Why marketing isn't brain surgery

A simple conversation can lead to anything. Literally, anything.

Like many entrepreneurs, gravitating to other entrepreneurs or business people is natural. Talking to a Neurosurgeon is not.

"It's not brain surgery" is one of my favorite sayings. The other, "it's not rocket science". It seems quite apt that I find myself in conversation with a neurosurgeon, whose gene pool is only bolstered by the fact his father is a rocket scientist.  Was I intimidated. Hell yes! But how impressed I was to be having such an intriguing and relevant conversation with a neurosurgeon, was only interrupted by moments of wanting to be opportunistic. I had to literally stop myself asking if a sperm donation was a point I could include in the discussion. Now, what single woman wouldn't want to have a child with this gene pool?

Nevertheless, when I pulled myself together, I realized the synergies between business and neurosurgery isn't actually poles apart and much closer than one would think. As a marketer, we have certainly learnt a lot from neuroscience and consumer behaviour, but the outlook of how a surgeon views what they do, was what struck me as being something every entrepreneur can learn from.

Are Violinists Potentially Brain Surgeons?

At school, if I come to think about it, it was the person who played violin that became a surgeon. There was only one of them, but it seems there may be some synergy with how a child uses their hands and the detail required when playing an instrument like a violin or a piano. Here's what our neurosurgeon friend had to say:

"When you have a goal or a task for that matter, you have a mental picture in your head. In music, you have to hear it and you make it happen. In surgery, you have to see it and make it happen."

"In surgery, the entire operating theatre changes when the surgeon figures out where he is, what needs to be done, and how he is going to get there."

What did I learn from a Brain Surgeon?

"If we have a patient, and he is on benefits, we are going to turn him around just the same as someone who comes in on their private plane. You are not a good doctor if you can only relate to one type of person."

Business lesson #1: It doesn't matter what your client looks like, you still need to do the same job for the person who has less cash or less resources as the one that has more. For a marketing business such as ours, it doesn't matter if the business is a start-up or a large corporation, they hire us to solve a business problem that relates to marketing. If we can only relate to the big corporation, we are not good marketers. Simple.

Do you work in a private practice?

Yes, but I also work a lot in the emergency room. If they don't have insurance, we will say, "we can help take care of them". For me, I try and stay away from the payment side as much as possible and just focus on what my job is. 

"My goal in finding a practice is to find a place that allows me to practice medicine with the minimum amount of interference. You don't want people to tell you what to do because you are a Doctor and if you have a good Doctor, they will advocate to do what they think is truly the best for the patient. Not best for costs. Not best for the environment. The only thing you are concerned about is the patient. If you care about the patient, things will turn out right.

Business lesson #2: If you have the skills to do your job and your team has the skills to do their job, then let them do it. They will use these skills to get the best outcome for the client. Micro-managing and interference because you are not making enough profit out of an account - will only lead to things going wrong. The only thing you should be concerned with is solving your clients problem and making them happy.

Why Neuroscience?

The thing about neurosurgery or science is that you can do cell to cell experiments; you can look at micro electro reportings and the next thing you look at is a MRI. Cell to cell, you are looking at one cell firing into the next cell. With a MRI of the brain, at the highest resolution and smallest voxel, it has 1000 to 10000 neuros - so somewhere in between, you are going from one to 1000 and we have no idea what is in between. 

What is the difference with a regular person?

In a regular person, you will see stuff, but you won't necessarily understand how it works. What you need to remember is the brain is a bunch of circuits and its almost an infinite number of circuits so that is why the complexity of thought is there.  For us, when we are looking at the MRI of the brain, all you are looking at is "a really grainy photograph".

"You see all these people here and understand every relationship at this bar, and I am looking at this one photograph. But no, you and I might be talking now and they may be talking now; and you know all these people are talking, and you are thinking, "are they married", "are they divorced", "what's their relationship". Reality is that you have no idea. You have taken one picture, at one time, and that's all we have. Now, we say we understand the brain - we don't understand the brain - right?"

Business lesson #3: Taking one snapshot of your client isn't really giving you an accurate account of what they are doing, what their real problems in their business are and how everyone interacts to achieve the outcome the client is looking for. You have to dissect it. Understand it more and know that you will never truly understand it in its full enormity.

"We try to study how that works but its a lot to understand. A tremendous amount to understand. Such a daunting task and that's why I love neuroscience. 

Why do I love surgery? I am so use to working with my hands. I love the fact that you have a goal - you have task, you work with everything you've got, you have the trust of the patient and at the end of it, the patient looks at you and they say I am better. It's the greatest job I could ever hope to have. 

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