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How to Avoid Obsolescence in a Rapidly Changing World




Today, I want to share some reflections on a crucial topic in the business world: how to dodge the shadow of obsolescence in an environment that changes very rapidly. And although I'll be speaking from my experience, this isn't just about me, but about how anyone can adapt and evolve in their career. This advice is for those of us who are older, the younger generation, and everyone in between.


In the business world, and more specifically in leadership roles like CEOs and CMOs, obsolescence is not just a risk; it's almost a certainty if one is not constantly evolving. Many become obsolete because they haven't kept updated their education to handle technological evolution, neither during their career nor at university, or because they lack the ability to reinvent themselves, and this is crucial. The data speaks for itself: a study by the consultancy Spencer Stuart shows that the average tenure of a CMO is almost 40 months, and it's decreasing.


The journey for many has not been foreign to these challenges. From the early days at Nielsen, where I had the opportunity to lead the deployment of people meters in Latin America, to more recent professional adventures, my career has been marked by constant evolution and adaptation.

But, how have I managed to stay relevant in such a volatile scenario?


The answer can be summarized in one key capability: the ability to reinvent myself. This ability, more than an innate talent, has been the result of a proactive attitude towards learning and adaptation. Something that helped me a lot was that from a young age, I learned to sell almost anything, from unoccupied advertising space on television, what is now known as programmatic buying, to innovative solutions for the analysis of consumption data. First piece of advice: door-to-door selling shouldn't scare us or embarrass us.


This diverse range of experiences has given me a unique perspective, allowing me to see opportunities where others see insurmountable challenges. At Nielsen, for example, I was fortunate to be involved in the three businesses they managed: data management, retail audit, and audience measurement service, and in other companies to work with a lot of mass consumption products from very different categories. This experience allowed me to understand the importance of data collected from the most unsuspected places, like the packaging discarded in homes. In an era where data is gold, learning to search for and analyze it in unconventional ways allows for the offering of innovative and, above all, relevant solutions. Second piece of advice: Look for opportunities! Many are embarrassed to search in the trash of hotels, restaurants, but that's where the data is, for example, a wine distributor should have someone go and scan the barcodes of the empty bottles in restaurants to get data.


During my time at Nielsen, we managed to measure market share of many difficult products to track at home such as women's underwear, phone bills, and everything was done by hand. We even designed the first dog census in Colombia, since we would go to the house, while looking for the information we also took the opportunity to ask if there was a dog in the house or not. Everything was more difficult than now, and even though it is now easier to find data we need to be updated to take advantage of technology to analyze it deeply.


Third piece of advice: Be someone characterized by having a vision for the future. It's necessary to anticipate trends and changes in the industry, for example, looking at old interviews, I saw that since 2017 I had been saying that in-car advertising was going to be 100% interactive while others were just discovering 3D printing existed. These anticipations are not mere speculations; they are the result of careful observation of the market and analysis of emerging trends.

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