Marketers Are More Likely to Innovate -- and Here's Proof

'HERO Index' Offers Surprising Results From Which We All Can Learn

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Josh Bernoff
Josh Bernoff
You've always suspected that workers in marketing are capable of innovating with technology. Now we have proof.

We at Forrester surveyed over 4,000 information workers for a measurement we call the "HERO Index." We asked them two questions. First, how empowered do you feel to solve your own challenges at work? And second, how resourceful are you with technology? We measure the latter by looking at whether they have regularly used applications they've downloaded or log in to websites that aren't sanctioned by their company.

The results were highly revealing.

Credit: North American Technographics Empowerment Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US)
First, as you can see from the chart here, about 20% of information workers both feel empowered and act resourceful -- they're in what we call the "HERO quadrant." The rest of the workers are lacking on one of these two dimensions.

Second, we can actually analyze how this varies by job description.

Thirty-five percent of marketing and non-retail sales staff is empowered and resourceful. In fact, marketers score higher on both scales than any other type of information workers. Marketers are almost twice as likely as other workers to be innovating on their own with technology that can solve customer problems. They even outscore designers and engineers.

By contrast, customer service workers are at the other end of the spectrum with only 18% empowered and resourceful workers. This is no surprise to anyone who's ever called a support line. And it's shameful, since solving customer problems is the key to generating word of mouth.

Here's what this means to you.

If your company shuts off access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, that has to stop, because you're shutting off your staff from the very places that will give them ideas of how to innovate in connecting to customers.

If you've got some people using these new channels -- if you've got a Twitter program, a blog program, a Facebook fan page -- take a little time to highlight their work internally. It may inspire others within your organization to innovate.

And reach across the aisle to the IT folks. You're about to get a lot deeper into technology. As the tech gets more sophisticated, you're going to need their help.

Josh Bernoff is Senior Vice President, Idea Development at Forrester Research and the co-author of "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business," a management book that teaches you how to transform your business by empowering employees to solve customer problems. He blogs at
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