Once Upon A Time . . .
What makes our collaboration work?
I was leading marketing strategy at a communications agency (Y&R/WCJ) that was rapidly eating away at O&M’s share of the American Express business. I was bringing tight, coherent thinking to the US Amex team. We were motoring along in the US market. Where next? CANADA! We had a strong team in Canada but Amex Canada was open to support from our central crew. I had the good fortune to be an early emissary to Amex/Canada. Brenda was leading marketing teams in Amex Canada.
We bonded. Something was different about Brenda’s teams. They worked differently. They thought differently. They played differently.
As I began to work with Brenda, we noticed the complementarity of our skills set and the communality of our approach to solving problems. Our teams were consistently innovative, from the narrow confines of tweaking existing products and services to the tabula rasa of new product development. Our thinking was fresh. We allowed ourselves to think independently about the givens of a problematic scenario.
We delighted folks (and annoyed others) with our independent thinking. When we were designing a global network, the balance between local and central decision-making we suggested was . . . unanticipated, but, when implemented and stakeholders understood the new platform, our product design and creative/communications development took on a new focus and radically increased efficiencies. Ruffled feathers have no chance against demonstrable results. (My competitive male perspective.) We built intrigue and active followership from below (Brenda's collaborative feminine perspective.)
We have spent a good chunk of time over our years of collaborating trying to understand the task of marketing problem solving … and how to get the best out of ourselves and our team/colleagues, how to think through the pervasive genres of marketing challenges.
We found that there were a range of specific approaches, analytic tools, frameworks which we either developed ourselves (e.g. our approach to product line strategy) or adapted from the best approaches we had vetted (e.g. the pillars of brand building identified at Y&R.)
As a recovering social scientist, Mark was deeply entrenched in what he called his Toolkit (hey, he's a guy, they think toolkit), the decision-making aids that we have adopted.
But something else was happening. I, while being a closet academic, was leading Global teams differently, sponsoring a women's network and creating an impactful platform. I was exploring and leveraging the distinctly different ways female and male brains function and how masculine and feminine traits impact behavior. We didn’t recognize it explicitly, but I was creating and codifying the elements of what we now label the Feminine Lens, a different and complementary perspective to Mark's more classically analytical Masculine Lens.
We realized that when we would be given a marketing challenge, usually expressed in a classic marketing vocabulary, we would follow a very similar analytic process, from identifying who the target audience(s) are, what they want and need . . . ultimately to the final question of what stimuli will cause the target to act.
But we each approached these tasks somewhat differently, I more likely to bring a perspective founded on, inter alia, powerful insights drawn from neuroscience, learnings about decision-making informed by the growing body of work on emotional intelligence, and the power of intuition; Mark bringing his segmentation models, multidimensional product spaces and target mappings, brand pillars, etc.
We listen to each other. We explore through each other's lens. We expand each other's idea.
This eufunctional fusion of male and female lenses created unanticipated synergies which we recognized as the foundation of what we now call Indigo Thinking, a conjunction, a deep and respectful conjoining of hard and soft data, analytic and intuitive insights, looking at marketing problems both through Mark's classical social science training and analytical techniques and Brenda’s B-school, consulting & marketing experience and expertise, and powerful emerging disciplines.