Hacking Marketing Disruption, Reinvention with Analytics


Author Josh Linkner

Author Josh Linkner

Disruption is a major theme at enterprise organizations these days. Incumbent organizations in industries can grow complacent, according to author Josh Linkner. That makes them vulnerable to new competition by upstarts. That's why it's better to reinvent yourself and your organization to be the disruptor rather than be the disrupted.

Linkner is one of the keynote speakers at the Gartner Digital Marketing Summit this week in San Diego, and his message is an important one for marketers as they look to leverage analytics to make the most of multichannel strategies.

His new book, Hacking Innovation: The New Growth Model From The Sinister World of Hackers, Linkner is using the following definition of hacking: "The act of solving complex problems in unorthodox ways. Discovering fresh, unconventional approaches to replace prevailing wisdom." While he begins by talking about the famous Target hack from a few years ago, the concept of the book, and the message inside all of Linkner's books is about innovation, creativity, and reinvention for a new age.

He is an advocate of being like MacGyver, the old TV hero who somehow always figures out a hack for every impossible situation. And those are the kinds of hacks he is talking about -- solving problems and finding new approaches with the resources you have at hand. In many ways that's exactly what analytics innovators are doing with data today -- creating new value from the information a company already has on hand.

According to Linkner, lab researchers hack new drug therapies to eradicate disease. Nutritional scientists hack molecular structures to deliver food that tastes better, lasts longer, and delivers optimal health benefits. And entrepreneurs hack entire industries whose leaders are asleep at the wheel so that they can better serve customers and create value.

The idea is to be creative with what you have. Linkner talks about several big, successful companies in his newest book, including Facebook and Target, and some smaller companies that have entered markets with new creative solutions. He lays out some comparisons for traditionalist approaches to problems versus hacker approaches. For instance, while traditionalist approaches protect old ideas and are rules centric, hacker approaches create new ideas and are ideas-centric. Traditionalist is resource heavy and risk averse whereas the hacker approach is scrappy and embraces risk. Linkner also says that the hacker approach is bottom-up while the traditionalist approach is top-down.

"A core tenet of hacking is that it is a meritocratic approach," Linkner writes.

"David defeated Goliath through a hack. Facing a much larger and well-equipped foe, David identified and then exploited a small weakness to bring a seemingly impenetrable opponent to his knees," Linkner writes. "A traditional approach would be to summon more resources, attack only when enough conventional strength was amassed, and engage in classic combat. Yet David was able to hack his way to victory using an unorthodox approach. Hacking is imminently accessible no matter your age, race, rank, gender, education, background, or political views. Hacking is the great equalizer."

And as innovation accelerates across industries, I'm reminded of something I heard Linkner say a few years back: "Playing it safe has become one of the riskiest moves at all."

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps, Informationweek

Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, predictive analytics, and big data for smarter business and a better world. In her spare time she enjoys playing Minecraft and other video games with her sons. She's also a student and performer of improvisational comedy. Follow her on Twitter: @jessicadavis.

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Re: Love it
  • 5/23/2017 11:39:22 AM
NO RATINGS

Very true the world is about disruption today on many levels the days of remaining the same are passed. We need to all evolve and our companies will need to evolve if they want to address consumer needs.

Re: Love it
  • 5/18/2017 5:13:29 PM
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Many of the organizations that don't embrace disruption will go the way of the dinsauers- was that a metioroid?

Re: Love it
  • 5/17/2017 12:03:14 PM
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While it can be true as noted, " Traditionalist is resource heavy and risk averse whereas the hacker approach is scrappy and embraces risk," it doesn't necessary make the hacker approach better. There's certainly going to be much more risk. And if lucky, the payoff can be hugely larger. But, probably a mix of tradition and "hacking" might be a way to catch those Black Swan events while allowing creative thinkers some freedom in thought and planning.

Re: Love it
  • 5/17/2017 11:31:16 AM
NO RATINGS

Terry, I agree we all need to reinvent ourselves, our companies and lives to stay current. The world has always changed now the pace is just more rapid. Those who don't evolve an move with the change invariably end up feeling left behind and dislocated, in the end, though we all control our destiny education is a life long process.

Re: Love it
  • 5/17/2017 10:25:13 AM
NO RATINGS

Many times I've seen innovation crushed because it wasn't business as usual.  When a company or product is profitable it can be hard for them to accept that innovating is necessary.  I think most people would argue that over time that company will eventually do something innovative to stay relevant but that doesn't stop them from dragging their feet long enough that anyone with a new idea learns that it's better to just go with the flow.

Re: Love it
  • 5/16/2017 12:40:58 PM
NO RATINGS

Another reason for failure to embrace hacks is that the organization is invested energentically or financially in other so-called fixes. To embrace other methods (that are also likely much cheaper) is to admit they wasted money or were on the wrong track. I think this is the political stumbling block you're alluding to in your comment, SaneIT.

Re: Love it
  • 5/16/2017 12:38:03 PM
NO RATINGS

Call it what you want -- hacking, creativity, workarounds. But back when dinosuars roamed the earth, didn't we used to call this innovation? In the end, it's just inspired problem-solving.

Left to your own devices
  • 5/16/2017 8:32:12 AM
NO RATINGS

Seth, perhaps the only place where disruption is possible in large conservative enterprises is in businesses that are under appreciated and ignored. If you're in a backwater or even just a unit that's not the hot growth spot, often you can be left to your own devices.

Re: Love it
  • 5/15/2017 8:31:20 AM
NO RATINGS

Unfortunately, that type of hacking doesn't typically go over well in large established companies, even companies that built themselves up by being the outsider tend to move to a comfortable predictable model over time. R&D becomes a structured process driven department and pet projects are discouraged.  I think a lot of ideas that could be disruptive to markets die early because they don't have the corporate backing they need to mature either because they are fighting corporate red tape or because they don't have the resources to move past the good idea stage. 

Love it
  • 5/12/2017 4:43:30 PM
NO RATINGS

I love hacking in this sense. It truly brings out the creativity in people.

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