World class cellists and pianists descend on Meadowmount boot camp, located in Westport, N.Y., every year for a grueling summer of practice, drills and more practice. And these are some of the world’s very best and up and coming talents. If the world’s best musicians need the rigors and training of boot camp, shouldn’t we consider something similar to become a world-class marketing professional?
As marketers we’re always looking at creating competitive differentiation for our products, services and companies. But are we paying attention to enlarging the skill gap between ourselves and our fellow marketing professionals (either within the company) or within the larger job market?
According to “A Boot Camp for Budding Virtuosos,” Business Week, August 21, 2006, “every summer 220 young violinists, cellists, and pianists head into the woods” of NY to a special boot camp called Meadowmount. It’s here that these musicians learn their craft through a strict set of drills, scales and hours of practice.
According to the article, “musicians must be awake and practicing by 8:30am, and the must spend five hours a day in their tiny, un-air conditioned bedrooms in individual practice.” This isn’t camp Griswold—it is hard work, and these students aren’t at Meadowmount for socialization and pool parties!
We could easily dismiss these musicians as over achievers. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that these are some of the worlds best musicians, trying to get better–after all Meadowmount has produced the likes of Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and YoYo Ma.
So what separates the elite musicians from the rest of the crowd? As noted in the Business Week article, researchers led by Florida State University professor K. Anders Ericsson, studied musicians at a Berlin conservatory. The students were divided into three skill levels, including one group identified by the faculty as having the best opportunity to become world class soloists.
The results, according to the article were “clear cut, with little room for any sort of inscrutable God-given talent. The elite musicians had simply practiced far more than the others.”
In the marketplace for talent, there will always be individuals with loads of natural talent, just as there will be professionals who have to work a bit harder than their peers to produce similar results.
However, no matter how much talent you have as a marketer, there’s always room for improvement, and always room for practice and refinement of the skills that make us world class marketing professionals.
What business books on leadership, finance, operations or the like are you reading to become a well-rounded executive? Which marketing research studies and publications are in your back pocket? What executive education courses have you recently completed? Are your public speaking skills sharp? Have you benchmarked your skills against your peers? How about against those working in world class marketing organizations like GE or Microsoft?
The article notes another attribute of elite musicians is not only repetition of “tough spots,” but also an “intensely self-critical” attitude where players constantly identify weaknesses and look for improvement opportunities.
So, until there is a real marketing boot camp similar to Meadowmount, you can always take an inventory of your skill sets and embark upon a plan of self improvement.
It’s a jungle out there, and the global talent pool for marketing professionals is only growing with economies like India and China entering the mainstream. What are you doing to maintain your “personal” competitive edge?