Prominent historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote a fascinating book about President Lincoln titled “Team of Rivals.” Goodwin chronicled how Lincoln had an extraordinary ability to put himself in the shoes of other human beings -- irrespective of political party.
Of all the things that Lincoln is known for -- helping to abolish slavery; preserving the Union during the Civil War -- insufficient attention is given to his embrace of people who he disagreed with vehemently. Yet the common thread that united his achievements was his ability to empathize and compromise to achieve a greater outcome.
What does this have to do with marketing? I can’t help but notice the strong parallels between Lincoln’s ability to embrace a team of diverse and antagonistic thinkers, which is consistent with our industry’s shift to more multidisciplinary strategists to solve complex marketing and business challenges.
We would be wise to take a page out of Lincoln’s playbook.
A team of rival thinkers preparing for a big new business pitch
Massive technology disruptions and ways consumers now access information present challenges for brands, particularly as they struggle to capture the story of their evolution in ways that simplify, excite and inspire. Often, the innovation happening at the heart of the business transformation outpaces the sophistication of the brands, resulting in a wide gulf between the two.
The complexity of brand and business challenges necessitate a smart, multidisciplinary, integrated approach.
A client in the professional services space struggled with several challenges:
And so, we assembled a team to attack these challenges. Over the course of many meetings, we disagreed. Challenged each other. Forced others to think in unfamiliar ways.
But you know what? At the end of the day, we turned around a presentation that reflected the very best of our thinking -- underscoring the richness of our approach through diversifying our thought process and digging down to our creative cores.
Steal a page from Lincoln
As Lincoln rightly understood, much can be achieved by working with people who challenge you and force you to think differently. God knows there's no shortage of ego in our profession. Ultimately, though, if you allow ego to cloud your judgment because you aren’t humble enough to understand your own limitations, you, as well as your entire team, will suffer greatly.
Thankfully, we’re not confronted with trying to save the country from civil war. But the next time you’re involved in a new business pitch, or need some fresh thinking, ask yourself: What would Lincoln do? Leave your pride at the door, and let’s get down to business.