Sunday, December 23, 2007

West coast planners really know how to party

A couple of planning colleagues who work on the West coast recently related experiences that had me wondering if there was an East/West divide in planning styles and cultures. They all describe a little friction between the behaviors and styles we tend to associate with the East (edgy, ambitious, academic) and attitudes we tend to the associate with the west (creative, intuitive, cool.)

These tales were reinforced by a British colleague who transferred straight from London to a S.F. shop and found that natives didn’t take instantly to his sharp intelligence and astringent wit. And though I’m a born and bred Midwesterner, there’s no question my style of work has been influenced by 1,000 years of post-grad education, and I’ve occasionally faced similar reactions from West coasters to my acdemic style. Don't sweat the technique, indeed.

I'm already voiced my objection the word "overthink" when used as an easy critique of some strategic analysis, usually by someone who doesn't want to put in the effort to wrestle with the problem. Don't get me wrong. You can certainly think badly about a problem. Or bring the wrong kind of thinking to bear. (In fact, a long time ago, Aristotle defined one kind of intelligenc as the ability to match the right method of analyis to the subject at hand) But whenever people use the expresssion, "Don't overthink it?" i wonder if they've ever bothered to engage with the current marketing landscape. is SEM so simple? so intuitive?

In any case, these stories of cultural friction are probably isolated examples, and this whole East/West planning style divide I’m suggesting here probably doesn’t exist. But wouldn’t it be just more fun for us if it did? I seem to recall that an AAAA/APG conference of a few years back set up an iron-chef styled contest pitting boy vs. girl planners. Maybe we should suggest an East vs. West version for our revels in Miami? Bad boy vs. Death Row anyone? The Brits, in the fine expatriate tradition, can pick a coast based on current employment, visa status and personal inclination to embrace or deny their origins.