Today I spotted this link in @faris’s Twitter feed. It’s a homegrown report comparing the current salaries of account planners in large advertising agencies. Now salary comparison reports are nothing new, and I have zero interest in what account planners are paid, but the way this report seems to have come into existence is pretty incredible.
According to the foreword in the report, the author ( Heather LeFevre ) found herself in a pretty normal predicament; she felt she was underpaid, but couldn’t prove it. So instead of sitting on her hands, she put together an anonymous survey and sent it out to her network inquiring about their skill level and pay scale. She promised to share out the results and she’s been conducting this experiment for a few years. So, with a cheap web survey and a decent address book, she completely turned an age old process on it’s head.
This is pretty inspiring for me for a few reasons. First, instead of wringing her hands that she didn’t have the information to figure out her problem, she just went after the data. Instead of reinventing the wheel, she used simple tools she had at her disposal- an anonymous survey and an email. The data we don’t have often seems to be the first roadblock to progress; we don’t start because we’re not sure. This is such a great example of how to keep it simple and get it going.
Second, she solved for her problem, not all the world’s problems. If she would have stepped back and thought to herself “this is a big idea, how can create a salary report for the entire industry” she probably would have failed. Even limiting to the industry, she probably wouldn’t have gotten enough responses to complete the first report. By keeping the effort small, she could actually engage her audience. There are salary comparison websites all over the web (Glassdoor.com, Salary.com). These sites promise to share salary data, but they never seem to get enough scale to be useful. The idea behind the concept is so big people don’t know where they fit in the process. I love how she used technology to amplify her effort and didn’t make building the tool the object of her project.
There’s a big idea here for me. It’s the same thing that drove the success of Facebook (and social media in general). How can you use technology to amplify the network, connect people and then get the hell out of the way. The Internet isn’t much different than a good house party- if you can set the stage for people to interact, the party will usually take care of itself.