Have you heard of the dumb gap?
No? Well, I assure you, it is real.
At this very moment, you're under its sway, getting dumber with each passing second. But don't worry. You're not alone. We're all getting dumber. You, me, your boss, your mom, everyone.
This is the growing gap between the rate of change (very, very fast) and the rate of human learning and adaptation, which, despite our best efforts, is sluggish by comparison. This gap makes us feel overwhelmed and deflated, like we're not as smart as we thought we were.
We're dumber because we simply know less of all there is to know. And over time, it's only going to get worse. That's why we have to adjust our behaviors now.
The smartest thing you can do is simple: Collaborate.
Now, let's just pretend that "collaboration" and its many variations aren't among the most overused, eyeroll-inducing buzzwords at the moment. My intent is not to write yet another piece extolling the virtues of playing nice in the industry sandbox.
Collaboration is the solution to the dumb gap because it answers the root problem -- no one can know everything -- by leveraging the brain power and capabilities of multiple parties. Each benefits from the others' expertise while fortifying its own offering, thus shrinking the dumb gap.
In my experience, this teamwork-driven approach is the most strategically-smart, cost- and time-efficient, and proactive thing you can do for your agency right now, which will ultimately result in bigger and better work.
A few things can get in the way of collaboration. Don't let them define you:
Territorial tendencies: Like a kid that was raised by wolves and reintroduced to society, some agencies have been conditioned to reject the idea of collaboration after years of "protect your own at all costs" warfare. Now, they're having trouble adjusting to a civilized world of open collaboration, where both the workload and the wealth are shared among partners.
The truth is, you can't hide in your little corner and protect your business anymore. Things are changing too fast. Your "full-service" agency can't know and do everything, and sooner or later, another agency -- or, more likely, a team of agencies -- will take it from you. Collaboration with complementary agencies from the outset reduces the likelihood that this will happen.
$137.8B U.S. ad spend for top 200 advertisers
Trust issues: Agencies reluctant to collaborate may worry about equitable remuneration when working with agency partners, or worry that the other agencies will slowly and sneakily try to steal the business. I look at it this way. Which would you rather have: a slice of delicious apple pie (the business) or no pie at all (the opportunity you missed because you didn't bring the best team to the table)? I'd rather have pie than hunger pangs. So be open to collaborating with other agencies, whether that means joining an agency network (as our agency has done with Project: Worldwide), or collaborating with other agencies on a client account.
Short-sightedness: Part of the trouble of the dumb gap is that we're so busy playing catch-up all the time, we're perpetually stuck in the past -- solving for yesterday's problems when we should be making moves to prepare us for the future. Instead of opting for a short-term solution like tapping into freelance talent or attempting to become an expert on social marketing in record time (please don't try this), building a network of established agency partners offers a long-term solution to the growing pains that can come with limited resources and reach.
So, go ahead. Embrace the dumb gap.
Even more than that – let's be thankful for it.
Maybe it's a good thing that we all know less of what there is to know. The dumb gap is disrupting and molding our industry, and we sorely need this change. We need to let go of the idea that we can do it all. We need to operate with an abundance mindset. And we need better collaboration and close partnerships with other agencies -- all kinds.
Because the dumb gap's not getting any smaller, and there's no time to lose.