The Marketing Strategist:

HiPPOS are Out. Code-herders, Pied-pipers, Storytellers, and Kite-boarders are In.

May 11, 2020

  • Featured Article, Marketing Strategy & Operations

A conversation with Andrew McAfee about harnessing our digital future.

Nothing disrupts like a pandemic. As we face the current environment and try to discern what our next normal will look like, it seems like an apt time for a conversation with Andrew McAfee, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy and a Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He’s written several books, including Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future, in which he describes a New Business Playbook. We asked McAfee about his and his co-author, Erik Brynjolfsson’s, vision.

It became clear quickly, that along with our fleeting fascination with tigers and an erstwhile trainer named Joe Exotic, another big beast is passé. HiPPOs are out. Not the rotund, river creatures lolling about Sub-Saharan Africa, but rather the weighty influence of the highest-paid person’s opinions. It’s time to inflate the opinions of data miners and analysts and trim back reliance on the gut instincts of senior executives. We must take advantage of increased access to high-quality data and the geeks who enable evidence-based decision making.
 

Let machines handle the routine work; let people make the judgment calls

McAfee portrays a rosy future not only for geeks, but also for creatives and humanists. He sees an invaluable partnership that aligns the individual strengths of minds and machines. It just may take a little Darwinian competition to get there.

McAfee explains that unlike our machines, people can see how the world has changed. We have common sense and compassion and we are inherently more creative. On the other hand, we are fallible and make mistakes. He urges us not to underestimate evidence, data, and the machines that bring us these important decision-making tools.

In theory, McAfee’s findings are persuasive, but as B2B marketers, we seem woefully behind our B2C counterparts in using high-quality, timely data. He agrees with this assessment, yet he remains optimistic that as Moneyball changed baseball, competition will spur an acceleration of data-driven decision-making.

And, before you think you’re trading one predator (HiPPO) for another (machines), you need to recognize that artificial intelligence (AI) is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. AI is nothing without an able shepherd. McAfee is confident that if you can herd huge amounts of data and code and teach machines to learn, then you are well-positioned for the future.

But maybe you’re less of a code-herder and more of a pied-piper or storyteller. The future is bright for you, too. McAfee sees a profound need for people with strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.
 

The crowd is surprisingly wise

In fact, the future needs a crowd of creative humanists. Not a physical crowd these days, but a virtual one. For example, McAfee points out that within the fast-growing sport of kiteboarding, almost all product innovations come from the boarders themselves. Manufacturers are simply that.

What the world needs now is a crowd of code-herders, pied-pipers, storytellers, and kiteboarders. Marketers, being excellent storytellers, are poised to help their companies adapt, change, and flourish in the digitally-transformed future. So, grab a pair of shades and learn more about your bright future in the latest ITSMA Viewpoint.

 

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