“There is talent everywhere. We just don’t know how to find it.” –Jonah Lehrer
That’s the punchline from Lehrer’s recent blog post, What Jeremy Lin Teaches Us About Talent. This is certainly true of professional sports. We all know Moneyball by now, and Lehrer details similar talent blindness from conventional talent scouting in the NFL. Lin’s rise – from Ivy League basketball star, to undrafted pro-level castoff, to burgeoning superstar – suggests the same may be true in the NBA.
But what about the corporate world? Do marketing functions, for example, suffer from the same talent blindness?
I’d say so.
In the world of marketing, it’s especially tough these days. The profile of the successful post-digital marketer really isn’t clear. So much change in how marketing gets done, or what great marketing even looks like these days, makes it very tough to predict which marketers will ultimately be successful.
From our recent conversations with CMOs, the operating theory seems to be that the superstar marketers in the next five years will be digital natives with a strong entrepreneurial profile (see my blog post over at Forbes, The Rise of the Marketing Entrepreneur)
But I don’t think these CMOs necessarily have it right.
Talent success seems to depend on a whole host of factors not accounted for by typical hiring practices in marketing—they have little to do with the individual, and much more with the context in which the individual is placed.
How will the marketer mesh with the team, or external partners? How will the marketer manage with the way decisions get made in a large organization? How will a new marketer react to early success or early failure? These factors (and many others) often fly under the radar in hiring practices.
We’re going to try to get at some of these under the radar factors with the our just-launched Marketing Agility Diagnostic. It’s a survey that marketing brand and product teams can take to get a read on how a whole variety of factors affects (or doesn’t affect) marketing performance and business outcomes.
Think of it as an attempt to Moneyball modern marketing teams.
Here’s a glimpse at just a few of the unconventional hypotheses we’ll be testing:
- Meta-skills over marketing skills—based on research from CEB’s talent practice, we believe there may be a set of meta-skills (for example, self-awareness, adaptability and the like) that may be the gateways to unlock the full potential of an individual’s more specific marketing skills.
- Collective intelligence over individual intelligence—some intriguing work by Professor Tom Malone of MIT, which suggests the individual intelligence of the members in a group does not predict the team’s collective intelligence when it comes to solving problems as a team. There are other more important factors at play, like the social sensitivity of the group members.
- Data dialogues over big data—many marketing functions are putting the quality of the data infrastructure (both systems and data scientists) at the center of their marketing information strategy. We hypothesize that a stronger predictor of business success from marketing information will relate to the ways that general marketers interact with data scientists and analysts. Specifically, we think a Moneyball factor here will be in the nature and quality of the dialogues surrounding the analyses, not in the quality of the data infrastructure itself, or even in the quality of the initial question asked of the data.
We believe we’ll turn up a set of factors that turn out to be more powerful than the conventional marketing talent spotting techniques.
So, if you think you’ve got the next Jeremy Lin of maketing on your team, or maybe you think that could be you, get your organization involved in CEB’s Marketing Agility Diagnostic. Email Anna Bird (email@example.com) for more information.