Groups vs Experts

Beware of marketing by committee. Instead, use an expert to edit marketing decisions, ideas, writing, and other creative work.

This is an afterthought to the story I told about dolphins and ideation. Fused perhaps with an afterthought to the story about brainstorming being a weak ideation technique – unless tightly regimented.

It was important to that first story that our dolphin cousins may have differing brain hemispheres, as we might, so I mentioned that I’d found 104,000 articles about “Hemispheric Lateralization” on Google Scholar. And I pointed out the plain fact that no one has ever or will ever read them all. 

Nor will anyone ever read all 615,000 scholarly articles about “evolutionary theory”.

That seems problematic, right? Because what if you really want to get to the bottom of evolutionary theory? You could read, say, 1,000 abstracts from the most cited of those 615,000 articles. And such a task may be doable over the course of a year, let’s say. But is it thorough? Technically speaking, no. 1 out of 615 is not thorough in any circumstance. So what if you miss the needle in that haystack? (And what if you only have a day and not a year?)

I had to think about this problem when I saw this poignant interview (from “The Portal” podcast) with evolutionary theorist and biologist Bret Weinstein ((Yes, he’s also the Evergreen State University professor who got temporary national fame for standing up for free speech)), who seems to have developed Nobel Prize-winning caliber theories on evolutionary biology in relation to cancer cell research.

The thing is, the crux of the story he tells in the interview: he never won a Nobel Prize because his research was stolen, or so he claims. ((Whereas the scientist who is alleged (I have NO idea whether this is true) to have stolen his work, did win a Nobel Prize ))

Meanwhile, Bret Weinstein has published scholarly articles on evolutionary theory. But none is among the most popular (ie. most cited) 1,000 articles on the subject; not even close.

So what if you miss the needle in the haystack of scholarship on evolutionary theory, such as any article by this (clearly brilliant – whether his research was stolen or not) scientist?

Here’s the thing – you can’t find all the needles in that haystack. Nor can 10 or 50 of you. And this is also the problem in the absolutely enormous marketing haystack, which features 10 of millions of mostly terrible pieces of content – not hundreds of thousands. 

There’s too much information about marketing for any one person to possibly digest. Too many articles, too many books, too many people((There are 10 million people on LinkedIn Sales Navigator whose job is connected to marketing)), and too many opinions.

And that is precisely the problem with most creative marketing work: it is dumbed down into ineffectiveness under the weight of too many opinions. Good creative work cannot be achieved by reconciling the differing opinions of multiple people. Peer review is not your friend.

As Bret’s interviewer (and brother) Eric Weinstein puts it:

“Peer review is a cancer from outer space. It came from the biomedical community and invaded science. The old system…. I have to say this because many people who are professional scientists have this idea that peer review has always been in our literature – and it absolutely motherfucking has not – used to be that the editor of a journal took responsibility for the quality of a journal. Which is why we had journals like Nature in the first place because they had courageous, knowledgeable, forward-thinking editors”

Don’t subject your marketing and business development ideas to peer review. What to do instead?

Find an editor – an expert

The antidote to the groupthink is a “courageous, knowledgeable, forward-thinking” expert you are willing to trust, at least for a time.

Scientists such as Bret Weinstein can navigate 615,000 articles about evolutionary theory for meaning. They have to.

And how they do so must be, like marketing, both an art and a science. I can’t tell you exactly why to avoid a period after a headline in your marketing copy. I can’t tell you why the rules of grammar are not the rules of marketing. I can cite psychiatric research and psychological theory, expert opinion from famous writers and marketers, and my own anecdotal experience. I can make a strong argument. But it’s partly based on my gut.

It’s probably the same for you – when a client asks you why you recommend A and B decisions, you should have a good answer, of course. An argument, or even an overarching point of view. And ideally, one partly based on data/research. But behind all that, though you may not articulate it, is your gut as an expert.

If you don’t yet trust your expert instinct on a certain question, don’t take it to a committee, take it to an expert you’re willing to trust.((Counterpoint: you can expose your ideas to large groups as if you were conducting research by asking pointed questions, assimilating answer-sets, and looking for meaning therein. But I think of the outcome of that process as a data set, not an opinion set.))

My best.