En Masse

Earlier this week we had a visitor speak to us at Colle+McVoyAlex Bogusky–who made his name and then some leading the creative department at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. (Disclosure: CPB, like C+M, is owned by advertising agency holding company MDC Partners which, in a way, is my true employer.)

In a past life, my agency superiors more or less grilled us to look down on the work at CPB because, unlike the hot Miami shop (only one office at the time), we were focusing our client efforts on print only. I’m glad to have moved well past that. It makes for better client success, better agency output and less animosity in our industry. (And since we’re all playing for the same team now, it’s a helluva lot easier!)

The Twitter stream from the talk Alex gave provides a summary < 140 characters. But it didn’t capture one particular idea that came out of the session. Alex at one point said something about CPB making it easy to do good work by having faith in small teams. It’s an idea C+M’s Craig Pladson has also supported, as recently as this post from him earlier this week. The point was that smaller teams are more capable of coming to the right decisions sooner and, due to their size, typically come up with better ideas.

I agree. But how did we get to a stage where a struggle is needed to cull down our meeting sizes? If meetings eat in to our coworkers’ schedules and keep them from completing their own to-do lists, why did we start overlooking their needs and adding to their itineraries? How did we begin to clamor to get into more of them ourselves?

Those questions were rolling around in my head until later in the week, when I’d participated in two separate meetings of my own–both for work. In both meetings I learned that some of my projects’ production schedules needed to account for creative review time. Lengthy creative review. As in, more than five people–none of whom were involved in the strategic development of said creative.

When probed, my meeting partners mentioned the importance of collective buy-in. And then a light went off in my head: crowdsourcing.

One of the current buzz words of digital marketing: Crowdsourcing. The act of  tapping the wisdom of the many in the interest of developing the best, most well-thought-out [insert service, product, idea, etc. here]. It’s worked great for Dell, Threadless, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and others. But the rationale behind these examples of “mass collaboration” is the same philosophy that may be used to qualify the need for big, long work meetings staffed with multiple individuals. This rationale assumes that if it works online, it should be replicated offline.

But how many of us really agree with replicating that way?