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Lessons on Team Culture and Being Data-driven From the All Blacks

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” 

- James C. Collins, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't”

Achieving greatness requires a culture that not only strives for, but enables and rewards greatness. In order to rise above the competition, a company needs a favorable culture and environment, diligent effort on the part of the team, and an objective acceptance of critical feedback on how to improve. When these things come together, you cannot help but be great, and greatness naturally becomes the norm.  

Today the marketing industry is at an exciting turning point with GDPR poised to completely disrupt the way businesses collect and manage customer data.  Our regulatory environment is changing, so it’s up to brands to put in the work to be compliant and take what the data tells them seriously in order improve targeting and customer retention.

One of my personal favorite examples of a truly great team, building a culture around constant improvement based on data, is the All Blacks rugby team from New Zealand. A few years ago I had a unique opportunity to watch the All Blacks’ Dan Carter and his coaches in kicking practice, with a strategic video analysis camera set up behind Carter.

By recording  over a hundred kicks in a one-hour session, the video analysis serves to help Carter improve in a few different ways. It not only provides Dan Carter with insights on his kicking, but also helps him visually memorize the surrounding stadium and prepare for potential distractions. Additionally, Carter’s coaches use the recording to observe how they communicate with Carter, and improve their methods for bringing out the best in their kicker. This process works because the All Blacks team is able to put egos aside and use the objective information available to them to improve their performance. As a result, the All Blacks currently hold the world record for World Cup titles.

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During my own business career I’ve worked with great teams like F1 BMW-Williams, Leicester Tigers, Leinster, Munster, and Ireland Rugby. All of them used AI technology to gain data-driven insights into their performance to gain advantage over their competition. It’s an extra bit of effort that gets them over the line to “great” rather than settling for “good enough.”

In marketing, implementing data into performance analysis and forward-looking strategy is more complicated than it is in sports. We have so much data that a company either lives and breathes data or it chokes on it. But just as it is in sports, the difference always starts with building a favorable team culture. There is a lot of foundational data management work and bringing together of disparate pieces required to enable a marketing team to really thrive off of their data. So in order to arrive at a place where you can be constantly working off of actionable insights, you need to start by getting the whole team’s buy-in, and develop a culture that enables the team to succeed with each of the steps leading toward sophisticated marketing intelligence.

Our recently commissioned Forrester Report includes some highly interesting insights on how successful marketing orgs are today in building data-driven culture, and achieving actionable marketing intelligence. 

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