Will Isolation Kill Creativity and Innovation — Or Reinvigorate Us?

As the pandemic continues to isolate many, we have to wonder if this isolation will eat away at our creativity and innovation — the fuel that great marketers live off of. Or, will it reinvigorate us?

Happy Memorial Day 2020. To say the least, I salute our fallen soldiers and sailors. They matter greatly to us. This year, of course, we know of another “frontline” of warriors battling a grave threat. We’re also thinking of them — some of whom have succumbed. We mourn and are humbled by their sacrifice, too. Fighting and dying to protect us. Fighting and dying to preserve our freedoms.

Continued adherence to local public health mandates for social distancing and isolation is perhaps the best way we can honor these heroes. We cannot let down our home guard.

And yet, it’s the unofficial start of summer. And my mind and body are eager for familiar patterns this time of year — in a world that is anything but familiar. Much of what I love about late spring inevitably means 1) making plans to go places — and then going; 2) sharing experiences; and 3) taking “down time” to refresh and reinvigorate.

Every one of these activities feeds our creativity. Every one is a sum greater than its parts. True, like a good book, our immersion in virtual experiences can launch our minds and imaginations in new ways.

Graph Showing American Vacation Plans for 2020 with COVID impacts
Credit: eMarketer, April 2020

Yet, it’s also true that hand-to-hand exchanges, encountering new faces and places, and human contact rev up the creativity meter that much more.

I’m fortunate to be a knowledge worker. I have a job. I am able to work remotely with initiative — and get assignments accomplished, and I’m absolutely thankful to have my life and livelihood. But as the cold weather finally has faded away, we need to start our summer.

A Creativity Pact — Isolation That Inspires

So let’s make a pact. This will be our most creative summer ever, because:

We’re going to challenge ourselves to find the silver lining — sun, rain or in-between. They’re plenty of them: “rediscovering” our family relationships and our immediate neighbors, and appreciating them for their quirks and gifts.

I know this sounds strange, but I’ve spent more time studying my family … and I’m grateful for the time we’ve had on top of each other. It’s as though my office mates — who I sometimes think of as family — just became Zoom mates, and my “real” family recaptured the role they were always meant to have. I’ve been re-grounded in family values.

We’re going to go places. They just likely will be near and nearer. Some believe globalism just died, and that supply chains, politics, networks and communities have been forced into isolationism. Some are even celebrating this fact. Tsk, tsk.

I work in the world of data, and silos are NEVER a good thing. So we must commit ourselves to “Think Global, Act Local” — and let the innovations flow. Balkanizations never produced anything worth emulating. So protect that down time, and use it locally.

Find five area points of interest — a state or national park, a bike or hiking trail, a new neighborhood, a vista, an outdoor venue and go there — anywhere that gives you time to breathe, think and share safe distances to both people and nature watch. Observations produce revelations.

We’re going to find new ways to “share” that stimulates the brain. What might you do on those Google Hangouts to provoke the unexpected? Wear a funny hat. Display an aspirational background. Show some personality. Provoke.

I’m about to engage a summer intern, virtually, for the next 10 weeks. And, with my colleagues, it’s going to take a collective effort to make this new normal one where “remote” learning will be anything but boring. So on each call, there will be at least one external experience — non-work — to share. To exchange an idea is a gift — and we need to be in giving mood.

I’m ready to be invigorated. Aren’t you? This pandemic offers us new opportunities to take our familiar summer themes in whole new directions. Let’s discover them — and be very grateful for our ability to make better this unprecedented time.

 

My LinkedIn Error – Brought to You by a Thumb

Recently, I was on a train when I saw a connection request on LinkedIn from a former colleague of mine initiating a job search. Upon having accepted, LinkedIn sends a confirmation that includes a search and listing of all your email contacts and asks if you want to send out connection requests to them, as well.

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Well in my increasingly cross-screen world, I made a big mistake with my LinkedIn profile thankfully, I was able to undo it.

Recently, I was on a train when I saw a connection request on LinkedIn from a former colleague of mine who is initiating a job search. I accepted her connection request, using my smartphone LinkedIn interface. (I don’t even know if I was in app mode or mobile Web.)

