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Hacking Marketing Disruption, Reinvention with Analytics

The Gartner Digital Marketing Conference is tackling marketers' challenges this week, such as multichannel strategies. Author Josh Linkner is delivering a keynote address about how to hack your approach to business success so you can disrupt markets rather than be disrupted.

Disruption is a major theme at enterprise organizations these days. Incumbent organizations in industries can grow complacent, according to author Josh Linkner. That makes them vulnerable to new competition by upstarts. That's why it's better to reinvent yourself and your organization to be the disruptor rather than be the disrupted.

Linkner is one of the keynote speakers at the Gartner Digital Marketing Summit this week in San Diego, and his message is an important one for marketers as they look to leverage analytics to make the most of multichannel strategies.

His new book, Hacking Innovation: The New Growth Model From The Sinister World of Hackers, Linkner is using the following definition of hacking: "The act of solving complex problems in unorthodox ways. Discovering fresh, unconventional approaches to replace prevailing wisdom." While he begins by talking about the famous Target hack from a few years ago, the concept of the book, and the message inside all of Linkner's books is about innovation, creativity, and reinvention for a new age.

He is an advocate of being like MacGyver, the old TV hero who somehow always figures out a hack for every impossible situation. And those are the kinds of hacks he is talking about -- solving problems and finding new approaches with the resources you have at hand. In many ways that's exactly what analytics innovators are doing with data today -- creating new value from the information a company already has on hand.

According to Linkner, lab researchers hack new drug therapies to eradicate disease. Nutritional scientists hack molecular structures to deliver food that tastes better, lasts longer, and delivers optimal health benefits. And entrepreneurs hack entire industries whose leaders are asleep at the wheel so that they can better serve customers and create value.

The idea is to be creative with what you have. Linkner talks about several big, successful companies in his newest book, including Facebook and Target, and some smaller companies that have entered markets with new creative solutions. He lays out some comparisons for traditionalist approaches to problems versus hacker approaches. For instance, while traditionalist approaches protect old ideas and are rules centric, hacker approaches create new ideas and are ideas-centric. Traditionalist is resource heavy and risk averse whereas the hacker approach is scrappy and embraces risk. Linkner also says that the hacker approach is bottom-up while the traditionalist approach is top-down.

"A core tenet of hacking is that it is a meritocratic approach," Linkner writes.

"David defeated Goliath through a hack. Facing a much larger and well-equipped foe, David identified and then exploited a small weakness to bring a seemingly impenetrable opponent to his knees," Linkner writes. "A traditional approach would be to summon more resources, attack only when enough conventional strength was amassed, and engage in classic combat. Yet David was able to hack his way to victory using an unorthodox approach. Hacking is imminently accessible no matter your age, race, rank, gender, education, background, or political views. Hacking is the great equalizer."

And as innovation accelerates across industries, I'm reminded of something I heard Linkner say a few years back: "Playing it safe has become one of the riskiest moves at all."