By Lim Qian Wei, Digital Marketing Intern
SMU Business School
My summer 2018 internship in DP was a tough yet exciting journey.
I first joined DP previously on a three-week December 2017 internship working on how to operationalize DP’s 6 Moments of Truth marketing framework. My subsequent summer 2018 internship in DP was on exponential marketing which I thought would directly build upon our work done previously. However, the framing of these two projects meant that my December internship team and my summer internship team were moving in two totally different trajectories.
Diving into an exponential marketing problem with no parameters and no start point made me more comfortable in dealing with uncertainty and complexity. Such an open project provided us with unlimited paths of progress.
What I learned during my internship: Iteration in building a marketing framework
We dived into the challenge of building an exponential marketing framework with no parameters and no start point. It was such an open project that allowed unlimited paths of progress. Nonetheless, it was a challenging process. We struggled to find a starting point. We struggled when we moved forward but needed to take a step back. Then, we struggled to start anew. But pressing the restart button was not a failure, but rather a small triumph along the way to an opportunity.
Our project taught me how to think. We started out contesting and merging each other’s mental models. As we dove deeper into the topic, we realized how our knowledge was insufficient. So we had to turn to external sources of knowledge.
Takeaways from our internship: transferrable soft skills
This is where this project taught me how to learn and learn fast. We were reading a massive amount of articles, journals, and books and learned how to distill them into both big and simple ideas to share with one another. That is how we gained many mental models without suffering from information overload and confusion.
Not only that, we had to learn ideas and knowledge from different domains which I never imagined I would touch. An example is how we aimed to understand the concept of an intelligent network as a component of exponential marketing. We turned to computer networks, blockchain networks, bacterial networks, and even geographic networks to really understand the idea of a network. The world is multi-dimensional and our problem was complicated. When we lack understanding of an area, we learnt to turn to unfamiliar territories and integrate that knowledge back into our project. There is no single discipline which holds all the answers, so learning to peer through different lenses was a critical learning aspect of our project. At times, simply adjusting the magnitude of our lens gave us great insight.
Everyone has their own set of thinking and biases, so taking on new perspectives was an important learning point for me in this project. As a group, we may have been looking at the same thing but had entirely different focuses and interpretations as individuals. The differences at times worked to our advantage in this sense, as we learned to look at the same information and problem in different ways.
The toughest part and the most important part of our project was synthesis. We struggled to cut through all the critical information and distill it down to the core. After peering through various lenses at a problem, we learned to create a lens and adjust its magnification level. We were initially working on a marketing framework but the more we dwelled on the project, we decided that it was not sufficient. That is how we ended up with a business-level framework. We had to expand our view to do exponential marketing.
So that was the process we adopted while approaching the project: finding a starting point, obtaining as many divergent and disparate ideas across disciplines as we could, and finally distilling them down into a core idea. It sounds easy now, but it was difficult at the time we were going through the project. That’s where I learnt the importance of grit and perseverance especially when you see no end point ahead.
Balancing action and thought
Back in December when we were tasked to operationalize 6MOT, we had the mindset of prioritizing action over thought. Our exponential marketing project was the reverse. I realized then how framing can play an important role in the development of perspectives and ideas.
Moving ahead, I feel that learning how to balance action and thought was what our team had to work on. Learning how to think, in particular, was the highlight for me in DP. I now challenge what I learn on my own or in school more, just as how we did with our own ideas in our project. Meeting many diverse and great minds in DP definitely instilled a greater sense of humility in me to learn more widely and deeply.
Read more stories from our interns: Andrew Ong’s account of his Design Prodigy internship, and Ellen Zeng, Joe Tran, and Lim Qian Wei’s discussion of the top challenges that chief marketing officers face today.