Think + Do » an exploration of mission-driven marketing and design

Collective Intelligence

Picture yourself in a foreign marketplace – let’s say Istanbul. Merchants line the streets hawking their wares from the shade of colorful canopies. Something catches your eye. You point and ask: How much?

Most people like concrete, measurable answers. Who are the 100 wealthiest people? How many people “liked” our Facebook page? How much do I owe you for that silver bracelet? But as you might find in a Turkish bazaar or the occasional car dealership, sometimes the answer isn’t so clear.

As perhaps never before, we’re faced with ambiguity at every turn. While we value the certainty of working toward a single “right” answer, the future belongs to those who can navigate a more dynamic environment.

Beware the one-man band
Street performers often draw crowds, collecting smiles and spare change as they enliven the urban landscape, but the diversion is fleeting and more curiosity than compelling entertainment.

Out of necessity or habit, some in marketing find themselves playing at work like a one-man band. Instead of instruments, they play editor, webmaster, and office manager, among other things – a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none.

While this approach is limited only by the resourcefulness of the individual, it’s not a successful long-term strategy for meeting today’s marketing challenges. A better way is to draw on the expertise of those around you – your network.

Two heads are better than one
And three are better than two – when they’re the right people. This means we have to become adept at identifying and then collaborating with smart people from other disciplines.

  • Position yourself as an expert. Make it a priority to acquire deep, but narrow, expertise. How narrow? Think, “communication planning for fundraising events,” not simply “events.”
  • Build relationships. Share your knowledge. Write for, speak to, and work with those who value your talents. When someone helps you, stay in touch and return the favor. Keep an active database.
  • Avoid the echo chamber. Regularly seek opportunities to broaden your network with experts in complimentary fields. Seek new and even contrarian perspectives to steer clear of the herd.

It stands to reason that the collective intelligence of a group of experts will apply more insight, wisdom, and experience to a problem than any individual alone can provide. Instead of navigating a situation, it may be better to think of orchestrating a solution. And, next time you’re in Turkey, it will be handy to have a Persian rug aficionado and a negotiation expert on your speed dial.

Related content:
Amy Poehler to Harvard Grads: You Can’t Do It Alone
The Most Valuable People in Your Network

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