In the working world we encounter numerous cognitive biases on a daily basis, many of which we account for and – unfortunately – many we don’t. We may recognise that confirmation bias is telling us this idea never fails (even if it does) or that loss aversion is stopping us from letting go of a failing project.
However, there is one bias that has been nearly universal to the working world for as long as any of us can remember: distance bias. This bias is founded on the idea that we engage better with people who are closer to us in time or space. Distance bias – or proximity bias as it is sometimes called – is the reason offices are ubiquitous and remote working has been so long maligned.
But the rise of remote working in the last few months has undone these years of internalised bias by proving distance bias as nothing more than an error in understanding. In the past, it tended to mean remote or freelance staff felt isolated and disengaged, employers were reluctant to hire them and trusted them less than their full-time, office-based counterparts. Yet with many of these office-based workers now working from home, employers are faced with the reality that location has no relationship with the quality of work.
This is an exciting prospect. Not only does it hold exciting promise for office-based workers, who may be able to enjoy a more flexible work life, but it puts further stock in the value of freelancers and opens up new opportunities for businesses, specifically marketers.
Acquiring local talent on global scale
Let’s imagine that you are a marketing team based in the UK. For your next campaign, you want to target an audience on the other side of the world in Japan. Immediately, you face the problem of bridging that cultural gap; no one on your team is likely to be immersed in Japanese culture or be able to offer you the expertise that is second nature to someone who lives there.
Traditionally this may have led to one of three approaches. The first is to scour the UK for someone with experience marketing in Japan and hope that they 1. exist, 2. are available 3. are affordable and 4. are willing to work on a temporary basis. The pitfalls in this approach should be apparent.
The second is to hope that your existing team can overcome the culture gap and successfully build a campaign for that market. Also an ambitious plan.
The third would be to begin the long, arduous and expensive process of flying over, sourcing translators, speaking to your Japanese counterparts, finding partner agencies, and so on.
By recognising that distance has no relation to the engagement of the employee, a whole new host of options are available to businesses.
By overcoming distance bias, however, the marketing team now has a fourth option. Hire a local team of freelancers in Japan and simply manage them remotely. Not only will this team be immersed in the culture in a way that the UK team never could be, they can work on a short-term basis over the duration of the campaign. This ignores all the additional benefits of saving time and money on searching for talent.
But this is only one example. Local talent will always trump international teams in a wide variety of cases: voiceover work, design, writing and so on. By recognising that distance has no relation to the engagement of the employee, a whole new host of options are available to businesses.
Homogeneous teams mean homogeneous ideas
Moreover, local talent doesn’t just offer specific expertise in a region but a different mindset entirely. To illustrate this, let us think about recent campaigns in the last few months. If a cloying ‘family values’ ad about working together to defeat coronavirus sounds familiar to you, it is because talent in a region is often bound by the same creative limitations.
The reality is that workers from a confined region often have fixed and similar ways of thinking. By the same token, we may find work from other countries surprising and enjoyable in its creativity; it represents something we haven’t seen before. This same principle applies to remote workers; capitalising on talent from further afield may bring fresh ideas to the table.
In practice, this means businesses may want to become more location-agnostic when it comes to their hiring decisions. An EMEA marketing campaign will certainly benefit from European workers who can provide their specific cultural expertise, but what might someone from outside that region add to the equation? Whether it’s specific creative ideas or simply a point of view that differs from the norm, this can have tangible benefits for projects.
So now that distance bias is becoming a recognised phenomenon, like many other common pitfalls of the working world, global talent is now available to the world’s businesses. Though many may be reluctant to adopt international teams immediately, the benefits should become apparent as this global talent pool starts being tapped. Local knowledge is invaluable for many campaigns – as is creativity – and by looking to this new workforce, forward-thinking marketers may gain an edge that the rest of their region is yet to discover.
If you want to hire exciting new global creative talent to supercharge your marketing efforts – find the freelancer you’re looking for on Fiverr.com.
Liron Smadja is director of global expansion marketing at Fiverr.