Evolutionary steps

The interesting thing about human evolutionary steps is that, contrary to popular conception, they don’t happen over the course of thousands of years.  They happen suddenly as if Mother Nature has been considering improvements for a long time, ponders on it and then actions it.

It is with these thoughts in mind that we were considering how insight teams need to be organised to deliver a coherent knowledge offering in today’s world.  Is a sudden and effective evolutionary step needed?  And, if change is needed in client side teams, do agency teams also need to evolve to support them more effectively?

How are insight teams formed?

Insight teams seem to be comprised of individuals with broadly the same set of skills deployed onto a brand or category (a bit like a football team made up completely by midfielders).  It is frequently a cookie-cutter approach.  And yet, as we all know, there have been increasing and consistent calls for us to be more like consultants; storytellers; visionaries; leaders; change-agents and creatives.

(Interestingly, no one seems to be asking us to be better with data. Why?) So, is it even possible for one individual to be good with data and have all the capabilities listed above?  I don’t think so but I do believe our next evolutionary step is for a blend of these capabilities across teams.  Most sports teams are made up of individuals with the same core skills but with specialist areas as well (defenders, midfield, strikers).  Can insight teams evolve the same way? 

Brand Learning recently re-examined the role of marketing in a highly dynamic and changing world and identified the need for four capabilities  (the 4S Marketers™) that are as relevant to insight as they are to marketing:

Scientists – work with latest techniques and sources to collect knowledge

Strategists – shape strategies focussed on the customer experience

Storybuilders – create  stories to engage internal and external customers

Socialisers – spread the stories and evolve them as customers engage and results are measured

This does not mean that all insight professionals naturally fall into Scientists, but there is a natural leaning towards that capability.  In truth individuals typically have a leading strength and that strength is enhanced with additional skills such as strategising and storybuilding.  And while socialisers aren’t always critical for insight  teams, the rise in realtime data as campaigns are implemented, mean they often need insight teams’ support.

The implication for insight leaders is that they need to ensure their whole team cover these four key capabilities in a balanced and blended way.  For agencies the opportunity is to offer activities that support the delivery of all these capabilities and not to solely focus on knowledge delivery.  For example, there is no better source of story-building content than one-to-one time with customers in their world.  Agencies can organise this, bring an insight team together to workshop, share and rehearse their stories so that they go back into the business with engaging sound bites and examples that bring knowledge to life in compelling and meaningful way.

Brand Learning has worked with many businesses to consider how they need to be designed to be organised around their customers.  To ensure their view is outside-in not inside-out and to develop exactly these capabilities.  It has led to new roles with new titles and new profiles to align the teams to be more relevant and effective.  Those businesses are recognising the need for an evolutionary step.

If you were to consider your own professional evolutionary step – what step would you take? Take our quiz to find out which 4S Marketer™ you are.

Originally published in Impact Magazine

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