Experience Slows You Down
You don’t change an industry you know all about
Whenever I hear the words “I have years of experience in this field so…” I always brace myself on how I will be lectured in how my proposed solution won’t work for this industry. How somehow this industry is different from every other industry and that we should just stick with what works. I’ve been told this is the case for the medical industry, I heard it about the payment industry and I have heard it about the car industry. My guess is that I will hear it about every single industry that exists, over my (hopefully) long career.
This is not only clients that have said this, but more senior colleagues as well. And while I don’t claim that any of my ideas, that were shot down for various reasons, was anything near a Square, a Simple or a Spotify, (that is, industry changers that start with an S) they were gonna make these industries slightly better.
If nothing else, it humbles you when you realise how much fighting has gone in to doing a project that is different from what a company normally does. The people who came up with (off the top of mind) the Dodge Registry, the Coke Work it Out Calculator, or the RBS GetCash probably had a real tough time getting it done. This goes for the agency people as well as the people within the company. Heck, I even hear that the team who came up with Nike+, the one example that every single ad agency and client use every time as an example of how digital projects should be, in terms of game changing, had to fight for years with executives at Nike to get it done.
My theory is this: when you know everything about an industry, you don’t know whats good for it. The only thing you know is the rules and confinements that have been set up by the people within that industry to prevent change. That’s human nature. People don’t like change, people like change they like. So you follow the rules, and learn some more and before you know it. You are 50 years old, wears a suit and dictates the rules by yourself. You don’t change the industry you’re in, the industry changes you.
I noticed this for myself as well. Two years in, doing digital work for a pharmaceutical company, at an agency, I started to be more efficient. Efficient in the bad sense of the word. I knew what things legal was gonna make a fuzz about, I knew what our contact person at the company disliked talking about, I knew what our project manager said the higher ups never were gonna approve. I also knew how long time it took to take the fight, and how small of a percentage you actually won, and how tight the deadline was. So along with getting more and more experience, I started taking less and less fights. Changing the game less and less for every day.
I’m never going to do that again. I’m going to keep on taking fights for every single thing I believe in, all day every day, but it took some time to realise what happens when you work for/in an industry for a long time. I’m never going to learn a single rule ever again. And always act like I don’t understand a single word whenever someone tells me on “how it works”. It’s going to be exhausting, but so much fun!
What an industry needs is people who have no idea on how it operates. People that don’t know that there are any rules. While it is good to break rules and to push boundaries, it’s much better to just never know that any rules exists. So, when an agency boasts that they have years of experience in the field that your company is working in. Run the other way, cause that only means that they know the rules. You need someone who doesn’t.