In a disruptive world, what skills do strategists really need to survive?
The planning world is being constantly disrupted and increasingly fragmented. The proliferation of titles and roles and different applications of strategic thinking force us to pay attention to what this means for individual strategists, and how we should arm up to deal with change and continue to thrive as a discipline.
- "As the planning industry is becoming more fragmented into specialist silos, strategists that thrive are those that have a T-shaped brain. This means having affinity and depth of understanding of a particular area on one hand, but the breadth of human insight to move across specialisms as well."
Sandra Mardin, Project Director at Flamingo London
APG (Account Planning Group) wanted to find out what skills strategists really need to survive in our disruptive world at their latest Noisy Thinking event, sponsored by Flamingo.
An engaged audience was taken through a piece of extensive research conducted by Shekhar Deshpande, Global Planning Director at JWT.
The research included depth interviews with 25 strategy leaders, CSOs, Heads of Planning, and CEOs, where they discussed the skills they think are going to be the most vital for strategists survival and then rated them on a scale of 1-10 of how important they thought that particular skill was. Interestingly, the more senior leaders rated each skills importance higher than those more junior - giving an average score of 8.2 per skill required. They also felt that per person a broader range of skills was necessary.
APG then reached out to their database where 317 Planners and Strategists completed a Future Skills Survey.
The top rated skills required for Planners and Strategists were concluded to be:
- “Have strong opinions, loosely held”
Lisa Bowcott, on skills strategists need to survive
1. Understanding people (at 9.5, this was the top-rated skill.)
Even the die-hard tech and data experts said, overwhelmingly, that it was crucial to understand people holistically and be the experts at what motivates them– and not just how they behave online.
2. Understanding effectiveness (9.4)
How is the idea supposed to work, and how is it supposed to get the client their predetermined return? The business end of things was felt to be critical.
- "Lisa spoke about how planners used to spend more time out in the world talking to people, but now they do it from their desks so there's a film between them. Our research can provide that bridge”
Lydia Crudge, Project Director
3. The ability to define a problem (9.3)
With people at one end and business at the other, the ability to define what that problem was (and therefore define the solution) is critical.
Following an overview of the research, Shekhar introduced some fantastic industry heads including:
- Fern Miller – Chief Strategy Officer, Digitas LBi
- Vicki Holgate - Chief Strategy Officer, FCB Inferno
- Lisa Bowcott – European Brand Marketing Director, Trainline
who helped debate and discuss the skills that they believe are the most important in any agency from their experiences:
- It's worthwhile trying to move around
- It's valuable try different roles within your agency - this gives you a more rounded view
- Try to learn new skills - its now necessary to know more than more channel.
It was also unanimously decided that having a commercial understanding as well as retaining a basic understanding of statistics will make strategists stand out to employers. This combined with clarity of thought, and tenaciousness to not give up when the going gets tough - seems to be the required combination of skills for their ideal employee.
At Flamingo we believe that having a rich understanding of people and the cultures they live in is the key to a building a brand. This requires profound insight into how people think, feel and act, and clear foresight into how our cultures will evolve, enabling us to inspire the truly big ideas that create new opportunities for our clients.
As the event concluded and nicely put by Shekhar "leverage a rich understanding of people to achieve the desired (business) outcome."