That’s right, a well-suited-and-booted cadre of rationalists, sporting MBAs and the latest scholarly articles from the Harvard Business Review, are owning us at our own game. Seducing clients with Kanbans and Agile and Waterfall and Design Thinking. Outputting charts and roadmaps and critical paths at a truly breathtaking pace.
But to what end? Is it getting business leaders any closer to their customer? Is it illuminating the culture in which they operate? Can they even begin to synthesise the beautifully chaotic and fundamentally irrational nature of humankind to find the point at which profoundly relevant and resonant communication begins?
Nope. It’s not what they’ve been trained to do. Smart and capable as they undoubtedly are, multi-national management consultants are avowed rationalists, absolutely confident in their ability to define and steer brand strategy with a map they borrowed from McKinsey.
They have the map, sure. But they left home without the compass: that north-star, guiding light, culture-driven brand belief that’s the very essence of every great brand the world has ever known. Done right, brand development and storytelling can transform a business; galvanising employees, inviting belonging, and sparking purchase behaviour. As a kind of alchemy, it can’t be easily reproduced, and it certainly can’t be reduced to a formula. If it could every company would be as big as Apple.
Brand belief and positioning has always been, and must once more return to, the domain of the creative industries and the imaginatively bold. Thinking outside-the-box is what we’ve been trained to do. We see the gold dust that fall through the cracks of most strategy models - the emergent cultural insights, the dark unspoken forces, the leaps of faith, and the irrational and illogical drivers of human behaviour. The stuff that makes your average management consultant sweat uncomfortably in their suit.
So this is my call to arms to an industry I’ve been part of for thirty years. Push back against the ceaseless march of the consultant rationalists. Step up for the creatively brave. Shine a light on the dark forces that threaten to derail the business leaders of today. We hold the keys to inspirational thinking they desperately need to drive meaningful business change.
It’s time to poke the bear.