Let’s Hear It For Scrappiness

Everywhere you look you hear about the great “race for talent”. How the future will be won by who wins the “talent war”. Expertise, brilliance, dream candidates, the best and the brightest have all been written about.

Well it’s time to sing the praises of a greatly undervalued trait – scrappiness. Scrappiness is as responsible for success as any other characteristic. And yet no HR guru, no leadership maven or management expert seems to notice it, identify it, or search for these folks. Those who are gritty, persistent, resourceful. It’s an un-sung breed.

One thing scrappy has is desire. There’s nothing laid-back or “phoning it in” in scrappy. Scrappy wants to set the world on fire.

And there’s some magical kick-ass-ness that makes the scrappy truly heroes.

1) Scrappy gets sh*t done. The scrappy team makes things happen. It doesn’t wait for all the resources, all the debate, all the bureaucracy, all the knowledge. They simply achieve.  The scrappy team rolls up their sleeves and steps into any gap in team expertise or knowledge and fills it.

And on the scrappy team, everyone is a do-er. No one sits and waits for someone to tell them what to do. They’ve already got a 10-point list of next steps before anyone even speaks. At my last agency, my relatively small Porsche team produced more output than the rest of the agency combined. Everyone at the agency assumed we had dozens of account and creative people. Nope.

2) Scrappy punches above its weight. When you’ve got scrappy players, you can accomplish a lot more, with less. Two or three scrappy folks can go into a conference room and come out an hour or so later with a plan that would have taken a committee a month to develop.

And when you come in contact with the scrappy, it’s hard to know what level these folks are. They operate at the “whatever it takes” level, not the AE, AS, or AD level, for example.

3) Scrappy is fast. The world is moving so fast. But the old way of working – big teams, lots of levels and hierarchy, etc. – doesn’t facilitate fast solutions. But scrappy adapts to the need for fast.

And scrappy is tuned in, in real-time. Staying up to date, reading analytics, prepared with solutions, day-in and day-out. But that doesn’t mean that scrappy is working 24/7. Scrappy knows how to be efficient – and can go and be scrappy in their outside lives, as well.

4) Scrappy is self-reliant. Every day there’s another newly minted “expert” created to do some emergent, specialized task. Social media experts, earned media specialists, “listening czars”. But scrappy people don’t wait around until one of these experts is brought in to do something. They learn it and do it themselves. The scrappy team, together, becomes their own type of expert.

5) Scrappy is always in beta. The scrappy know it’s important to try things. To get real-world examples out to learn from. To test, trial and experiment. Perfection is the enemy of scrappy. And, as we know, there’s no such thing as perfection, anyway.

In sports, we always hear that the smaller, slower, less physically gifted (and usually white) athlete who performs above expectations is scrappy. That’s how scrappy gets a bad name. As if a person has to be scrappy because their talent level is low. But that’s simply not true. Anyone can be scrappy – Michael Jordan was scrappy, in fact. So go and find your scrappy heroes, and build a new dream team around them.


  1. Every great teams needs a scapper who is willing to do whatever needs to be done for the good of the team and set the example for work ethic.

  2. Reblogged this on Lead.Learn.Live. and commented:
    I came across Michael Baer’s Blog “Stratecution” and he caught my attention immediately with a Herb Kelleher quote in his header: : “Strategy is overrated. We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.” He has a number of excellent posts. This one particularly resonated with me. “Scrappy gets sh*t done…Scrappy punches above its weight…Scrappy is self-reliant.” Terrific post…

  3. Phenomenal post… Love your writing style and i enjoy the idea of weighing in with outstanding arguments for the idea of scrappiness being adopted as a new core competency. Shared on twitter… Very best for 2012.

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