By Mark Dominiak
Special to TelevisionWeek
In January we began to cover subject matter designed to help media planners use growth principles to raise the bar on planning efforts. The first two discussions focused on time and environmental change. Last month we discussed the importance of making two critical decisions in the face of environmental change: committing to change and seeing opportunities instead of problems.
Even if perspective can be maintained to make tough critical decisions in the face of changing environments, without careful consideration, we can become our own worst enemies with regard to attaining real growth.
At the point we know we need to right a situation and we want to take action, we are disposed to roll up our sleeves and do something about it. But in a changed environment, proactive orientation can become a dangerous blind spot.
Our confidence, knowledge and skills give us the illusion we do not need to look outside of ourselves to address changing circumstances. The inherent problem is that the marketplace has changed. Circumstances under which we previously flourished are now different than those we had mastered, and we do not likely have the acumen necessary within ourselves to address the new environment.
While it’s difficult, we must with humility and maturity realize we are dealing with circumstances beyond our experience and bravely reach out to others for a helping hand.
The Maturity Continuum
One of the powerful insights Stephen Covey shares in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is the construct of the maturity continuum. The maturity continuum has three basic phases: dependence, independence and interdependence.
As infants, human beings are entirely dependent on others for their needs and survival. As we age, we learn, grow and become more independent, gaining skills and capabilities required to obtain things we need or want for ourselves. But at some point, we gain the maturity to realize that higher levels of success cannot be achieved unless we develop relationships with and work with others.
From a business or career perspective, changing market environments are exactly a situation calling for us to step up and work interdependently with others. Acknowledging the need for help from another individual or organization is a courageous step for anyone, but it is one that must be taken to truly grow. Interdependent effort combines skills, generating more than was there before-the very definition of growth.
In their book “Every Business Is a Growth Business,” Ram Charan and Noel Tichy describe Dell as an organization that has demonstrated the fundamental of reaching out to others to facilitate growth. In the early ’90s Dell experienced a critical point in the company’s development. Pursuit of growth by managing profit was becoming institutionalized. Wall Street was beginning to question Dell’s ability to generate true growth at a time when the category was booming.
Dell changed executive-level perspective by infusing management with senior talent from Motorola, HP and Apple. The new managers brought outside perspective to the organization and helped Dell leadership see the world differently. What Dell learned from mining its new resources enabled it to adapt to marketplace changes in a positive way. Dell’s market results followed accordingly.
Benefits of Interdependence
Working with others is imperative in facilitating growth because it opens the door to advantages we as individuals cannot obtain through our own efforts: new perspective; new tools, like information, skills and contacts; and division of labor
Perhaps the most important advantage gained in working with others is the benefit of new perspective. When we become ingrained with habits and practices learned from plying a successful approach in a familiar environment, we come to see every problem in the same light. Over time we unwittingly constrain our perspective into the limited fishbowl of our experience.
Working with others, we gain the benefit of the perspective they have from outside our fishbowl. If we are open to listening and understanding, we allow ourselves to see situations from a completely different point of view. We get a better sense of the forest, not just the trees.
New perspective is valuable for two reasons. First, problems posed by changing environments are viewed more completely, which means we come to better understand what we are facing. Second, we gain a better sense of what is possible given the situation. Being better informed in these two ways helps generate positive energy that can be used for growth.
If one doesn’t have the acumen necessary to address the new environment, acumen must be obtained from an outside source to successfully adapt. When we work with others, they become the source of the new information, skills and even contacts we need to grow. We don’t have problems in our personal lives going to doctors, lawyers, accountants or mechanics for help. We shouldn’t feel shy about reaching out to specialists in other facets of media, advertising or marketing when we face unfamiliar situations while plying our trade.
It’s also important to note that working with others is not a one-way street. People with specialties in other areas will also benefit from their interactions with us.
That reciprocity is the essence of interdependence at the pinnacle of the maturity continuum and a key to advancing through the growth process.
Division of Labor
Having more hands available to bear the burden lightens the load. The stress of having to complete a task alone can be significant. When multiple parties pitch in on tasks, not only can work be done more quickly, alleviating time pressures, but the resulting participatory camaraderie also boosts morale.
How can media people do a better job of reaching out and bring others into the planning process to find the help we may need? As the critical decision-making discussion suggested, once we commit to a change orientation and begin to see the opportunities before us, the first thing to do is to reach out for assistance.
In media planning, there are a number of occasions ripe for partnership:
In reality, planners can’t possibly know as much about properties or possibilities as reps do. And not every rep is out simply for the largest percentage of the buy they can get. A deeper, inf
ormative conversation with reps more often than not results in unexpected ideas or solutions in using properties that planners may not have realized were possible.
Another idea is to submit requests to properties that seem odd for the plan and engage those reps in conversation. Because their perspective is so different, surprising insights can come from those conversations.
Buying a small organization with needed skills and assets or partnering with someone for the short-term may be exactly the solution for the situation. If practical, it will certainly yield results by exposing the planning team to others with different skills and perspective.
Growth, however, does not occur simply because we work with or are exposed to the skills, knowledge and perspective of others. In order to truly grow, we must learn and understand the skills, knowledge and perspective. Sometimes that’s a more difficult proposition than we realize. We’ll dive into that subject next month.
Mark Dominiak is principal strategist of marketing, communication and context for Insight Garden.