Monday, November 24, 2014

bring the noise (or...why quiet fixing is the enemy within)

In any given week there’s no shortage of writing on ‘the new agency model’ or ‘why advertising is broken and how to fix it’.

I’ve no wish to add to this number.

What this post aims to outline is a common problem in agencies of all flavours – new model or otherwise.

And it’s nothing to do with the fragmentation of media, consumers-in-control, the collaborative economy or how content strategy will eat advertising.

Nor is it in anyway connected to marketing 3.0, purpose before profit or how branded communities of millenials are demanding marketing from the ‘the spirit’ and psychic satisfaction (© Philip Kotler - Marketing 3.0 and I am not joking)

No, the biggest problem in agencies is when people quietly, and without fuss, fix things.

The reason this is the biggest problem is because no-one notices it’s a problem.

In fact, it looks like it’s efficiency.

A problem arises, someone notices it, applies some little ‘fix’ and moves on with minimal disruption to anything else going on.

Why is this such a big deal?

Listen to ex-Toyota chairman Katsuaki Watanabe.

‘Hidden problems are the ones that become serious threats eventually.
If problems are revealed for everyone to see, I will feel reassured.

Because once problems have been visualized, even if our people didn't notice them earlier, they will rack their brains to find solutions to them.

In Toyota, if a problem is noticed, production on the line stops, the entire team comes together to identify the root cause of the problem, to ensure that it does not happen again.

This can be noisy and a little heated, but it leads to better quality and productivity in the long term.’

Quiet Fixers cause two principle problems.

If the quiet fixer solves a genuine issue then we never get the chance to know that it was a problem - therefore the root cause never gets addressed and in all likelihood that same problem will come up again in the future.

The quiet fixer ‘solves’ a problem that wasn’t a problem and therefore creates a problem. 
These type of quiet fixes normally happen further down the line of production, and usually begin with the words ‘can you just…’ followed by ‘move that button’ ‘make it red’ or ‘change that word to…’. To the fixer these can seem like trivialities, minor no-harm-done tweaks to perhaps appease a client.
To the fixer it may even feel like they are doing the right thing.
But it’s the small things that make a big difference and do serious damage to a piece of communication which only gets discovered when it’s too late.

We are reminded of one of Rory Sutherland’s early TED talks in which he famously noted this in regard to the growing influence of decision science and behavioural economics on informing how choices are presented in advertising and other brand communications:

‘Unfortunately, [the] science is probably closer to being climatology in that in many cases, very, very small changes can have disproportionately huge effects, and equally, vast areas of activity, enormous mergers, can actually accomplish absolutely bugger-all. But it's very, very uncomfortable for us to actually acknowledge that we're living in such a world.’

In such a world, for agencies of any sort, a culture of quiet fixing is the enemy within.

Bring the noise.

HT to the @psychwork blog – ‘Thinking atWork’.

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