On Figuring Stuff Out

AKA ‘What does it mean to be a planner?’

I’ve been in research mode a fair bit of late. Whether that’s reviewing cross-category creative work to generate provocations for clients or doing a deep dive on the data surrounding the games industry’s ongoing round of redundancies (here’s Amir Satvat doing God’s work).

The exploration of these themes has meant spending a lot of time in effectiveness papers, case studies and spreadsheets; looking at data and talking to people IRL.

This kind of work, combined with a renewed dedication to just getting out there and spending time with other planners (hello APG friends!), it’s been nice to be reminded of what it is I love about what I do:

love figuring stuff out.

I was reminded of this again earlier this week when I came across this Linkedin post from Sweathead, titled: ‘How to know if you’re a strategist’ (the Seven Ps of Strategy).

A post that I kind of agree with?

The Ps mentioned are: Problems, People, Prying, Patterns, Possibility, Persistence, and Pitching.

It’s a pretty good list. If I could though, I’d probably add (or switch) two Ps in and maybe switch one P out.

Switch 1: PUZZLES.
I like solving puzzles – with data, with creativity, with strategic leaps. Problems are a good thing to uncover but getting to solutions figuring out the puzzle – that’s the main draw for me.

As a completely random aside: I once visited the International Intellectual and Puzzle Museum in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. To this day, one of the best days of my life.

I like asking questions, yes. And those questions are always in service of getting to better work. But often-times you find yourselves in rooms (or on calls) where there are questions left unasked. The provocative question. The ‘Hang on, why are we actually doing this?’, or the ‘Yes but does the product actually deliver that?’ or the ‘Have we addressed why consumers don’t like you?’ questions. The hard questions you have to ask. And frankly, sometimes the only questions planners can ask.

Switch 3: PITCHING.
This is the one I’d probably switch out. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pitching. We pitched recently and a peer said to me as we were leaving the room ‘James, you were born to pitch’. So lovely. And we won the pitch too. Woop.

The point is, it reminded me that I am lucky to have had the training whereby I now enjoy those situations. So many planners and strategists I meet while, yes, they will at some point have to be able to convince a client of a certain strategic course of action, they might not always enjoy the process of PITCHING. Introversion is a common personality trope among planning folk.

Solving that? Well it’s a puzzle.

If you are a planner and you don’t enjoy pitching, then that’s OK. You don’t have to. You can learn, yes. You can also fake it ’til you make it. But if you hate it, that’s OK too and it doesn’t make you any less of a planner.

All of the above was originally published as part of my Five things on Friday newsletter and, in doing so, I think I accidentally managed to complete the three-writing briefs I set myself in my various social media profiles:

On writing.
On gaming.
And now,On figuring stuff out.

Ahh that makes me happy.

PS. ‘So you want to be a strategist‘ is still the best collection of learning materials I think I am yet to find for entry level strats and above.

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Author: James Whatley

Experienced advertising and communications strategist working in brand, games, and entertainment. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x