It’s that time of year when we are overwhelmed with trends and predictions about what will happen in the future. It’s also a time to reflect on the trends you missed and the trends that didn’t turn out as you expected.
What is clear from this exercise is that making bets about the future is a tricky game; and it’s going to be even trickier in 2019. Global stock markets can change with a tweet, digital continues to disrupt industries and we can but guess at the final outcome of Brexit. So what is one to do? How do you navigate these challenging times?
Strangely, this conundrum reminded me of a restaurant review I’d read some years ago. In the review, the author voiced his disappointment in having to review yet another faddish restaurant. He suggested to his readers that instead of spending money on a meal at this place they would be better off investing in 3 cookbooks by Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and Edouard De Pomiane.
He argued that, rather than provide an ephemeral experience, those books would give the reader a lifetime of enjoyment, as they would teach them fundamental craft skills about cooking.
The point he was making were craft skills are more important than trends, fads and fashions. They are the fundamentals that can last you a lifetime and as a result, they are worth investing time developing.
Improving your craft skills can have an immediate pay-off as they help you deal with what is happening right now. That makes investing in developing craft skills a much safer bet than gambling on a trend that might never materialise.
Good technique gives you something to fall back on. Situations might change but there are some skills that are fundamental. That means investing in them and taking time to improve your skills is not a wasted investment.
The benefits of good technique also aggregate – even if they are just small improvements. Just imagine if you improved your ability to run meetings effectively by 2%. But multiply this by the number of meetings you attend and by the end of the year you will have made a substantial improvement in your overall effectiveness.
Or imagine if you were a consultant and you improved how well you collaborated and worked with others. People would enjoy working with you more, the work you produced with them would be better and they would put more work your way.
There is nothing mysterious about these areas of focus. They are the fundamentals of business. But there is a competitive advantage to being very good at them – in having exceptional technique.
When Adam & Eve, the most successful agency launch of the last 10 years, started they didn’t have a founding vision. They weren’t selling a new agency model. They just wanted to produce very good advertising. They understood that technique is more powerful than trends.
If you are interested in improving your technique there are plenty of resources to help you.
A good place to start is Farnam Street a blog that is chock-a-block full of inspiration and stimulus. They provide a repository of information about mental models, decision making tools and resources for life-time learning. They have a simple but powerful claim “we have helped millions of people master the best of what other people have already figured out.” So let them do the hard work for you – if there is a particular skill you’d like to improve have a look here first.
If you want to improve your digital skills both Facebook Blueprint and Google Digital Garage are excellent online training courses that cover the full range of their digital products. If you spent 30mins each lunchtime immersed in their training you will very quickly round out and fill in any gaps in your digital knowledge.
On a more fundamental level rather than focus on trying to understand future media trends start by ensuring you are clear on how people are consuming media right now. Dan Flynn at the IPA shared some recent data that showed that, contrary to what many claim, broad media consumption in 2019 is going to look much like what media consumption looked like in 2018. And more surprisingly, when you look at broad categories, media behaviour remains remarkably consistent - people might have shifted viewing from TV to YouTube but they are still watching video content at the same time of day.
He also shone a light on our own media bubbles. Many people in the creative industries claim TV is dying and people only watch Netflix. He neatly showed that media consumption in a London creative bubble is different from the reality of other people in the UK. For example, only 10% of video content viewing is via subscriber VOD in the UK vs 29% for a creative industry audience. That level of analysis takes time, skill and an understanding of the current media landscape.
It is easy to be seduced by snappy trend headlines and it is seductive to spend your time reading about what might happen in the future. But that is not going to help you thrive in 2019. Instead, roll up your sleeves, perfect your technique and make an impact on what is happening right now.
Paul is Global Head of Strategy at Vizeum. He is a Global Strategist with experience that spans a variety of sectors (CPG, Tech, Pharma and Finance) and disciplines (Media, Advertising, CRM and Sales Promotion). He is responsible for European Strategy across all Starcom Global Network Clients including Samsung, P&G, Coke, Airbnb, Novartis, Etihad, Mars. Paul holds a Bachelor in Biological Sciences, Zoology from the University of Oxford.