Work… It takes up a huge chunk of our lives and it is increasingly demanding more of our time, energy, emotion and loyalty.
Beyond the obvious and necessary paycheck what makes all this effort worth our while? What’s the point / purpose?
For me it is the opportunities work offers to make a difference. To help, grow or transform someone or something and in turn transform myself. A good day is a day where this opportunity has been realised.
Working in marketing I am part of an industry which should, can and often does provide this opportunity. After all the purpose of marketing (the one which I like to focus on) is to connect with and serve people.
And I’m fortunate enough to be working with some exceptional brands that care about making a positive impact in the world today. They have identified a genuine audience need or challenge and they are determined to solve it. And they are focussed on providing value in everything they do. Nutricium are on a mission to make food fast and healthy, perfect for our connected and complex lives. FUNLOCKA wants to transform the gifting economy by make it more personalised to individuals needs. Becoming the airbnb of the experience economy. Run Theory is focussed on helping athletes run faster, faster by combining cutting edge running science, world class coaching and machine learning.
But the opportunities to make a difference aren’t guaranteed by any means. You have to work hard to find them and there is often some serious opposition in the form of the dreaded status quo. This can be self imposed as much as endemic within your company or industry.
And status quo can be a cunning fox and hide in plain sight. Disguising itself as progress and lulling us into a false sense of achievement and importance. The regular 3 hour meeting with no real outcomes, the overflowing todo lists that keep us busy, being ‘encouraged’ to stay back in the office late…
I feel there is a cultural tension building where people are being given more and more tasks to do that fuel the status quo thus reducing the time or mental resource required to tackle things that will make a difference and help provide purpose and meaning to the work we do.
What can you do if you feel you need or want more opportunities to make a difference? How can you fight hard against the status quo? Here are my current top 5 tactics in no particular order (and like most things in life I’m sure these will change)
- Be the problem finder and definer.
- As an industry we (understandably) celebrate ideas and solutions, creativity and execution. But this also means we have a habit of jumping to the solutions side of things rather than spending more time on clearly defining what the problem, challenge or opportunity is.
- Better problems tend to produce better solutions
- Surely a company, entity or person who is highly successful at finding awesome problems or challenges for businesses to solve is going to have opportunities to make a difference.
2. Question everything.
- Closely linked to point 1
- Experience (in marketing) doesn’t always mean excellence.
- More often than not, nothing changes if nothing is challenged.
- Elon Musk reportedly uses the 5 whys technique
3. Do real research (not just from behind your desk).
- Get out of the office, ask people questions, listen more, talk less, be interested. This will make a difference to your clients, your business and also yourself!
4. Have a well developed point of view.
- Imagination: brainstorm hypotheses and ‘what ifs’ that challenge the status quo
- Substantiation: layer on research to validate or fail the hypotheses
- Articulation: write and practice your story ready to socialise it with your peers
5. Add some variety to your reading list
- Science fiction
So why bother…? Especially given we have been informed on a regular basis that the future of work and increasingly its purpose, is uncertain.
It’s because of this uncertainty that makes work and the future of work so interesting. Maintaining the status quo in many areas of business is going to become harder. Anything could happen and anyone could make a difference.
If you know what your intention is going into work everyday (beyond getting paid) and are clear on your own purpose you will hopefully get alot out of being there.