The single most important factor for transformation, and it might surprise you.

aweWhich is the most important factor for transformation?

At the beginning of 2018 we asked our clients a big question.  Of all of the multiple issues facing our industry, (including GAFAM, Brexit, Millennials, Voice, Purpose etc etc), all of which are on marketers’ minds, which is the most important?

I can reveal here that the top four issues are:

Creativity, Artificial Intelligence, Data and Agility.

At our opening session at AdWeek Europe we invited four speakers to each champion one of the topics and let the audience vote on which was most crucial.

That transformation is essential for business is unarguable.  Most businesses have path dependence baked into their ways of working.  Keeping up with the pace of change in the world is essential but it isn’t enough simply to buy in a new head of digital or data.  If you staple on a new product to the edge of the business but don’t change how the organisation operates then it won’t deliver.

As one great thinker of this century Stephen Hawking said “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”.

As another great (but in this case a fictional great) Optimus Prime said: “there’s a thin line between being a hero and being a memory.”

Without transformation, without change, there’s no chance of being a hero.

Without the right kind of transformation there’s just the Gartner “Trough of disillusionment.

What did our speakers say and who won?

Victoria White, editorial director of Hearst Made, championed creativity.  She talked about the importance of human editorial judgement: “If we only went with what the data said then would not have created such amazing products such as Esquire Town House and House Beautiful Sofas.”  She pointed to the need for bravery in knowing what the audience want before they know they want it and acting on that insight, calling her editors “walking algorithms”.  She concluded by saying: “without a passionate human being with an idea there is no creativity”.

Jim Kelly, VP R+D at Quantcast was up next, championing the supremacy of data.  He pointed out the step change in media from making a few decisions every quarter in the last century to making a few million media decisions every second now.  So he said it is crucial to get “comfortable with machines digesting data on your behalf”.  Culturally this is a big change too.  Kelly believes that many organisations are focussed on too many so called key performance indicators because too many metrics are measurable.  In a reference to Coleridge he challenged that many are “drowning in data, like the ancient mariner surrounded by water, but dying of thirst”.  (Remember the lines: “water water everywhere but not a drop to drink”).  The solution, sort out your metrics and data will drive business success.

Hannah Mirza, global head of partnerships at MediaCom talked about AI being crucial.  She said: “When humans think of problem solving we follow decision making trees to arrive at answers.  AI has the ability to comprehend many more decision trees than a human can by contrast.”  Hannah pointed out that we are reaching a point where AI and reality matching is as close as 95% and improving to the extent that we are not able to discernibly differentiate between humans and machine  and showed how you can benefit at every stage of the consumer decision journey with best practice AI.

Finally, Tony Foggett, ceo and owner of Code, computer love championed Agility.  Agile processes differ from traditional ways of working by valuing Individuals and interactions over processes and tools, Working software over comprehensive documentation, Customer collaboration over contract negotiation and Responding to change over slavishly following a plan.  His business is built on Agile practices and he eloquently argued that his philosophy of “Point, Fire, Aim” led to better decisions and more empowered staff.  In a world where change will never be this slow again, agility is essential for transformation.

Transformation is crucial.  That’s why we’ve set up Theobalds Road Consultancy at MediaCom to deliver a change path for clients.

After all the speakers had argued their point we had a vote.  The Adweek Europe 2018 audience said, conclusively, that Creativity was key.  What do you think?

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