S02E04 – The Founder’s Dilemma

Talking About Marketing Podcast by Steve Davis and David Olney

Exploring the gap between a leaders’ vision of what their teams should be doing and their teams’ understanding of and ability to do what they do

If you're a founder (or you work for one), you will find this episode helpful if you've had to navigate that point in a business at which a founder's personal abilities and capacities are overrun by the demands of growth in the business.

It is at this point that founders need to make some profound adjustments to avoid their business imploding.

This crossroads is typically met when an enterprise reaches the 5-15 employee mark.

In other topics this episode, we cover the TikTok security threat, the Guardian's iconic Three Little Pigs campaign, and the way that you think you're watching YouTube but in fact it's YouTube that's watching you.

Talking About Marketing podcast episode notes with timecodes

02:27  Person  This segment focusses on you, the person, because we believe business is personal.

YouTube Is A Case Of The Tail Wagging The Dog

As a business owner or leader in the modern age, you are probably busy producing content, juggling work demands, and being exposed to content in your daily life (or you fret that you are not doing as much creation as you'd like to) but for the Person segment, Steve took a moment to reflect on how our content consumption is being curated and governed by others.

Through an interview with successful science-educating YouTuber, Derek Muller, from Veritasium, on The Skeptics Guide To The Universe podcast, episode 923, we are reminded how much we need to be vigilant.

As Derek explains in the interview, he has been producing videos (including viral videos) on YouTube for a long time (more than 10 years) and maintining success means modifying production to please the website's algorithims. To ignore the changing formula that determines whose videos get exposed to new audiences, is to relegate yourself to becoming irrelevant.

For example, in the early days, YouTube favoured producers who built their list of subscribers. Back then, if you accrued a large number of subscribers, they would then be exposed to your new content and, by default, this signalled the value of the content to YouTube so its algorithm would then share your work with "strangers".

But in recent years, they've changed to different measures of what is popular, front-loading the importance of how many people view the opening seconds, resulting in producers now having to handcraft thumbnail still images with catchy titles and opening sequences that "jazz up" the content to snare a share of the ever diminishing moments of attention of YouTube viewers who increasingly consume contenty by scrolling the site while on mobile devices.

Derek explains this means meatier topics are sadly overlooked in favour of shallower ones. We all lose from this. But YouTube wins.

It's sobering stuff, and Steve argues we need to take back as much control as possible when using services like YouTube. By disabling autoplay and by using your own search terms to hone in on topics of importance to you, you will stay in the driver's seat as much as possible and avoid being sucked into a vortex of titillation.

As an aside, Steve also referenced a Sam Harris interview in which his chat with AI experts, Stuart Russel and Gary Marcus, referenced research revealling that those of us who binge watch TV are UNHAPPIER than people who watch a little. Apparently, it boils down to opportunity costs. We later resent the time we have wasted.

The main takeaway is to take time to curate your viewing yourself, save things for later, and stay in control. The same goes with streaming services. If we go in with a shortlist of content was want to consume, we'll be less likely of falling victim to the infinite scroll.

10:48  Principles  This segment focusses principles you can apply in your business today.

The Founder's Dilemma

During his years of working as a consultant, David Olney discusses the gap he has discerned between leaders’ visions of what their teams should be doing and their teams’ understanding of and ability to do what they do.

He explains that when leaders have a particular take on how to translate top level strategy into something that their teams can do every day, it often ends up being at odds with what their teams have been historically habituated to do. As a result, teams often lose their motivation and impetus for action, lose faith in their leadership, and move on to other teams and organisations.

While David first noticed this in large organisations, he has increasingly seen it in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which is why he has dubbed it The Founder’s Dilemma.

For the sake of brevity, as you'll hear in the discussion, David notes that founders either hold on to control and information very tightly, blunting their people’s ability to grow and contribute to the enterprise, putting future growth at risk; or they surrender a bit of control and share some information, empower their people to contribute, and the enterprise can grow because of a shared vision, responsibility, and trust.

You'll hear the full discussion in the episode and can also read David's article here: The Founder’s Dilemma: Building your business without blunting your people.

23:34  Problems  This segment answers questions we've received from clients or listeners.

Leaving TikTok

Steve raised the issue of privacy in the digital age arising from a chat with his eldest daughter, AJ.

AJ had watched a TikTok video explaining how much monitoring the app does of its users, prompting her to delete it.

Steve then explained that almost every app on her phone is tracking and selling information about her, even our beloved weather app. This happens when you let the app track your location to serve you with local weather. She didn't realise that her location was then being sold to local councils and other enterprises so they could target her with advertising, etc.

As he explains in the segment, they then went through and made judicious decisions about which apps were to be deleted, which would stay with mobile/location data turned off (except when in use), and which ones provided enough value to live with the privacy trade off.

36:33  Perspicacity  This segment is designed to sharpen our thinking by reflecting on a case stude from the past.

Three Little Pigs - The Guardian

In 2012, an ad for the Guardian's open journalism won a Cannes Lion Award.

The "Three Little Pigs advert" re-imagines how the story of the three little pigs would be covered in the digital era of news gathering.

Steve and David discuss this ad in the Perspicacity segment to ponder whether it might work today.

Listen to the discussion for the range of items raised but in short they note the naivity of our society back in 2012 where our embracing of the eruption of social media discussion was welcomed as a triumph for humanity.

We have since seen just how dark and manipulated this "town square" can be.

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