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Are You an Agile Content Creator? 6 Traits of Change Agents

“Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes…” —David Bowie

agile worker on mountainIn a previous post, I talked about why content marketers need to embrace change to survive in today’s environment. Beyond just surviving, what do marketers and content creators need to thrive and prosper?

An agile learning mentality.

As we adapt to new behaviors along the evolving buyers’ journey, content creators and marketers have to prepare to draw on new insights and expertise to drive business growth for their organizations. We have to be open to new ways of thinking, and we need to continually learn new skills to anticipate the challenges that emerge. 

Changing buyer behavior is forcing us to shift the ways we function as marketers and content creators. Strategies for engaging customers and building relationships have become increasingly complex; to be successful, we must be willing to think differently on all levels and adapt to an unpredictable business environment — not just a marketing environment.

We can’t simply address these sweeping changes at the tactical level; rather, it’s essential that we re-examine the fundamentals of how to create and lead experiences that fascinate and inspire employees and customers to take action.

Enter the agile learner

Columbia University and the Center for Creative Leadership issued a report about learning agility, particularly in times of disruption. The agile learner, they assert, “shows the willingness and ability to learn throughout their careers, if not their entire lives.” While this sounds simple, what’s needed from marketers and content creators today is their willingness to serve as integrators and agents of change. To not only be open to new skills and understand how to collaborate with new partners, but to be prepared to bring more original insights to the table, as well.

How does that tie into what content creators and other content marketers do every day on the job? Regardless of the role they currently play in an organization — from young professional to seasoned executive — agile learners are those who exhibit some essential qualities and priorities:

  • The gumption it takes to challenge the status quo: By examining long-held beliefs and breaking down silos between groups, content marketers will discover new and innovative ways of looking at challenges and how to creatively solve them. The more diverse your experiences, the broader the perspectives you bring to your role — and the more capable you will be of delving deeper to find new ways to meet your goals, enterprise-wide.
  • The ability to remain calm in the midst of adversity: Agile learners have the ability to draw on past experiences to remain present and engaged when faced with ambiguous and/or high-pressure situations. This allows them to tap into more insightful thinking processes — even at times when inspiration may be at its lowest.
  • Taking time for reflection: In the midst of all the demands placed on us and our teams, rarely do we take time to step back and reflect on the work we do, the meaning we create, and how that meaning affects our customers’ experiences. Having new experiences doesn’t guarantee that you’ll learn from them; but reflecting upon them can offer deeper insights into how you will perform, how you will work with others, and how you will approach new challenges.
  • Purposely seeking challenging situations: Comfort and growth can’t coexist. Agile learners understand the need to push themselves, and their abilities, to explore situations where there is no proven process or outcome. Content marketers who prioritize continuous learning will come to understand the ways that risk can lead to opportunity.
  • Being open to learning: Breaking down legacy thinking is the first step to opening your mind to new possibilities. Instead of relying on the crutch of “best” practices, think “next” practices. Don’t let the way you’ve always done things — even if it’s brought you success — circumvent the pathways to new ideas and experiences.
  • Avoiding defensive thinking: As mentioned above, openness is fundamental to increasing knowledge. But openness isn’t just a one-way process — it requires talking about what you believe and why you believe it, as well as initiating honest, heart-to-heart conversations that may make you feel vulnerable. When you share your ideas, people will likely give you feedback, and some may disagree with your approach; but agile learners resist the urge to become defensive. Instead, they listen carefully and seek to understand others’ points of view and perspectives. This is how they learn valuable lessons and insights that may come in handy for future challenges.

Built to change: The new marketing department

An urgent challenge content creators and marketers face today isn’t figuring out our new “normal,” but rather how we can build agile marketing departments that are equipped to respond to the unknown and unpredictable. Research supports this; for example, a recent Forrester report found that 97 percent of marketers are doing things they’ve never done before, and the same number are seeing a dramatic gap in the breadth and depth of skills needed.

It’s about change, not scale. We’re now at the point where we need to stop hiring for skill sets and start hiring for mindsets. We need to approach our marketing departments less like a machine to be controlled and more like a complex, dynamic system that can learn and adapt over time. This is the path to building fluid, organic processes that respond to new buyer behavior, rather that the rigid structures with which we’re familiar. Companies around the world fueled by agile marketers are disrupting the market, aggressively gaining customers, and eclipsing their competition.

Agile marketers will serve as the agents of change that enable our organizations to respond to — and even lead — evolving customer expectations. This is how we’ll create truly integrated approaches in which content marketers are the ones who orchestrate all channels in order to build long-lasting customer relationships.

Join Carla Johnson as she presents a workshop on Content Marketing and Sales Enablement at Content Marketing World 2013, September 9–11 in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Cover image via Bigstock