Strategy: How to Exercise Creative Deconstruction

Innovation has been hailed for more than half a century as “creative destruction.” The definition is applied to economics broadly, because it applies so well to today’s ever-evolving landscape of technology and the IOT life. Listening to the Bill Gates, Elon Musks, and Malcolm Gladwells of the world makes innovation sound like an exercise in demolition: what once existed is past, and innovation is about starting from a clean slate.

But so few of us have the opportunity to blow up the foundations we’ve built. It’s not a question of guts; it’s just that things can be salvaged. Repaired. Repurposed. Virtually everyone has the capacity to tear things apart and start from scratch…but few people have the ability to see potential, carefully deconstruct what is already there, and use the materials you have to make something new. It’s not creative destruction—it’s creative deconstruction. And that is the foundation of strategy.

But creative deconstruction is only useful when it helps you reassemble all the parts into a more efficient whole.

But creative deconstruction is only useful when it helps you reassemble all the parts into a more efficient whole. You’ll throw some out. You’ll create some new ones. And in the end, you’ll have used the materials you already have to get you—and your audience—closer to the right goals.

Most companies, most brands, and most people don’t need to “innovate”—they need to strategize.

Time for a metaphor:

Whether you love them for the nostalgic feeling you get or you hate them because your kids use them to make a minefield of your carpet, everyone has strong feelings about LEGOs. Brands everywhere create brand assets like LEGO bricks: they have a certain size, shape and color, but they are left strewn about without any real cohesion between them. Sometimes you’ll find whitepapers and webinar recordings on a resources page, but they tend to be dumped there because “what else are we supposed to do with ‘em?” Marketers love these assets; certain members of the sales team hate them and try to create their own.

And it’s not just marketing collateral: it’s product development. It’s sales strategies. It’s call center scripts. When something “doesn’t work”, it’s an easier mental game to rip and replace than to examine and restructure.

You don’t need to rip out your current system.

You don’t need to rip out your current system. You can reorganize what’s there. You created it for a reason, and that reason was to solve specific problems—hopefully problems specific to audiences.

Here are five things you can do to to start taking the brand LEGO blocks you have strewn about to build toward a specific business objective:

1. Identify the business goal you’d like to reach

Some people might state this a different way—they might talk about “solving business problems” rather than “reaching business goals.” That’s a bit shortsighted (if we’re being honest). Problems are like obstacles in the road: you must have a road to travel for the block to be in the way. That road is your business goal. And once you get around the problem, the road/goal is still there…and the problem is not. Plan for the long run.

Be careful not to pick a goal that really should be a KPI. For example, a good business goal is increasing customer lifetime value, or increasing lead quality before you send them to sales. But a mistake that many brands make is to say, “I want to increase open rates in my emails,” or “we need to increase social engagement by 15% this quarter.” Those are worthy actions to achieve, but they are mile markers, not the road itself.

To that end, you should also plan your marketing campaigns around your audience’s goals. Talk to them about what they want to achieve, and they’ll intuitively apply your product or service to their own problems.

2. Take an inventory of the assets you have

There are several ways to take an inventory of your collateral and assets. Depending on your business and marketing goals (higher conversion rate from nurturing, customer marketing, developing brand advocates, etc.), you’ll pick a different way to parse what you already have.

Let’s say that in step 1 you determined that the business goal you want to achieve is to improve lead quality. You’ll take an inventory of your brand assets by tracking what you have for each step of the conversion funnel.

Some of the main topics for an inventory include:

* What business goals you are helping clients reach;
* What stage of the buying process collateral will fall into;
* Which personas have content dedicated to them;
* and others…

You can get into a tagging frenzy and start tagging each asset with multiple tags. That’s fine so long as you keep your eye on the business goal you are trying to solve. Doing more work does not always equal doing better work.

3. Mind the gaps

Your goal is not to fill in the gaps. You may have 20 assets for one business goal and only 5 for another. But if the majority of your audience is dealing with the first business goal and only a handful are dealing with the second, then you’re in good shape. If you’re paying more attention to one area of the business than another, let that insight guide your extended strategy.

For product development, these assets could be functionality you plan into your next SCRUM meeting, or analyzing the number of products you have developed toward that end. For customer service, you may be analyzing support material or team training.

4. Simplify

The hardest thing to do is throw away something that represents hours, weeks, or months of work. And by all means, keep the things that are contributing value to your business. But hanging onto legacy content, products, or practices can also be unnecessary weight stopping you from moving forward.

Hanging onto legacy content, products, or practices can also be unnecessary weight stopping you from moving forward.

Let unnecessary features find their way to the chopping block if they are taking too much time to maintain without moving clients toward their goals. Let training presentations go to the trash bin if they are just going to muddy the waters for your sales team.

Once you have the goals defined in step 1, the assets categorized in step 2, and the gaps identified in step 3, you now have a priority matrix. Stick to it. If in simplifying you find something that is just “too important” to let go, then walk it back through the previous three steps to validate its worth or identify if you’re just being nostalgic.

5. Build on what’s already there

Let’s get back to LEGOs for a minute: you have to connect the pieces into a cohesive storyline. How would persona X interact with each asset down the conversion funnel? When you create a new piece of content, how do the pieces that come before it in the conversion funnel support it and prepare your leads for the value that is in it?

Creative deconstruction is only helpful when it shows you how to put all the assets back together again, not when it helps you pick them up off the floor only to throw them all in a box. Everything must connect, or it is useless to your brand.

If you need help applying creative deconstruction to help you rebuild toward your business goals, maybe it’s time to Go Rogue.

Happy deconstructing.