What to look for when hiring a team, how to become a magnet for talent and what is the best organizational structure
This is a series of 8 articles that talk about the Future of Marketing. If you have not read the first article start here.
2) The Marketing TEAM of the future (2 of 8 articles)
Legendary investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel describes a startup as "the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. [He later states that] an up-and-coming company’s most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords a space to think".
Before thinking of a futuristic marketing plan to bring your product to market, you must embark a journey with people who believe in what you believe, and, as Theil mentions, the way they think is equally as important. Like Napoleon in his Egyptian campaign, you must rally a group of modern savants, who embrace independent and fresh thinking and are naturally allured to your cause. Once you have the right crusaders, then structure the organization in a manner that it is set up for success. The following are the three steps to building a rockstar marketing team of the future:
I) Purpose AND Passion
A common calling of something greater than ourselves is the first filter in our search. This filter is a combination of shared values, vision and behaviors that ultimately shape your culture. This unique culture is your primary differentiation; in the long run, it acts as the compass and predictor of your company's direction. Aaron Levie, the founder of BOX, stated that “you can’t build a differentiated product without building a differentiated culture.” The team precludes the product and the service delivery; therefore your culture determines your company's success. Your company's talent brand is something that must be intentional and constructed over time. It must be communicated within the company and should purposely be perceived outside the company to attract new talent. Creating a talent brand must be one of the organization's prerogatives and core strategies, as "a strong talent brand decreases cost-per-hire by more than 50% and lowers turnover rates by 28%" (source), creating a virtuous cycle. You want to create a magnetic organization that pulls not only the best talent but the talent that believes what you believe.
II) New Thinking
Once you create a "Talent Brand" and the best professionals start knocking on your door, your job is to understand how to group that talent and what attributes to look for. We are not just looking for new thinking but also to cluster different types of thinking and pair them up with complementary thinkers. Shane Parrish, an expert in mental models compares "Marketing People" thinking vs. "Engineering People" thinking. He points out that "people" in these professions tend to have different patterns of thought. "Marketing People" are informationally broad in their thinking, inquisitive by nature, looking in the "world for new bits of information and comparing that new information with parts of their existing database, in order to arrive at action prescriptions or decision rules" (Article). In contrast to "Engineering people" who are "informationally narrower but logically deeper in their thinking styles; who strive for logical consistency among the various pieces of information they deem relevant. " (Article).
Engineers tend to connect and make sense of the information they already know, "looking for the logical implications of their existing "informational repertoire" to decide what new beliefs to hold out for testing. They look for connections of the logical and causal type among facts and quasi-facts, rather than just associations and correlations"(Article). Steve Jobs had a similar observation when it came to creativity and the development of technology which works with many Engineers: "A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have".
The big question then is, which type of "thinking" should you give more weight to, broader thinking "marketer" or logical depth "engineers"? The correct answer is to have both types of thinkers in your team since the combination of the two yield better solutions to problems. Your role is to pair teams with these two types of thinking and to help the team to be aware of these two type of thinkers and their strengths. With this awareness in mind, instead of getting frustrated with each other's opposite thinking style, they learn to hone their talents to a common goal.
III) Organization Structure
Modern organizational structures are necessary to succeed in the business world. The biggest error is that people change the structure first, hoping that a forward thinking structure will improve the team's output. This is a complete fallacy that I have personally and professionally experienced. A structure is not necessarily going to change the team's vision nor the way they are wired to think. You must first start by rearranging the team itself, not the structure; the "who" before the "how" or "what." For an organizational structure of the future, start with leadership styles that are better equipped for fast paced changes.
The new "leader should spend less time leading and more time “gardening”—pruning the hedges, watering the flowers [of the developments of their collaborators], and otherwise getting out of the way" (Article).
The other popular error is blindly following the newest trends and fads, especially the latest strategy of becoming a flat organization. My advice is not to take horizontal structures at face value, not everything about a horizontal structure is more efficient in the long run. I am all for having a flat organization in the sense of having decentralized networks with low barriers to entry regarding communications, ideas, and resources. At the same time, it is important to foster a culture of people who are more entrepreneurial.
Where I do not advise a flat organizational structure is in eliminating positions, hierarchy or other forms of formal leadership. The main reason is the transfer of knowledge. Incumbent leaders are fundamental to transmitting accumulated knowledge and experience throughout the organization. Equally important, they are responsible for cross-pollinating the culture and setting the tone.
Although I advocate on some level a hierarchical leadership structure, I do believe job descriptions should be more flexible, and leaders should focus more on goals than on complying with processes. The goal is to minimize bureaucracy. The best ideas should always win, independently of where they come from.
The other cutting-edge strategy to adopt in your company'’s structure is to cultivate an interconnected network of experts. Joi Ito, the director of MIT Media Lab, persuades us to "foster an environment that is rich with weak ties – a wide network of acquaintances from which to draw just-in-time knowledge and resources" (Article). This is crucial; we must focus on having a core team in-house interconnected with other experts. These weak ties will equip us for the future changing tides.
In the end, your ultimate organizational structure'’s goal is for your organization to be a succession planning structure. It should be seen as a system to nurture future leaders who can grow the business [and grow in the business]. If you "haven’t identified possible successors, you’re probably not delegating as much as you should, and you may even be a decision-making bottleneck." (Source)
My next article in this series is about why "Product is King". I will post it online next Monday. Follow me on instagram to receive advice on business, marketing and investments:
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