Winging It Is Causing Marketers to Undercut Their Craft

There’s innovation in disorder, but some structure is needed

Businessman trying to fit pieces into the wrong space
If brands are already known for excellence with a plague of winging it, imagine what could be achieved with a suite of craftsmen?
Getty Images

It’s no secret the marketing industry is in a period of incredible upheaval. At the core of this transition are two forces: technology and humanity.

How do we balance the enormous benefits of the robots with human creativity and innovation? How can there be room for both? What does that look like? And what value does each provide? In this very valid debate, the argument that keeps rising to the fore is the need to balance the logic of the robots with chaos, instinct and gut.

This is a terrible argument for the value of creativity. No one wants to buy chaos. That’s why the robots are so appealing; they take chaos away. This argument also hurts the people it’s supposed to champion the most: those who are coming up with ideas. The chaos defense actually makes us worse at our jobs.

We have a deadly plague of winging it

When it comes to creative problem-solving, most people feel like they’re winging it. The vast majority of people in our industry are relying on haphazard training, modeling the best people they come across, recycled ideas and an eclectic collection of podcasts or books to move their businesses forward in an innovative way. The reason they feel like they’re winging it is because they have never been taught how to do their jobs.

A plague caused by the instinct myth

Emotional, chaotic work may be the goal, but how we’re going about it is robbing us of our greatest asset: our craft.

The more the industry talks about chaos, instinct and gut, the more it propagates the myth that creative problem-solving is raw talent versus a skill. Find the talent. Give them a job. Set them loose. And, most importantly, get out of their way. This instinct myth suggests that there is very little to learn. We have simply stopped training people in a meaningful way, which leaves the smart, talented person at the receiving end to figure out a complex job from scratch while hiding a deep level of insecurity about whether they’re doing it right.

This is not just an observation on employee satisfaction but acknowledging a real threat to bottom line growth. Winging it breeds a culture of organizational confusion, inefficiency and unnecessary stress. All distractions from the deep work that underpins innovative problem-solving. Emotional, chaotic work may be the goal, but how we’re going about it is robbing us of our greatest asset: our craft.

We’re killing craftsmanship

Apart from the odd miracle, to have and execute great ideas takes an awful lot of work and having the mental models and vocabulary to deal with the abstract in a tangible, financially viable way. It requires rigorous interrogation of the problem to ensure you are solving the right one, smart research to bypass the trickiness of humans and creating a sellable platform that can galvanize an organization. All of this while walking a path that is authentic to you, compelling to your customers and has never been walked before.

This is the work of great ideas. These are the skills of investigation, psychology, persuasion and salesmanship, underpinned by a certain ruthlessness and skills that are not yet replicable by robots.

This is a craft, people. Let’s all stand in front of a mirror and repeat three times: “I’m a craftsman.”

No one wants our chaos, but they need our craft

There’s never been a greater need for creativity to provide true differentiation and value in the marketplace. Fulfilling this need with excellence looks a lot different when you start thinking of it as a craft.

You cannot develop your craft without learning, so training becomes a no-brainer. Everyone accepts that there are toolboxes to be filled and skills to be acquired. Instead of a counterproductive cycle of learning as you go, your organization needs a thoughtful catalog for cracking good ideas that impact every type of line. Rejecting the sink or swim model also levels the playing field for the talent who didn’t grow up near a pool, allowing for the breadth of voices that truly drives innovation.

The softer impact of a craft is no less powerful. It’s the pursuit of excellence that constantly stokes curiosity and provides a career with real meaning. In some circles it’s known as talent retention, but I dare to call it joy.

Let’s stop talking about the value of our chaos and start talking about the value of our craft. Bring back training. Bring back our creative confidence. Give all your talent the tools needed to identify, nurture and champion great ideas. If brands are already known for excellence with a plague of winging it, imagine what could be achieved with a suite of craftsmen?

Recommended articles