Every Marketing Leader Needs to Watch This Movie

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I searched for that one movie, off the beaten path but something I ‘must watch’ from 2016. So I did the millennial thing to do –rottentomatoes.com.

I landed on Don’t Think Twice. A college teammate of mine, Tony Cavalaro, cut his teeth in improv before he has moved on to stardom. I wanted to get a glimpse into his world and the grind he experienced. What I thought was going to be a lite-hearted comedy was stirring due to the principles of improvisation – a set of ideals that have a universal application and are transferable to any marketing team.

Every leader needs to watch this movie for these values:


Say yes: “agreeing with the reality your partner creates and then building on that, and then building on that”

A high-performing marketing team requires an openness to differing perspectives and comfort with an unknown outcome. We are in a field where one’s skill/judgment is what makes an individual stand out; opinions are easy to come by and so is opposition. And a good leader will delicately harvest collective viewpoints to set an optimal strategy and deploy the most engaging assets in market; innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And to start, building a sense of intuitiveness and openness with the team is the groundwork.


It’s all about the group: “working together in the moment to create something that never happened before or will never happen again”

In those moments of brainstorming, briefing or touchpoints, the goal is to breathe life into meetings, not to discount the daily grind or sanction where individuals seek to overshadow peers. Allow diverse opinions to collide. This resistance challenges status quo and generates innovation. Reemphasize that this place in time may never again trigger a sequence of ideas or inspiration, pushing the team to continually create remarkable moments. And when personalities do rub, bring them back to center –it’s all about the collaboration.


Don’t think: “all about getting out of your head. It’s about impulse… there are no mistakes”

With objectives to meet and the burden to bear, if they aren’t, the anxiety in being wrong can limit performance. Cultivate an environment where there are no mistakes in testing ideas, and encourage continuous improvement. Urge the team to say yes, and to be comfortable with failing. To ensure the team is taking calculated risks, question their metrics and inquire if tactics are most cost/time-effective. To be impulsive implies speed –so push the team to be comfortable to fail fast. If you want passionate marketers who love coming to work, take the governor off their skills and remove the fear to see how capable they can be.

Without spoiling the movie, success wasn’t equally spread and personalities eventually rubbed. Regardless of where each character went in their path, these ideals built on a reality and created moments that only the group dynamic could achieve. This led some to the next step in their career, some struggled with getting out of their own heads in their lives off-stage and others experienced events that altered their path. But the strongest and weakest comedian contributed. As a team, they created remarkable work and it was a memorable time.

The underlying dynamic of any team is having a group of people who want to succeed at an individual level. Providing an opportunity to fulfill this intrinsic need, but also having “buy-in” at the core is one of the most challenging obstacles to achieve as a leader. To build a high-performing team in a competitive environment, consider instilling these principles to foster innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Teaching an individual to be open to other ideas, that they are stronger when surrounded by a diverse team, and to relinquish the fear of failure… these are all vital skills to teach. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adam

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