Thoughts on Success and Strategy for Agencies
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine – who works for a major international PR agency – and I discussed what leadership will mean in 20 years from now . Imagine that it is the year 1992. A panel of marketing and public relations business leaders is asked to predict what success will mean in the year 2011. Some will look at top trends and see a more ‘wired world’. Others will be convinced that mid-cap companies will vanish and multinational corporations and their global brands take their place. Nobody will predict 9/11 and its impact on media or the rise of social media. Hence, any definition of success for 2030 should not depend on trends maintaining their constancy, but on the fact that the fundamentals of success are always the same.
What is success – and we go here beyond personal success – then in 2030? 2030 will be more successful than 2011 if – and only if – more people are able to create more value for improving the lives of more individuals while producing less waste. Waste is not used here in the ecological sense. Rather, it is used to include all forms of resources and capital that must be exchanged for success to appear. So, in a nutshell the question is how to become more efficient at producing wealth and what will this wealth look like. Inzeption.org is convinced that the following two concepts answer – at least in part – this question for agencies:
Public relations and marketing has a chance to create to an increasing extent the conditions that surround it. Business conditions are both shaping and shaped by the perception and priorities of the leaders of business. And public relations and marketing agencies are the ones working closely with these business leaders. Researchers such as London Business School professor Lynda Gratton predict that „(…) in a future increasingly defined by innovation, the capacity to combine and connect know-how, competencies and networks will be key.“ She believes that in the future the means by which individual value is created will shift from having generalist ability to having specialist ability. Achieving serial mastery as general skills will be easily replacable. This means when thinking in terms of resource efficiency, that CEOs will have yet a greater need to bring together complex systems and human resources – a broad range of specialist forces – to be able to shape their surrounding conditions. This in turn means that they will have even more need of sound advice in regards to storytelling to both, internal and external audiences to make themselves understood. The world will become more ambigious instead of less so. Hence information collection and evaluation will be the top priority of management, along with the ability to communicate about frameworks and values in order to come to the right decisions that lets business and business functions prosper.
The second priority of management in 2030 need to be centered on restructuring the basic accounting principles of the firm: Look at financial and physical capital as merely one-half of the balance sheet. Prioritize instead equally human and natural capital to seek out methods to accurately quantify and pay for its true value. Currently, we are not doing this. We tax labor but subsidize construction of roads and usage of fossil-fuel based machines and cars. We can amortize the cost of manufacturing equipment, but we consider acquisition of implicit knowledge of workers as a cost of business. This does not produce relative increases in success – but absolute ones. It lets us produce more, but one with one caveat: We are losing valuable resources by not using them efficiently. This is a call to the agency world to be more consious about our own resources. As consulting businesses, we should be much more aware of how to find good people in our industry, how to teach them, how to help them advance their career and how to turn them into mentors for the next generation once they reached a certain level. However, our focus on producing more for less leads to a focus on „cheap“ labor instead of having a hard look at what we produce, how much of it is needed, and how mindless the labor becomes for the young ones (who will look for greener fields in other industries, make no doubt).
In summary, if there is to be a relative measure of success in 2030 then there must be fair and consistent methods of employing and measuring all forms of capital: financial, physical, natural and human, in order to use them efficiently. There must be a fair accounting of the relative efficiency and swapability of those forms, and we must have CEOs capable of driving this development.