How groupthink just killed your agency new business goals

Two minds are better than one.  At least that’s how the old saying goes.  But what happens when those two minds (or three or four) get caught up in a groupthink cluster?  While the idea of working together to gain consensus around important growth driving topics (like new business positioning) might sound like a great idea, it’s important to steer clear of the potential dead end road groupthink can take you.

So why is consensus so dangerous, especially for agency new business?

Similar past, similar future

Many times agency executive groups that are setting out to develop unique positioning come from places of similar past experiences.  Most of our agency VPs and C Level execs started somewhere outside of new business.  Perhaps they started within Account Management or creative, and as such, they have very little experience within the new business world.  This then shapes our opinion of how new business is done, how it should be done, and what works and doesn’t work.  Often, they have faced new business failure in the past when they tried something new, and because we all are hesitant of repeating a mistake, we agree to steer away from that “new” again.

The problem with steering away from the “new” is that an agency can wind up repeating their mistakes again and again, because they never truly change.  True change comes from a holistic look at how you approach new business, not just purchasing one piece of new technology or a new website design.  While those pieces are important and can affect some of our experience and results, they won’t fully change your new business for the better.

Let’s look at a real life example:  ABC Agency’s executives have decided that their positioning is great… “we solve problems that can’t be solved”.  Because they all have the same experiences in the agency world, nobody stops to ask questions like:

  • Is this really interesting for new business?
  • Is this positioning true of what we have done in the past and want to go in the future?
  • Does this even make sense!?

So if your agency new business positioning discussion seems to be running uncomfortably smoothly with nobody challenging one another, think about applying some of these ideas:

  • Invite someone outside of your exec team to the positioning meeting. Maybe even invite someone from outside the agency to get an outsider’s feelings on your positioning.
  • If you’re the leader of the meeting, listen to other people’s ideas before expressing any of your own opinions. Leadership opinion can sway opposition opinion and accelerate groupthink.
  • Challenge any assumption that has 100% approval. You may find it is a solid assumption, but challenging it can also be a great way to identify a blind spot.

Those few steps can help ensure that your new business efforts won’t get self-sabotaged with groupthink consensus.  Having that outside perspective and the openness to challenge assumptions can ensure that your agency stands out among your competition.

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Matt Chollet

As EVP of Agency Development, Matt works alongside agencies on a daily basis, helping them implement new business processes that help generate qualified conversations with their most sought after prospects.

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