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Complex Challenges: Two Heads Are Better Than One

complex challenges

Written by Phil Bressler

September 3, 2020

Welcome to the third installment of our blog series Built for Business Today on handling complex challenges. If you’ve been following along, you know we are publishing a series about the top four qualities marketing executives look for when selecting outside marketing partners. This post sheds some light on the second most important quality (according to recent research by The Agency Edge)—the ability to handle difficult or complex projects. 

In a nutshell, this comes down to the simple belief that two heads are better than one, especially when it comes to complex and challenging situations. 

Even NASA and SpaceX, with an ample supply of pretty good brains, collaborate to solve very complex challenges. “Exactly how would we re-use a booster rocket instead of just letting it crash uselessly into the sea?”  “Heck if I know, let’s ask Larry over in engineering.” In fact, NASA even crowdsources solutions to problems via the NASA Solve program. Who knew?

While not exactly rocket science, business and marketing challenges can nonetheless be just as important as safe space travel. Today’s marketers are extremely busy and under constant pressure to deliver results. We are often challenged to “do more with less.” This makes it difficult to keep the existing plates spinning in the air while taking on additional challenges of equal or more complexity. And in most cases, the need to move quickly probably didn’t change (see blog post from July 6 about the speed of business today). 

This is the moment when smart and confident marketers know that turning to others for help is worth it—driving the need for a marketing partner that has the ability to think and strategically solve big problems. 

At Rhycom, we “know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two,” (to borrow a phrase from Farmers Insurance). In spite years of experience, we still take on complex challenges by following our same proven process:

  • Identify the real problem and/or opportunity
  • Surround yourself with smart people
  • Seek different approaches
  • Validate the viability of final options
  • Decide / execute / optimize 

I’ll never forget the keynote speech I heard from Retired General, Norman Schwarzkopf—known at the time as “Stormin’ Norman.”

General Schwarzkopf, planned and led Operation Desert Storm, an extended air campaign followed by a highly-successful 100-hour ground offensive, which defeated the Iraqi Army and liberated Kuwait in early 1991. What I remember most from his talk was:

  1. He was willing to make a decision. He clearly understood the challenge, and he sought input from other leaders in the United States Central Command, but at the end of the day, the battle plan was his decision to make. I’d say he wasn’t 100% sure the plan was perfect, but he knew indecision would lead to confusion and most likely a failed mission. He weighed the options, made a decision and gave clear orders. 
  1. Schwarzkopf surrounded himself with smart people and he trusted his entire chain of command. He made the decision; he gave clear orders, and he inspired and trusted his people to make good decisions and to optimize the plan along the way. In a sign of humility, I recall him saying, “People think I’m this great general. All I did was be willing to make a decision to the best of my ability. I know people much smarter than me will tweak the plan along the way and make it much better, leading to our ultimate success.” 

The room erupted into a standing ovation. We were all ready to go to battle alongside him. I still have goosebumps thinking about the leadership story he shared that day. So, while marketing challenges might not be at the level of space flight or massive military operations, we can certainly learn lessons from this kind of inspired leadership.

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