One of the primary things we do in working with life science companies is to help them assess where they are now and then to decide where they want to go. These are fundamental questions of goals, strategies, tactics and positioning and they touch not just how companies go to market, but also on the core of the business itself. What are we going to be… in five years? …when we complete the merger? …when we grow up, etc.? These are critical questions at many of the important junctures in the lifecycle of a business.

As individuals, we often struggle with the same sort of questions: Who am I? What do I like to do? What have I been successful doing in the past? How can I surmount this challenge? What do I want to be when I “grow up”? And the list goes on. These questions are challenging and worth answering personally. They are no less challenging or worth answering as businesses seek to remain relevant in the marketplace.

While these kinds of big-picture questions can be tough for both individuals and businesses to answer, the individual has at least one distinct advantage – the luxury of intuition, that distinctly human ability to acquire knowledge almost unknowingly. Human beings have multiple lenses (past experiences, beliefs, feelings, intuition, rationale, logic, etc.) that we can combine with our intuition to imagine outcomes, to such an extent that we can even feel the imagined result.

Businesses, on the other hand, typically use one lens only—the rational, logical approach—when making decisions, big or small. This is especially true for group or committee decision making inside life science companies. On the surface, it makes sense to look to logic; after all, isn’t business a rational and logical construct? We put our ideas on paper or into a spreadsheet and share it with the entire organization. It’s a safe, proven, process-oriented approach. Besides, an organization can’t have intuition – apart from the intuition of the individuals that make up the organization – right? Well, not so fast. There are other ways to broaden our vision, to deepen our insight and to support our decision making.

One effective way that a company can improve its marketing decision making is through the use of archetypes. What’s great about choosing an archetype for your company — or if your company is really large and your team’s ability to impact the overall company is small, then this could even be effective for your department — is that it’s a way to bring a more holistic, human approach to your decision making. Plato employed the maxim, “Know thyself” to motivate his dialogues, to provide focus and direction. Most psychologists would tell you that it’s critical for you to know who you are in order to live accountably and with integrity. Likewise, “as people crave a deeper sense of connection to their work and want business to demonstrate greater integrity and accountability, archetypes can facilitate a more authentic, holistic and human way of being in business.” (from Archetypes in Branding, by Margaret Pott Hartwell & Joshua C. Chen)

What I like about choosing an archetype and being mindful of that archetype in day-to-day business is that it allows a company or a team to play to the strengths of the archetype and to apply that knowledge creatively to make decisions. Unlike stereotypes which define, often incorrectly, and close off, choosing and applying an archetype to your business opens it to all kinds of possibilities.

jumpPer the illustration at right, archetypes can empower that leap of faith from “what we are” to “what we want to be.” For example, consider that leap of faith from the perspective of the “athlete” archetype. Leaping is easy for the athlete and so the choice might be simple—it only requires harnessing prowess and power to bound over the obstacle. The archetypal “detective” might approach the same chasm in a different way—“let’s look for clues and see if we can find another way around.” While the “gambler” might look at the odds, realize that conditions favor a bold, quick decision and act decisively. Choosing and incorporating an archetype (acknowledging and understanding that there are both strengths and weaknesses in all of the archetypes) provides focus and direction for a company or a team to make better, quicker, more consistent decisions.

Inconsistency in marketing, and in making marketing decisions, is one of the primary impediments to creating high-performance marketing. The use of archetypes can help your organization’s marketing, and marketing decision-making, remain consistent. And while it’s not a complete substitute for organizational “intuition,” it helps by bringing another lens to the challenge of making complex life science issues compelling to the marketplace.