Marketers must roll the dice more often
Another motivation was the need, he says, to save innovation from “the tyranny of the corporation”. Once BusinessWeek magazine announced the innovation economy, the corporation decided to get serious. “There’s been an attempt to domesticate innovation, turning it into a system, controlled by close management. New ideas don’t like to be managed. They don’t respect passport control.”
An inscrutable future is antithetical to the corporation, which is designed to be a logical problem-solving machine. In the 20th century, given the right resources, corporations could cope with just about anything, but this approach no longer applies.
The new leftfield thinking required is causing huge problems for a generation of managers used to a more logical metrics-based approach – but they need to embrace looser forms of experimentation, McCracken says. “It’s both intellectually counter-intuitive and emotionally challenging for managers and corporations, so many will struggle with it.”
It behoves the chief executives of organisations to nurture creativity, shielding it from the cynicism of those who want to protect the status quo and “give innovation a place to play and room to grow”.
However, culturematics do need a sense of direction and the CEO is the ideal person to provide “the vectors in which the investment has hope of return” as he puts it.
Some corporations do grasp the imperative of this. McCracken admires Google’s practice of letting employees spend their Friday afternoons working on their own experimental projects. They don’t have to get approval from their bosses by proving the worth of this activity.
“They are left to explore their raw hunches which allows them to mine their deep intuition. This is where we pick up the strongest signals so it’s important that corporations don’t stymie this effort.”
Refreshingly, McCracken admits that he has had a mixed response to the book with some readers finding it hard to grasp the idea. There is an element in which the book is itself a culturematic, a work in progress probe in the market, and some readers would have preferred if some of the ideas had been nailed down more firmly, he acknowledges. The book is very US-centric and readers on this side of the Atlantic might have liked a more global perspective. Paradoxically, he says, Culturematic has proved more resonant with readers in the UK than in the US, serving to further underline the message that it’s hard to know where and how your message will be received.