The Drum’s 3 Actionable Insights series asks top industry leaders to share their thoughts about the actions our readers should take immediately. Today, Work & Co Partner Rachel Bogan talks why risk-taking is here to stay, the importance of staying true to what you’re great at, and the need for us all to get together face-to-face.
1. Keep taking risks
Leave room for taking risks and moving quickly, especially as things start to feel like they’re returning to normal. What was so incredible about the past year was watching really big companies, or really small companies, do something different – whether it was standing up new digital capabilities, or repurposing existing ones, to meet the changing needs of consumers and thinking about they really need. The best example of that to me is the QR code. No one would have thought 2020 would be the year of the QR code. I feel like we spent 10 years trying to make that happen.
As stressful as the last year has been for all of us taking that risk, taking that step is something to think about going forward. Every company is capable of that. During the pandemic I had the chance to work with Vistaprint. I was partnering directly with their C-suite to stand up their mask offering. It was really this incredible opportunity where, in two weeks, we stood up something that didn’t exist before. We just met every day, rolled up our sleeves and made it happen. Collaboration and quick decisions made that possible.
Launching digital products and services is really labor intensive. It’s hard work. It’s like building a house. But finding ways to do that quickly, test quickly and take risks means that you’re going to get a read on whether it’s a success or a failure more quickly. As companies are moving forward, continuing to break down those silos organizationally, soliciting user feedback and being OK with things not being perfect is something everyone should hold on to.
2. Stay true to your core
Keep your core competency in sight when you’re planning your product roadmap. It’s about being realistic about what business you’re in and investing in those baseline capabilities. So, what I mean is whether you’re thinking about your website, mobile application or the large-scale digital presence that you have – think about what you’re known for. Then invest in that core competency. Is it a great physical product? Is it content? Is it customer service? Lean into that, and make sure that’s front and center.
There are a lot of clients who have much larger visions and want to do more and they should. But if you’re not doing what you’re great at, that’s just a miss. It’s a lesson that companies can learn from, but it’s also a human lesson too. Do what you’re good at. A business school professor told me that, and I've always kept it in the back of my mind. It is so important to think about your core and your vision. The best clients that I’ve partnered with do both. They’re investing in the current experience while they’re working towards the future... that’s what sets top-notch companies apart.
3. Get back together in person
Maybe this is controversial, but a lot of clients and press are talking about how we don’t need a physical office anymore – we can do it all on Zoom. What I truly believe is to not underestimate the value of partnering in person. I’m partnering with clients every day. I’m working with teams, but I’m also running a 400-person company, and my takeaway is many of us have had to successfully adapt to the new working environment. But I think it’s really dangerous to start thinking about that as a new reality or how it will be going forward.
In-person time really can’t be underestimated. We have the tools to do it the other way. We have Slack. We have Sendmail. We have Trello. All of those online communication tools and skills are there. But that in-person collaboration is really important to not only develop the best ideas, but more importantly to build that camaraderie and inclusivity. It’s just building true relationships. Without that in-person time, work is work and that’s no fun. Right? So, whether it’s coming together to solve tough problems, or just to bond, it’s really important to maintain those in-person relationships. That’s something we’re thinking a lot about, as we bring people back to the office, but also as we think about how we’re going to work with clients in the future. It will be an important part of the process.