The breakneck pace of digital change is a perennial challenge for the marketing industry, with the 2014 Digital Knowledge Survey reporting that only 35% of respondents felt completely confident delivering digital marketing activity today. At Adweek Europe 2015, I investigated what businesses can do to keep ahead in a marketplace that’s changing so fast.

March 2015

The Telegraph’s Women’s Editor Emma Barnett chaired a panel discussion on obstacles around giving teams and organisations the skills they need to unleash successful marketing in today’s digital world. Four industry experts weighed in with their viewpoints – Sam Conniff (Chairman of Livity), Mark Howe (Google MD for Agency Sales), Amelia Torode (Chief Strategy Officer at TBWA) and Wendy Aitken (cB4L Learning Director at Unilever).

The panel agreed that teaching people skills is one thing, but a certain mindset is necessary to really embrace the constantly evolving demands of digital. Amelia put it best I think, and incidentally also offers a good place to start: “The reality is you never stop learning and there’s always more you can know.” For her, the initial step isn’t necessarily identifying where the gaps in knowledge are, but developing a “sense of curiosity and fascination with the world around us and all the potential stuff that you could learn.”

Sam has another insight around this, driven by an approach that his agency lives and breathes. “How do you change that mindset? You invite some true digital natives into your business.” He jokes that Livity is more than just a marketing agency – at times it feels like a youth club. Uniquely, Sam and his team introduce teenagers from all over the country into the agency in a symbiotic exchange that sees the kids gaining valuable professional experience and the agency gaining insight from the country’s most digitally savvy demographic.

It’s an almost perfect illustration of a concept presented by Mark, who explains, “We need to educate from the bottom up and the top down. We need to train the younger generation of digital natives to have the confidence to challenge their line managers, and train the bosses to have the maturity to accept that challenge. Then you get a much better circle of learning.”

"But sometimes the bosses themselves don't know what they don't know, especially in the realm of digital, and they are the ones that need upskilling. Google are trying to help understand where digital skills gaps are in marketing organisations through the Talent Revolution survey which offers companies a free report benchmarking their digital skills versus those of their industries, when they take part in the survey.”

In some cases, it turns out that a team's weakness isn't in digital, but rather in basic marketing and communication. Wendy affirms she sometimes sees this in her experience at Unilever, but says the right approach is to realise that you can no longer separate marketing and digital as distinct subjects – each is intrinsic to the other. “Because I’m teaching end-to-end marketing, this is about how we wrap digital marketing skills and emerging skills with the fundamental skills we need to stay in touch with consumers.”

It’s clear that the conundrum we face is not so much about implementing a finite set of digital skills but introducing a revolutionary take on learning. The companies that will thrive in today’s dynamic landscape are those that foster a culture of curiosity, excitement in the face of the unknown, a willingness to learn from unlikely sources and a diverse workforce where knowledge flows freely and in all directions.