Tuesday, June 3, 2014

From a Marketing Maven: How to Build a Successful Team and Solve Problems Creatively

Innovation and wisdom are polar opposites, right? Alicia Arnold, SVP of Account Director at Hill Holliday, proves it is possible to have both qualities. She shared with us her view on the future of marketing, leadership, and a different approach to solving business problems. 

Connect with Alicia on Twitter and
  1. Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.  I'm a lifelong learner. I hold a Bachelor's in Management, an MBA in Marketing, and an MS in Creativity, Innovation, and Change Leadership. I've also taken classes in furniture making, pottery, jewelry making, cooking, tennis, Zumba, Mandarin, interior design, real estate, snorkeling, scuba diving (did I mention I can't swim), photography, writing, and inventing.
  2. What has been your criterion for taking on new activities/learning experiences? Do you have a strategy or is it just whatever inspires you? How do you feel these areas of interest have helped you professional experience/skills? How would you motivate others to take on learning new subjects? When it comes to taking on new activities and learning experiences, I look for things that give me energy. It's more of an exploration. Learning new things and exploring different interests provides a good canvas for relating to situations, relating to people, and coming up with ideas. 
  3. What do you think is the most interesting trend in mobile/digital right now? What trends would you like to see in the future? For me, the most interesting trend in mobile, digital (and I'll add social) is convergence. There's a blending of online and offline worlds that is changing the way we consume television, the way we educate our children, and the way we purchase goods and services. Personally, I believe one of the most interesting spaces to watch is digital health - with wearables, mobile apps, and telehealth on the rise, I am hopeful that we'll be able to transform the ecosystem for the better.
  4. Convergence has a lot of far-reaching implications. On one hand, there is Google Glass which many people fear what it means for their privacy, whereas there are also innovative ways of educating and engaging with children via mobile apps. What are your thoughts on these new frontiers? Yes, there are definitely privacy concerns. I think it comes down to moderation and value. It's easy to go too far. When capturing information I think it's best to get consent and let folks know what they'll get in return. Things like ad retargeting are happening daily and sometimes it gets a little annoying. I don't really want to see those pair of shoes I looked at following me around from site to site, but we're going to see more of it because it works better than display advertising.
  5. What is your management style? How do you lead and adapt to such a diverse landscape? Until a few years ago, I wasn't able to succinctly describe my management style. Then, I read Gordon MacKenzie's, ʺOrbiting the Giant Hairball.ʺ It's one of my favorite books - a must read! In the book, MacKenzie describes a Plum Tree Organizational Structure where the roots of the tree (corporate resources) nurture and give support, while the trunk of the tree (management) enables employees in the leaves to produce fruit in this case plums. Great nurturing by management produces plums, while poor nurturing produces no fruit. When it comes to leading and adapting to diversity, it requires acceptance and trust (in yourself and in others). It is important to recognize people for who they are and to help them gain the skills and experience they need to grow. In practice, this means taking the time to get to know understand what motivates learn what they're good at, what they love, what gives them energy, and what doesn't. The happiest teams I've led are the ones where folks on the team feel challenged (in a good way), can stretch (without being too stretched), and where they're contributing in a way they feel is valuable. Many times this means working outside the confining boundaries of a job title. I've worked with strategists who are great technologists, usability experts who are great art directors, and project managers who are amazing facilitators. In building teams, I look for multidimensional people who are curious and enjoy learning. With that said, bringing folks together who don't fit into a a traditional box requires care and feeding. Building truly diverse teams can cause tension. That's where the ʺtrunk of the tree,ʺ or management comes into play. Helping teams understand differences, work through challenges, build a common vision, and push through boundaries to deliver the best work possible is what separates everyday managers from great leaders.
  6.  I like your analogy of the “trunk” of the tree as a metaphor for the role of a manager/leader in an organization; however, not always trees blossom with healthy leaves and when this happens we know the result, the tree dies.  What do you believe then, organizations have to do to keep the trees healthy and producing leaves and fruits? Culture is formed by groups. The smallest groups can have cultures that are different than the larger organization. While you may not be able to effect the larger organizational climate, focusing on your work group can make a significant difference. 
  7. What motivates you each day? I've always been more oriented to the future than the past or the present. I love thinking about the future and shaping the future. In 2009, I crafted a personal vision statement...To live my life as a ʺTransformation Artistʺ – a visionary leader who sees a brilliant future and engages the powers of creativity to achieve the impossible. Your vision is very empowering and ambitious. Given your vision is futuristic oriented, how do you keep it alive in the “here and now” to make sure you do not lose sight of it with all the daily distractions of life?
  8. Your book Creatively Ever After, aims to help anyone from children to executives solve problems creatively via nursery rhymes. How was the idea for the book born? What was that creative process like for you? The idea came from an activity my instructor led my cohort through to help explain the creative process. My imagination took hold and I began wondering what the "before" and "after" story would be if nursery rhyme characters used creative problem solving. There were chapters that almost wrote themselves and then there were those that I wrote in small doses (early in the morning,  in the wee hours of the night, on bits of scrap paper...) 
  9.  Your vision is very empowering and ambitious. Given your vision is futuristic oriented, how do you keep it alive in the “here and now” to make sure you do not lose sight of it with all the daily distractions of life? It's ok to follow the day to day and see where it leads...just need to make choices that connect to the bigger vision. Some choices are more important than others, so it's ok to take a diversion from time to time.


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