The Unseen Barrier To Marketing Innovation

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Following my post on sense-and-respond marketing, I exchanged emails with Steve Haeckel, who coined the term “sense-and-respond” as a business concept in the mid-80s.

One comment from Steve sheds light on why many innovation initiatives (which includes building a sense-and-respond marketing capability) are doomed to under-deliver, if not fail outright:

The legacy managerial framework systematically discourages front line empowerment in general, and innovation and improvisational responses in particular, because these are disruptive, inefficient, and contradictory to top-down authority hierarchies.

Changing the managerial framework from one that discourages, to one that fosters, improvisation and accountability for outcomes is pre-requisite to sustainable adaptability. As soon as executive attention turns to other priorities, the management system begins to corrode sense-and-respond behavior…which is why sustaining empowerment, simple rules, teams, and customer-back behavior has proven so difficult, and is so rare.”

Short-term focus and lack of resources are often cited as the top barriers to innovation. From Steve’s comment, I can’t help but think that these issues pale in comparison to a bigger barrier to marketing innovation: Management itself.

p.s. By “customer-back”, Steve is referring to “establishing a business’ purpose, designing its business model, and driving its operations from the customer benefit back….rather than from the firm’s internal objectives forward (e.g., revenue, profit, cycle time, customer sat metrics, margins, ROI).”

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