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.

 

5 Reasons for ‘Why Now?’

With the lingering, precarious feelings about the state of the economy, along with plenty of concerns about the business climate in general, I find that there is always a great deal of hesitation around beginning any kind of large- or even medium-complexity project focused on data. In many instances, the general consensus from senior management and even ancillary groups outside of the marketing and data management groups is the company has been doing fine with everything just the way it is, with plenty of “If it ain’t broken we don’t need to fix it” or “Let’s focus on increasing revenue this quarter first” pushback to proposed projects.

With the lingering, precarious feelings about the state of the economy, along with plenty of concerns about the business climate in general, I find that there is always a great deal of hesitation around beginning any kind of large- or even medium-complexity project focused on data. In many instances, the general consensus from senior management and even ancillary groups outside of the marketing and data management groups is the company has been doing fine with everything just the way it is, with plenty of “If it ain’t broken we don’t need to fix it” or “Let’s focus on increasing revenue this quarter first” pushback to proposed projects.

The problem with the first is, quite simply, if corporate data has been ignored, or even just on the back burner for any length of time, it is most assuredly broken. Perhaps it is not critically broken yet, but losing clarity, focus and relevancy in keeping up with the evolving goals of the organization. Bloated with obsolete or irrelevant information and systems fragmented; lagging behind on improvements and upgrades, databases become slow, unreliable and frustrating for both the front-line users and for their management teams who are looking for answers that are surely there but, unfortunately, cannot be mined with the speed and efficiency expected. Of course, when this occurs the frustrations grow and we begin to see various business groups take what pieces of data fit their responsibilities and start building and updating the silos which eventually hamper, rather than contribute to, enterprise-wide success. There is no feedback of newer and more relevant information to the main repository; there is no coordination of contact strategy or organized tempo or voice to communication. What evolves is chaos in overlapping or possibly opposing communication from different areas of the same company. It is a sure way to spur the erosion of customer respect for your products and services, along with a vision of incompetence from prospective customers confused by who you are and where you are trying to lead them.

The problem with this is most organizations will not recognize it as a problem. The groups creating the silos and working from there are perfectly happy to have their own source of whatever data they need. No hassles with requests or production queues. They are able to report the results of their efforts in isolation so management only has to see the rosiest picture. Unfortunately—and exactly because of the isolation factor—little if any sales, lead generation, updates or contact changes ever make it back to the primary data warehouse and the remainder of the organization is not able to share in the refreshed information that will help their efforts, as well.

The cure for that, and the answer to the “Let’s wait” feedback, is for the marketing and IT leaders to jointly be prepared with a roadmap of “Why now” proposals for the value of organizational refresh and consolidation that can resonate across the enterprise.

1. Cost containment: With a single platform view of customers and prospects, with vigorous updates and enhancements from every touchpoint, campaigns are able to be streamlined, based on full knowledge of RFM. Consolidation of duplicated software and vendor charges that are being utilized across multiple silos will allow every department to free up much-needed budget space.

2. Increased Productivity: With budget room made available, allocations can be shifted to incorporate the speed and upgrade solutions within the existing resources. Increasing both throughput and volume while optimizing manpower performance and efficiency.

3. Reducing Risk: Utilizing a centralized team to oversee data operations ultimately reduces the risk and exposure caused by violations of corporate policies, governmental regulations and industry best practices. Contact preferences are able to be maintained and shared across all corporate business units on every channel.

4. Customer Journey: No responsible marketer deliberately sets out to overwhelm, annoy or even spam existing customers and prospects. Without centralized deployment and tracking, however, you will be doing exactly that, oblivious to the damage you are doing to your reputation.

5. Increased Revenue: Removing all of the risks, poor decisions and duplication of effort alone will create a much more streamlined approach to providing all of the proper and most effective strategies for finding, developing, nurturing and hopefully establishing long-lasting client relationships. Consumers, regardless if in a B-to-C or B-to-B environment, buy from companies they respect and trust. Revenue grows and is sustained just as steadily by the quality of your relationship with customers as it is by the quality of your products and services.

Healthy, professional relationships and contact strategy are the value-added-benefits you can quantify and demonstrate to even the most ardent rebels across the company. Use the data you have readily available in your system to show every business unit leader the facts. Prove to them the upside potential that a solid, professional and, most of all, highly reliable marketing automation or CRM solution can provide in boosting revenue year over year. Stealthily, but honestly turn the naysayers into advocates with clean and simple facts.

Do that, and the conversation shifts from “Why Now?” to “How Soon?”