..or have we become reliant on the opinions of others?
This morning whilst buying my coffee from a city coffee cart, I had a moment of being taken back to my uni days. Where 18-year-old sociology or political science students would mooch around campus complaining about the state of society full of ideologies and opinions. Whilst I was not in that interest group, I did find it interesting listening to them – some clearly just rehashing the opinions of others and others, well, they stood out to me as thinkers.
Today, I met one of those students, now all grown up, and as he made my coffee he told me about his writing. Curious, I asked him what he was writing about – naturally, he handed over his iPhone for me to read his latest ‘thinking’. I’m not the political type, but I have to admit it had merit. So I asked him what motivates him to write and who inspires him.
After five minutes into the conversation, he said something along the lines of that there are a lot of opinion out there, but few of them have any real thought put into them but rather, are an amalgamation of many opinions and most of the time formed from the constant shouting from all types of popular media (I pictured all the videos on Facebook at that point as they are starting to drive me insane).
We chatted a little more, introduced each other and said our goodbyes. It got me thinking….have we stopped thinking for ourselves? Do we just jump from one shining star to another and rely on others to tell us how to and what to do to succeed?
When there are so many companies or ‘influences’ shouting at you from social media telling you ‘how to’ and companies relying on agencies to be the brains behind brands that they should be the custodians for, what I am seeing with many brands is little points of difference as they spend too much time trying to out do one another but end up presenting themselves the same way rather then really understanding their real USP (or relying on an external to tell them their USP) rather than taking learnings from other brands and putting their skills and knowledge into practice to develop a truly unique positioning.
Agencies are an important part of business but in order to be used to the best of their capabilities, they should be seen as collaborators, to work with companies as extensions of their team, to fill the skill gap where needed but ultimately with the aim of leaving client in better shape that they found them and with a knowledge transfer and training and hence creating legacy for their clients (skill wise and commercially). I remember being asked by a boss once 'can you ask the agency what they think' to which I turned and said 'I would like to think that my team and I have the skill and the foresight to draw an opinion of our own given how much you have invested in us all.' Whilst surprised by my response, he acknowledged I had a point.
No one is going to know the business as much as the people inside the business, but when they are busy doing the every day, they forget that they too have great skill and opinion, it just needs to be harnessed – and that is where the help from external experts is beneficial – to bring the best out of their clients and leave them with the confidence that they can carry on the business into its next phase.
So I urge you next time you start to get swept away by the next ‘big idea’ or shouting influencer telling you how to make it big, take some time out, remember all you know first, do a proper GAP analysis, engage your team and then if you feel you need it, seek external support. Have faith in your own opinion and use learnings from other successful brands (across industries) to help you qualify it.