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Stop, Collaborate and Listen: How Leaders Tackle Tough Business Challenges

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 6/11/2015 Andrew Graff
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How do you navigate those most difficult business challenges if you're an advertising agency or a brand marketer? By focusing on the end goal, and then hiring great people and allowing them to problem solve in a winning environment.
If you do that well, your challenges will be met. And you won't have to actively recruit, because great talent (and big ideas) will find you. Or so said a panel of world-class talent experts I recently had the privilege to moderate.
Here are the top 5 tips I heard from Umang Shah (Global Director of Digital Marketing and Innovation at Campbell's), Vin Farrell (Global Chief Content Officer at Havas Worldwide) and Michelle Hoover (Director of Corporate Training at General Assembly).
Work together. From the start.
Creative collaboration is all about teamwork. When advertising agencies and their clients agree on an engagement strategy from the start, in pursuit of discovering something that hasn't been done before, magic happens. Often this means enlisting thinkers who aren't necessarily immersed in the every day who can think about things differently, who can push toward uncharted territory together. And bringing in the client, early, because they usually understand the brand better than anyone else.
Hire wisely. And then live up to the hype.
Start by throwing those old school naming conventions out the window. Recruit new talent around mindset, and commit to that change when thinking about what you're looking for when recruiting the talent of the future. Create job descriptions that deliver on the engagement you're trying to create, and commit to recruiting against them. Rent the Runway's Chief Disruptive Innovation Officer certainly lives up to the hype as do the IT Pro Evangelists at Microsoft.
Create a culture where people want to come to work every day. And realize there's not just one way to do it. People want to push boundaries and if they're allowed to, they'll want to come to work every day to play that way. So don't be afraid to create new positions and new titles that challenge that new way of thinking. Clients will embrace it, and if you deliver capabilities and solutions that pay off these hires that they haven't seen before, they should reward you by paying for it.
Fail fast. Recover faster.
When you've never done something before, use that as a learning opportunity from the start. Take chances on discovering the unknown, (potentially) fail fast and then recover even faster. Coping and then recovering from failure will enable you to make something greater than you ever could have imagined, and deliver work that'll take your clients to places they haven't been to before.
To Umang, it's important to instill a corporate culture where you actually force failure, as long as you redefine the word and make sure your team understands that it's about taking a risk and not being afraid. Because that's when you sway from the norm and end up creating something that's never been seen before. One of the key metrics at Campbell's marketing innovation lab is that his success rate should never be calculated at 100%, that failure should in fact be expected to happen...and then it should happen. If it doesn't, then the team isn't trying hard enough. Failure should always be a necessary expectation and can lead to greatness.
From an advertising agency perspective, according to Vin, you've got to be ready to get in the trenches on every project, remain nimble, and put the right experts and makers in place from the start. If you always remain strategic, and keep up with the changing business model, then that's how you stay out ahead as agencies, rather than merely just exist as brokers for brands.
Be innovative. But be smart about it.
Don't innovate just to innovate. Be smart about what you bring to the table, whether you're client side, or an agency partner. For Umang, this means trusting an advertising agency partner to do what's expected of them first, and to do it well. Then entering uncharted territory together becomes easier, and more encouraging. When they come back with interesting ideas they don't think anyone else will buy, chances are higher when the proof is there already. And if the insight is right, and the emerging technology delivers on that consumer need, then that's when the idea comes together and everyone moves forward together.
Plan now for the future.
At the end of the day, we need to change the way we operate. In order to survive, and then thrive, we need to re-evaluate our infrastructure and then prove to our clients, and our colleagues, that we know what we're doing. At Havas, and at A&G, it's important to be subject matter experts in our fields. To recruit top talent, at every level, top down, bottom up, and then prove we can be nimble, agile and that the teams we put in place to solve our clients' business challenges are worth the investment.
And when there's an additional need to seek out the right thinkers to put against those challenges, employing a strategic talent development partner like Michelle Hoover from General Assembly's Enterprise business to entrust with strategy, and allowing them to think about how mindset, behavior and skillset can be applied to growing human capital at any organization that prides itself on a think/make culture can only make us stronger.
Uncharted territory is our playground. It can be a scary place, but when we challenge the status quo together, we create work that's truly awe-inspiring. That pushes us to all work harder, and that helps us all be better places to work. Which is always the best place to be.

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