Editor’s Intro: One of the challenges of today’s business climate is the need for speed. Decisions about new product development, new campaigns, etc. now need to be made in weeks, not months. This puts great strain on internal teams, as they struggle to adapt their processes to the new needs. We’ve seen several articles on this topic in the Blog over the past few months. Gigi Wang has written a valuable addition, discussing how what she calls “”shared experiences’”can help marketing and marketing research teams work together more quickly and more effectively.
Despite continuing technological advancements, industrial pushes toward automation, and increasing personal use of “faceless” communication tools such as social media, there is still a strong value in face-to-face communications.
The classroom setting enhances a child’s learning, in addition to developing skills for social interaction and communication with others. This isn’t just a long-held sensibility among child-rearing experts; it’s also proven by neuroscientific research. LabRoots recently cited a study of one-year-old infants in which researchers tested and contrasted learning by watching a video with learning through an in-person session. Although the infants were enthralled by the videos, when it came to understanding and learning, the in-person experience yielded more learning opportunities.
Studies of adults show similar results. An article in the Health section of The Atlantic discussed research that shows that ordinary experiences that we have in the company of other people are more meaningful than extraordinary experiences that we have alone. Humans are social beings. Sharing the experience enables all to have a common understanding of what happened. The article concludes that it’s more important to have others understand our experiences than to undergo them.
In a 2016 Strategy + Business blog post by a PwC consultant, the author cited even more dramatic results from other studies:
- A 2016 Yale study showed that sharing an experience with others intensifies the experience, whether it’s positive or negative. Participants in the study rated an activity as more positive or more negative when they experienced it with other people, compared to those who experienced it alone. The shared event was both more intense and more meaningful.
- In research conducted by the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, researchers said that groups of people that come together as a team will naturally have conflicts, and will have to resolve them over time. But their research also showed that if the team shares activities and experiences early on, the resolution process can be accelerated.
- Other military research with Navy SEALs showed that having the team do everything together resulted in creating a common language, and a mutually reinforcing commitment to its goals.
What does this mean in today’s decision-making environment?
This contradicts conventional wisdom and makes a powerful statement. In our modern competitive climate, we deal constantly with the reality that business cycles are drastically shorter than ever before. Sound decisions need to be made, and made quickly. Time is the critical asset and velocity is value.
If we could bring all stakeholders in a business decision to come together – to talk to customers together, listen together, share reactions together – all in real time, there would be a greater possibility of shared understanding and shared consensus. The team would mutually reinforce the company’s goals, and the decision process would be greatly accelerated.
Imagine compressing the time frame of a normal decision cycle by bringing all the parties together to share the experience of working from start to finish.
The CMO of a large publicly traded company explained to me that launching a new concept (e.g., brand message, advertising, packaging, etc.) is a two-step process. In the first step, the concept is created and then tested through qualitative and quantitative research methods. Then, in the second step, the research team takes the results of the research and makes a recommendation to the marketing and business teams.
This second step often can require reliving the entire research process so that all stakeholders can reach alignment. This CMO said that bringing all the stakeholders together at the beginning of the entire process, and having all of them participate in the research and consensus on the recommendation, compresses the two steps into a single task. He called the compressed process “real-time impact.” This is the power of a shared experience, applied to business decisions.
Velocity is indeed value: a good decision made too late to be acted upon usually is a wasted opportunity. As McKinsey Quarterly observed in its June 2017 article, “Untangling Your Organization’s Decision Making,” activities like product launches “demand input from a wide range of constituents. Collaborative efforts such as these are not actually single-point decisions, but instead, comprise a series of decisions made over time by different groups as part of an end-to-end process.”
The authors write: “The challenge is not the decisions themselves but rather the choreography needed to bring multiple parties together to provide the right input, at the right time, without breeding bureaucracy that slows down the process and can diminish the decision quality.” Rather than focusing on who has the decision-making authority on such a project, they advise, “you should worry more about where the key points of collaboration and coordination are.”
The research experience shared in real time across teams—including executive management—represents just such a moment.
As always, there’s a time and place for everything. There are times when we need independent, individual feedback, such as in a survey or interview. In those situations, we do not want individuals to be influenced by “group think.” We want individual responses.
Other situations, however, are different. If all the stakeholders involved in a business decision within a company could share – in person – the journey to making that decision, then we have achieved the ultimate goal: real-time impact.