­ter is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Publi­cis Aus­tralia. @an­drew­bax­ter3

IDEATION, in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity: all closely in­ter­twined, all highly sub­jec­tive, and all with­out a guar­an­tee of suc­cess. Yet at the end of last year, 79 per cent of se­nior busi­ness lead­ers ranked in­no­va­tion as among the top three pri­or­i­ties at their com­pany, the high­est per­cent­age since Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group be­gan ask­ing that ques­tion 10 years ago.

So how do mar­keters max­imise their ef­forts around ideation, in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity? How do they give them­selves the best chance of suc­cess?

The 1990s cel­e­brated the the­ory that two heads are bet­ter than one, three heads are bet­ter than two, and so forth. This led to the brain­storm­ing phe­nom­e­non: put a bunch of your team in a room, fa­cil­i­tated or not fa­cil­i­tated, and great ideas will emerge.

Ed­ward De Bono de­vel­oped a more struc­tured ver­sion of this: his brain­storm­ers wore dif­fer­ent coloured hats. “Don’t be a black hat” en­tered the ver­nac­u­lar, and busi­ness scram­bled to adopt the sys­tem.

As we en­tered the 2000s, two other the­o­ries and prac­tices gath­ered mo­men­tum. The first, pop­u­larised by Stan­ford Univer­sity alumni, is called de­sign think­ing. It’s so­lu­tion-fo­cused think­ing based on a goal, not a prob­lem; an it­er­a­tive process, de­lib­er­ately look­ing for al­ter­na­tive points of view be­fore hon­ing them down. IDEO is the most well-known con­sult­ing firm us­ing this method.

The se­cond idea looks back 500 years to the Re­nais­sance, and is called the Medici Ef­fect. It’s what hap­pened when the Medici fam­ily brought di­verse thinkers into their house to work or sim­ply to share din­ner. Names such as Leonardo, Michelan­gelo, Donatello, Botticelli and Galileo Galilei; artists, sci­en­tists, bankers, philoso­phers, lawyers and politi­cians. A meet­ing of cul­tures, ed­u­ca­tions, ex­pe­ri­ences, skills, con­cepts and work dis­ci­plines.

It was like that din­ner party that was un­ex­pect­edly mem­o­rable be­cause you met three new in­ter­est­ing peo­ple. The con­ver­sa­tion bounced with ex­cite­ment, build­ing on the thoughts of oth­ers and dis­cov­er­ing new ideas. That’s the Medici Ef­fect.

How does it ap­ply in mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions? For a mass brand such as Pepsi, if 23 per cent of Aus­tralia’s pop­u­la­tion doesn’t speak English as a first lan­guage, who’s pro­vid­ing their per­spec­tive? Half the pop­u­la­tion is male and half is fe­male, so who’s cov­er­ing both points of view? Twenty per cent are un­der 18, and 15 per cent are over 65. Three per cent are gay. You get the pic­ture.

As Brad Jake­man, one of Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful mar­keters and now pres­i­dent of Global Bev­er­ages at Pepsi, said at a re­cent con­fer­ence: “I am sick and tired as a client of sit­ting in agency meet­ings with a whole bunch of white straight males talk­ing to me about how we are go­ing to sell our brands that are bought 85 per cent by women. In­no­va­tion and dis­rup­tion does not come from ho­mo­ge­neous groups of peo­ple.”

This was backed up by an­other lead­ing Aus­tralian mar­keter, Citibank’s global head of so­cial, con­tent and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, Linda Dun­combe, who said in CMO Mag­a­zine re­cently: “You need your team to re­flect your cus­tomer base in terms of age, us­age, de­mo­graph­ics and more.”

The Medici Ef­fect was first coined by Frans Jo­hans­son in 2004. He be­lieves the Medici Ef­fect is “what hap­pens when peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds in­ter­act to un­leash new ideas, new in­no­va­tions and new and cre­ative ap­proaches … and is the sin­gle best way to cre­ate mar­ket share, profit mar­gin and cost sav­ings”.

The need for di­ver­sity within mar­ket­ing teams, com­mu­ni­ca­tions agen­cies, com­pany lead­er­ship and boards is not a po­lit­i­cally cor­rect cause; it’s com­mon sense and good busi­ness if you want great ideation, in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity. The sta­tis­tics back it up. ASX500 com­pa­nies with women di­rec­tors de­liver a 6.7 per cent higher re­turn on equity than those with­out women on their boards.

A re­cent PWC re­port notes that “al­most four in ev­ery 10 CEOs in Aus­tralia are mak­ing changes to their di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion strat­egy in or­der to at­tract and keep the tal­ent they need to re­main rel­e­vant and com­pet­i­tive”. That leaves 60 per cent who aren’t. And if they con­tinue to ig­nore the power of di­verse think­ing, they will also con­tinue to fall well be­hind their com­peti­tors.

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