Always make sure that 30 percent of the people involved in any strategic decision are under the age of 30.
This might be among the smartest things I heard all week.
It’s no surprise that when I share the thought with people who are under 30 I get a huge smile and a “fuck yeah,” in return. And when I mention it to people over 30 I sometimes get a bug eyed look of fear that seems to ask, “Are you being serious?”
I came across the idea doing research on collaborative methods and techniques. It was put forth originally by Vijay Govindarajan in his highly acclaimed Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators: From Idea to Execution. A faculty member at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Management, V. G. (as he’s known among peers) has written frequently on innovation.
The premise is simple: people who have been in any company or business for a long time are good at preserving the status quo, or at best improving performance and execution in what V.G. calls Box 1, managing the present. They inherently understand today’s clients, technologies and competitors and how to leverage current competencies. And, of course, they have a tendency to replicate the processes that led to past successes.
But V.G. argues that innovation – across products, services, models and processes – happens in what he’s labeled Box 2 and Box 3. Box two is all about selectively forgetting the past — neglecting the tendency to continually respond to competitors and trends that may not be relevant over the long term. Box 3 is where companies and agencies create the future, inventing new products and new services for clients they don’t yet have. Govindarajan believes that only a younger generation will more naturally be able to see that future.
So why is this important? Why scribble about it here on a blog that covers digital and social media? Because as our business becomes more and more about solving problems rather than making messages, innovation is essential to both our clients and our own companies. In fact when was the last time you got an RFP, assignment or challenge that could be solved by developing an ad campaign? More often than not building a client’s business and hence your own calls for the use of new technology, the development of new platforms and apps, or a different look at a brand’s overall UX.
Most of the advertising industry – agencies, digital agencies, social media shops, media firms – are filled with people under 30. But I’m willing to bet if you look at the room of people who actually make the strategic decisions – businesses to pitch, people to hire, platforms to develop, campaigns to recommend – it’s dominated by people in their 40s and perhaps older.
Maybe it’s time to change that. I’m putting more people under 30 in the room from now on. You?