Category: Teaching and learning

Remember to look for the gorilla

Not a sentence I ever thought I’d be saying to a room full of people at work. But I did. Let me explain…

Sanctuary is implementing a new company-wide computer system (SAP) and I’m project managing the process of moving the data we have in our current computer systems over to our new one.

Man in a gorilla suit holding a banana
Can you see me?
Image from Costume Craze

Once the data has been moved over to SAP the business needs to check that what they thought had moved actually had moved, and that any financial balances are still the same. Basically that we haven’t gained or lost a few million pounds during the migration and that what we know to be a house in our existing system hasn’t magically become a garage in SAP. This process is called reconciliation and validation.

Last week my team and I presented this concept to the business. To keep it simple and get the key messages of: 1) this is really, really important and 2) you need to know what to look for when you’re reconciling and validating, we used this clip as the opener:


In the clip you’re asked to concentrate on how many basketball passes the team in white make, but a few seconds in to the game a gorilla walks across the screen, giving a little wave on his way.

About half of the audience completely missed the gorilla. They got the number of basketball passes right and had they been asked to spot the gorilla I’m sure they’d have seen it. If they’d known to look out for it, it would have been blindingly obvious.

So the point was, if you know what checks you need to perform on your data, what questions to ask, what to count, you’ll be more likely to find problems, whereas if you go into the validation process with little thought, you’ll miss the errors.

The same can be said for all things marketing and digital. When you’re proof-reading copy or checking print proofs you should be following a tried-and-tested process that will support you to find mistakes. For example when I proof-read I look for one type of problem at a time, so first I check sentence structure, then I work through the copy again and look at spelling.

With any Analytics programme you need to have an idea of what you’re trying to measure and why, before you start measuring it. A collection of numbers of site visits, bounce rate, or Likers is just a collection of numbers but if you’ve thought about its value it becomes insight which enables you to make more effective marketing decisions.

So remember, always look for the gorilla. Have some idea about what you’re trying to find before you start looking for it.



How do you nurture talent?

Flower with water droplets on
Nurturing talent is like watching the petals open on a flower
Image by Kprateek88 via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve recently seen a couple of people from past jobs flourish in roles in new organisations. In fact one of them is writing a blog on his new company’s website, where his previous role would never have allowed for this.

It got me thinking about why these people felt they needed to leave their jobs. Of course, everyone leaves their employer at some point and lots of factors influence that such as your team, the company culture, your day to day tasks etc. But a big factor is whether you feel you can develop in your position and if it’s moving your career in the right direction.

So as a manager I began to explore how you could nurture the talent you’ve already got in your team, so that they don’t feel they need to leave (yet) and you’re not left with a recruitment problem. These are my thoughts:

Ask the individuals in your team what their career goals are

If you don’t know their desired path, how can you support their journey?

Flex where possible

If you’re able to adapt team roles and you can explore the possibility of flexing boundaries, then this added level of responsibility or a newly required level of skill, can be the added ‘push’ your team members need to lift them up to the next stage in their career.

Provide as many opportunities for development as you can

Ambitious individuals, and even those who aren’t ‘ambitious’ but need a change, will relish the opportunity to try new things, work on different projects or work in a different environment. If you can’t provide the exact types of experiences they’re looking for, can you arrange a secondment or work shadowing opportunity within the wider business?

If you’re serious about nurturing talent then you’ll agree that it’s better to keep a good team member within the company but perhaps in a different team, then to lose them elsewhere altogether.

Encourage a learning process

Writing a career plan and setting short and long term targets can help focus the mind. If you’re providing additional experiences and flexing the role, it can be a good idea for this to be captured in a ‘lessons’ document or an informal diary.

Give feedback and get feedback from them

Nurture is about giving constructive feedback and encouraging this as a multi-way process. Giving and receiving feedback ties back to looking at this as a learning experience- it’s what the individual does with the feedback they receive that will determine whether their raw talent is developed or not.

Review their goals with them and help set new ones

Nurturing your team is a long term investment and career goals may change over time. It’s important to keep focussed on what is desired so it can be achieved.

Accept that when the time is right it’s OK for them to move on

In my opinion, the best thing to do is to support your team when they’re ready to leave, so they’ll do so feeling happy.

What’s your experience of nurturing talent? 

Is blogging worth it?

Back when I was managing a regional study centre for Oxford College of Marketing and working as a freelancer, I blogged on a regular basis to firstly provide additional resources for students, and secondly to market my services.

But when my career changed direction and I began working solely in a client-side marketing role, I stopped. I think it’s because I lost my purpose. I didn’t have students to reach or new business to gain. And to be honest I was a bit worried I’d say something I shouldn’t!

Since then I’ve taken time out for maternity leave and moved to a new organisation. I’m now working in a digital role and my key focus at the moment is to gain buy-in for social media projects. I’ve been back at work a month and have already experienced some interactions that I’ve not been able to ‘leave behind’ at 5 o’clock. And with most of my friends still off work with their lovely babies, and therefore not in the frame of mind to listen to my musings and provide guidance, I find myself really missing the release that blogging provides.

I don’t even think anyone reads my posts but that’s ok. I’ve decided that my purpose is not to support the learning of other marketers or to raise my profile, but to find a place where I can reflect on what I do day in, day out, and share stories from others, that hopefully make the odd one or two people think.