Why brands will always need some outside research and creative genius

A fish can't see the water it swim in, neither can an organisation

A fish can’t see the water it swim in, neither can an organisation

I am often told by marketing professionals, that when  a new comer enters an organisation they have about 6 months to be perceived as the credible outsider bringing in learning and insights. Everyone is all ears, hoping to adopt the precious new information. After that time, their value  and world view, shifts to one of  an insider with an insider’s perspective. The business now needs another outsider to provide them a window to the world. It is very difficult, if not impossible to implement a growth strategy exclusively  based on the skills and knowledge of inside staff.

It isn’t long before the “insider” loses some perspective as they become part of the organisational world view, like an invisible sea that holds us in place, blind sighting us to opportunities that may be in front of our nose, that an outsider can pinpoint in a second. Just like a family system, we are held by its trance. The history, culture, self  image, engagement and leadership strategies start to over take the new comer’s mind, and the  new comer becomes the insider as they succumb to the organisational trance. To stop ourselves becoming victims to past organisational failure and underperformance, we need the outsider opinion. Through research we can use the customer as a critical outsider opinion.

Making this an imperative, is the rate of change of marketing and brand innovation. Experts in social media and digital strategy need to refresh their skills daily, the rate of change in a business year 10 years ago, can be achieved in under 3 months today. To make matters worse, when we have conducted Marketing Decision Maker research, we have found that they are often locked into models of the world that are 4 year to 6 years old. Unless insiders make a commitment to keep up through ongoing professional development, they simply rust. To keep current and to keep up the pace, a marketing decision maker needs to both invest in their own professional development and work with the outside subject matter expert.

In order to grow, a business needs to not only draw its expertise from inside but to take on an outsider’s perspective. Outsiders that work across other categories and have a deep subject matter expertise, are critical for ongoing growth. Exposure to the lessons of other categories allow us to walk where others have walked before, be first in our own category and minimise our risks around innovation and growth.

Authentic deep subject matter expertise is required. Don’t be fooled by sweet talking consultants, always dig beneath the surface to see what they really know. Be warned against consultants that claim deep subject matter expertise without having 10,000 hours experience. As Malcolm Gladwell says in the Outliers it takes 10,000 hours to become a Master. Businesses and consultants who claim to be experts in everything are likely to be experts in none. Look at the cold hard facts of past successes and speak to referees. When I skip this process, or my clients do, they are burnt more often than not.

Think about your team of trusted advisors of outside experts. While outside expertise often costs more than insiders on a daily basis, their knowledge can take you from A to B in a much faster time frame, speeding up results in project delivery and outcomes often over twofold or manifold. In addition to that, there is the issue of risk management, working with experts with proven pathways can reduce growth liabilities from the order of millions of dollars to tens of thousands.

Keep the door open, make a space in your diary to get to know outsiders that could be of value. Every now and again, take a fresh approach with some new outsider talent. Innovation is moving so fast we need to be our own laboratory if we are to keep ahead. We can’t wait for the market to prove it before us and become a laggard, we need to be First Movers or Fast Followers if we are to compete. There is no margin for the  stale “me too” players, a brand needs a point of difference to win, and they need the outsiders perspective.

Louise Kelly in the Millinery Shop, Kandos in the Greater Blue Mountains

Louise Kelly in the Millinery Shop, Kandos in the Greater Blue Mountains

Louise Kelly

Managing Director


Founder Thought Leaders Circle


One thought on “Why brands will always need some outside research and creative genius

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