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Guest Column: Speed provides competitive advantage: Shubhranshu Singh

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Guest Column: Speed provides competitive advantage: Shubhranshu Singh

We live in a T20 world. Everything is faster. To be slow is to be left behind.

The marketplace - capitalism's true judge, jury and executioner - makes being faster a pre-requisite for survival.

Some of the biggest corporate names of the past, who remained inertial, are anaemic shadows of their erstwhile selves. Dozens of global majors have been bought, sold, forced to merge or simply disappeared into oblivion.

But my purpose here is not to comment on momentum as a survival mantra for business enterprise. Big or small is only a factor to analyse.

For this analysis, I am focused on the need to be much faster in getting creative ideas to full live campaign state. To get marketing programs from inspiration to a stage of action in the market.

What are the stages of the process and the factors that prevent us from being quicker to market?

First, as always, there comes an idea. An idea that can be put to walk on a large conference room table and survive the assassins around it. The world of creative assessment is more than Darwinian. In the natural world, it's the species that compete for the survival of the fittest. In the world of creative ideas, the knives are out at the stage of merely imagining the possibilities.

A big idea doesn't need heralds to announce its birth. It feels as though there is static in the air when a big idea gets expressed. Alas, the seeds of delay are sown often at initiation stage itself thanks to near feudal hierarchies and their desire to see the campaign fully visualized where the idea should suffice.

Suppose an ashtray broke into five pieces. One piece alone when sniffed will confirm it was a part of an ashtray. You don't need the entire reassembly to decipher that. So it is with ideas. One line, a short paragraph, a picture, illustration, sketch or mood video; we at once are seized of the entirety of a given idea.

The idea then grows in the subconscious mind. It auto selects when the next day or when at the next meeting, other ideas begin to get measured up against it.

The best of advertising, in terms of impact and amounts to social architecture, would be 'art via media.' The baser, harder -working versions get on with it and just do some specific job. There is no empirical evidence on the causality between output quality to the time taken and the eventual esteem earned by a given creative.

Advertisements are merely expressions of an idea. There are myriad ways in which to script and bring alive an idea. A TV commercial delivers impact as an audiovisual and its instrumentality serves to showcase the idea in a given way. One could argue that the tired routine of getting to a TV commercial first, actually regresses the flourishing of a great idea.

Here are some accelerators that help organizations, teams and managers to become faster:

o Prioritization - If all things are equally important, actually none will get done well.

o Foresight - To be able to see further beyond the campaign. To imagine the scenario once the campaign, in its full potential, is launched and delivered. What next? Such foresight helps to rewind to the present and drive the priorities more acutely.

o An acute definition of risk and risk mitigation - Corporate bureaucracies have battalions of alarmist naysayers. Their existence and sense of importance is dependent on raising the potential risks and highlighting the worst outcomes. This must be countered with objectivity and corroborated with sound predictive analytics. Data looked at as a trend from the past to the present day may also help accurate predictions for the future and steer the program.

o Reassessment - "Why don't we give it another look?," "Lets sleep over it," "Have we spoken to everybody?" "Maybe we should take another point of view." Dilatory tactics are easy to see. Two rounds and one has to demand decisions and closures.

o Committees jump on the decision table - Advisory may happen via committee. Decisions must be made by those accountable and liable.

o Watching for and calling out subjectivities - Some client and agency loops can make Sicilian vendetta look like a comic strip. No one can ram into a discussion without giving a build. Mere Criticism should be barred.

o Clearing away distractions - Killing lower priority projects. Doing more by doing less.

Frantic is not fast. Frenzy is not agility

Being frantic actually only furthers lack of clarity, nervousness and even bitterness. It dissuades folks from having skin in the game. Being faster is about focused action. It's about accelerating business processes. To see and capitalize on opportunities that appear and disappear in a jiffy.

Faster is determination plus adrenaline

A fundamental idea that creates a business is way superior compared to a smart idea that services business advancement. Surprisingly, such fundamental ideas rarely get generated in a business a second time. When ideas do come to the fore, there is rarely active sponsoring. No one seems to want to kick the ladder they are standing on.

This is because often, success is the biggest speed breaker. It makes external orientation frictional. It promotes a huge appetite for more of the same.

Often those in charge begin to believe that it is their current ways of working that lead to success thereby negating the role of market forces, competitive disarray, resource advantages and sheer luck. Seized by this belief, they naturally feel enthused to become lawgivers. "We know best" becomes enshrined. Every issue or opportunity is treated as an intellectual challenge to be understood with data led cerebral discussions on the strategy that happens amongst a small set of decision makers. They forget the camaraderie and associative appeal that makes projects successful. They neglect the power of the anthemic appeal to the heart. Treating the larger set of employees as robotic implementers adversely impact speed to market. You can only be as fast as the slowest one amongst you.

Since success usually comes to the larger players because of inherent advantages, they also have a larger internal organisation. They revel in meetings, minutes, drafts, follow up meetings, council, committee, review task force meetings, prep meetings and so on. The hamster's wheel keeps turning with frantic activity. Also turning are the hands of the clock.

Then comes a time when the tick-tock of the clock becomes the tick-tock of a time bomb.

Shubhranshu Singh is a marketer based out of Mumbai.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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