Upon having accepted, LinkedIn (by default) sends you a confirmation page, that includes a search and listing of all your email contacts that match up to LinkedIn profiles elsewhere (and probably many more email addresses that don’t correspond) and asks if you want to send out connection requests to these emails, as well. I hate that “they” do this.

A mistake waiting to happen. I emphatically do not want that to happen.

I don’t know if it was my thumb fumbling on a small screen or some other missed button when I was attempting the close the page, but lo and behold, all these email addresses were then sent a generic connection request.

There Goes the Neighborhood

Just like that. Hundreds of invites sent to people I may only have interacted with  who had found their way into my contacts. Bam, the invites go out. No intervention from LinkedIn asking me to confirm this hefty request.

Just like that. Six years of carefully curating my LinkedIn profile for business-to-business networking and communications with people with whom I am familiar and trust … gone (for the moment).

Needless to say, when I got back to my laptop later I was able to login on a larger screen without issue, and spot how to rescind a sent invitation. By that time, only a few near-strangers had accepted my inadvertent request and I was able to undo nearly 300 others. Whew!

What does LinkedIn gain by having so many tangential contacts of mine so easily added to my network? Well, be assured, I dug deeper into settings to undo any LinkedIn syncing of contacts I had had with my phone and email accounts.

So, more or less, one inadvertent mobile on-the-go mistake was undone. And my business-to-business LinkedIn network is more or less restored. Well, a little less restored.

Do you ever have those digital or mobile moments where a “submit” or “return” or “enter” button just mysteriously sets itself off? Sometimes, a back button or Control Z gets a return to normal without incident.

Wrap it up. When my credit card bill comes for my online Christmas shopping, I’m certain there will be a few more regrettable miscues with my thumb!

I hope they were Happy Holidays for all!

10 Tips for Your Career in Marketing

Having been happily self-employed for half my marketing career, I hesitate to give career advice. But when asked, I have plenty of opinions to share on how to grow and thrive as a marketing professional. Here are 10 tips for your career in marketing that I wish someone had shared with me years ago.

Having been happily self-employed for half my marketing career, I hesitate to give career advice. But when asked, I have plenty of opinions to share on how to grow and thrive as a marketing professional. These are tips for your career in marketing that I wish someone had shared with me years ago. This subject came up for me as I was interviewed by Jim Obermayer of the Sales Lead Management Association recently on “Five Lessons in Business and Life.” In conversation with Jim, I enjoyed looking back on my professional life and drawing some conclusions. Delighted to share herewith.

  1. Start your career in a small company, where you can make small mistakes, and get broad exposure to a variety of sales and marketing functions.
  2. Fail fast. The Silicon Valley folks are right about that. If you find yourself in a dead-end job, or in a culture where you don’t fit, don’t wait around hoping it will get better. Be proactive and make a change.
  3. Make friends in business. Your business connections will serve you well over time, not only for career purposes, but also for your emotional and social life. Invest in building and sustaining friendships.
  4. Don’t make enemies. Life is too short. And the world is getting smaller every day. You don’t need the aggravation. Reach out and repair broken bridges, no matter how old they may be.
  5. Embrace data. Learn the new technologies. This is an area you can’t dismiss.
  6. Make testing a regular part of your marketing practice. It’s so easy these days, there’s no excuse. You can test subject lines and from lines in email, and offers and headlines in landing pages. The payoff is worth the effort.
  7. Connect with people you admire. I am not saying “get a mentor.” That’s too formal. But select someone who’s career or thinking impresses you. Send an admiring email. At the very least, it’s a generous gesture.
  8. Join professional associations, and become active on committees and advisory groups. My colleague Mary Teahan tells me that the opportunity to judge the Echo Awards every year keeps her up to date on marketing thinking, and provides her with a trove of useful case studies.
  9. Try moving into B2B. OK, I am biased. But B2B is simply more fun than consumer marketing. It’s bigger, more complex, more challenging, and just as engaging. In fact, B2B marketers are united by some kind of tribal mentally that makes it a particularly nice community.
  10. Think like an investor. Marketing can no longer live on brand awareness. It’s all about tangible, revenue-related results. So, you need to focus on marketing efforts designed to deliver a demonstrable ROI.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.