Navigating change with a beginner’s mindset: embracing growth and adaptability at Smithfield agency
by Sarah Coften

As we move out of mental health awareness week and further forward with our goal of standardising our processes across digital media planning, buying, measurement, optimisation, and analytics, we must adopt a mindset that fosters growth and adaptability across the agency. This period of convergence and standardisation is not just a structural change; it’s a cultural shift. To navigate this effectively, we are embracing the concept of a beginner’s mindset. 

Understanding the beginner’s mindset
In the Zen Buddhist tradition, shoshin refers to approaching life with the openness and curiosity of a beginner. This means letting go of preconceptions and assumptions, and being open to new ways of thinking and doing. Scientifically, this aligns with cognitive flexibility, our ability to adapt to new environments and switch between different tasks and strategies.

Why this matters now
With the rapid advancements in AI and the evolving landscape of digital media, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or protective of our existing expertise. However, clinging to old ways can hinder our progress. So that we can effectively redefine the peak of digital media and harness the changes of cookie deprecation for positive ends we need to manage our mindset and our knowledge base to onboard new knowledge, implement new strategies and collaborate effectively with our peers and all marketing stakeholders.

The current AI revolution, much like past technological shifts, challenges us to stay ahead and remain innovative. Research by Potential Project shows that adopting a beginner’s mindset can enhance our leadership, well-being, and team commitment by 25% or more and this will translate to better outcomes for us as individuals, collectively as an industry, and for our advertisers growth.

Barriers to embracing a beginner’s mindset

  • Cognitive Entrenchment: Our expertise can make us resistant to change, leading to confirmation bias where we seek information that supports our existing beliefs.
  • Cognitive Laziness: Our brains prefer autopilot mode, which conserves energy but prevents us from adopting new perspectives.
  • Misperception: Leaders often overestimate their openness compared to how their team perceives them. We must be aware of the discrepancy of what we say we are and what we do. To truly embrace a beginner’s mindset we must make ourselves accountable and collaborate with openness and transparency. 

Applying the beginner’s mindset

As we standardise our processes, we have committed to the following:

Approach with curiosity: Whether we are planning campaigns, creating bespoke measurement frameworks, conducting A/B tests, personalising with AI, or experimenting with AI enabled ad technology, let’s replace the need for immediate answers with a desire to learn and explore.

Flexibility in strategy: Be open to switching between different strategies and concepts when something isn’t working. This adaptability is key to navigating new challenges.

Focus on Mental Health: Remember to take a breath. The stress of constant change can be mitigated by fostering a supportive and flexible work environment.

Smithfield Initiatives and Actions (SI&As): 

  1. Weekly strategy check-ins: Use our regular team meetings to share insights and learnings without the pressure of having all the answers. Encourage questions and new ideas.
  2. Working Groups X Channel Collaboration: Each working group (Social Media, Search, Data Analytics, AI, DSPs et al) to increase communication and regularly exchange their findings and approaches, fostering a culture of shared learning.
  3. Mental health awareness: Recognise the stress that comes with technological change. Promote mental well-being by encouraging breaks and providing resources for stress management across client account teams and within working groups of specialist areas.

 By embracing the beginner’s mindset, we can navigate the complexities of our industry with resilience and creativity. Let’s approach this standardisation phase not as a hindrance to innovation but as a foundation upon which we can build even greater innovations in the future.

May 23, 2024

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