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Culture Wars

By: Marie Alice Dibon
Posted: January 5, 2010, from the January 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 6 of 12

For large companies, this evaluation is at very low cost, relatively speaking. For billion dollars companies, taking a risk of a few hundred thousand dollars is nothing, and not taking that risk is irresponsible. Without some risk-taking, good companies are in danger of losing their edge. Ignoring innovation or simply not encouraging innovation can also kill them, and they realize innovation is not limited to technical staff.

However, small companies often get trumped by larger players, even on commodity like products or on small projects where it would be easy to take a chance in a marketing strategy or positioning effort—and it happens again and again. The mind-set sanctioning marketing people and ideas when they bet on a risk must be changed. Reward the risk. It may have the potential to earn you a buck or two and make you more competitive.

That is not to say that there should be no controls in the marketing lobe of the brain. Process control is often an overlooked aspect of marketing departments. How many times have you seen a scenario in which marketing copy hasn’t gone to the right people and a legal department vetoes something the day before it is supposed to print, as one example? Things like this happen because there are, often, no procedures. Written procedures are for the nerds in the lab, right? Yet, beyond their incredible creative contribution, marketing department team members do have to perform certain tasks—always in the same order, always for the same reason. There is a work and a paperwork flow associated with any launch, any new product, any new version. It is always the same, and it often lacks the normal checks associated with the lab half of the brain. Using project management programs, collaborative intranets and the growing number of like tools often isn’t enough. It is important to have road maps and written checklists. It is also essential to get together often and brainstorm on the organizational aspects of the work, try to find solutions that can bind together processes and tools so projects/tasks/ideas are kept track of in a centralized, transparent and open fashion.

Building communities around projects—preferably hybrid communities where, again, both sides of the brain can talk to each other on a regular basis and follow each other’s work—is always good. It’s not necessarily very comfortable at first, but it always helps the company function better.

Thinking Differently

Beyond the divide that often exists between marketing and R&D, there is another that is self-generated. Though scientists and marketers need to be equally creative, and thankfully often are, they think differently and they are treated differently, trained differently, compensated and managed differently. Because they tend not to approach problems in the same fashion, the difference in treatment can often be justified, but, sometimes, it tends to keep certain myths alive or to just widen preexisting gaps.