As part of our Skills of the Modern Marketer research we set out to define the soft skills needed to be successful within an organisation coping with all the changes that digital transformation brings.

Although classic marketing skills are essential, these will have to be combined with more digitally focused skills – a natural gravitation towards collaborative work, adaptability, creativity, insights driven by data - in order to be well positioned within the broader organisation.

When we asked our respondents what were the most important soft skills that make them an effective marketer in the modern digital world, the top replies were the “the ability to embrace change” and the “ability to spot opportunities and adapt strategies quickly.”

It’s clear from the research that adaptability and the freedom to be agile are considered as critical soft skills for today’s modern marketing environment.

Unfortunately according to our recently published Salary Survey report, 47% of general marketers feel that the company culture they work in doesn’t encourage measured risk-taking.

This means that almost half of our respondents are struggling to meet the demands of a fast-paced, digitally focused environment because of their employers.

This clearly needs to change, and modern marketers are in the perfect position to drive this change and convince the wider organisation that it’s okay to experiment; that it’s okay to be creative; and ultimately that it’s okay to fail. 

After all, adopting this mindset is the only way that truly disruptive thinking can be nurtured, which in turn can lead to truly revolutionary business ideas and cultural change.

Of course this all sounds terribly lofty, and speaks to a certain utopian ideal, however there are complementary skills that marketers can improve on that will help drive innovative thinking and practices in the wider company. 

In our Skills of the Modern Marketer report, we highlight the work of authors Clayton Christensen, Jeffrey Dyer and Hal Gregersen. Their book The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators proposes five key skills that can help generate innovative and disruptive ideas.

  • Associating. This is the ability to link together previously disconnected ideas to create new, original ones.
  • Questioning. An approach that asks ‘why’ rather than ‘how’, which challenges the status quo and is comfortable with experimentation.
  • Observing. Always be mindful, always be aware.
  • Networking. Open to hearing and sourcing different perspectives and ideas from a broad network of people and input.
  • Experimenting. A judicious and continuous focus on experimentation, with the ability to learn from failure along the way.

With these skills you should be able to look at problems in a non-standard way, and this competency will increasingly become more important to organisations, particularly the 53% not providing a risk-taking culture, as they realise that they must differentiate themselves in a fast-evolving, always connected world.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 14 July, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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