October 1, 2017

Creativity is everyone’s business

It’s time for a change, for businesses everywhere to take equality seriously. No, I’m not talking about diversity or gender bias (and I’m certainly not diminishing their importance), I’m referring to a different kind of subtle discrimination. The domination of knowledge over imagination, of thinking over dreaming. It’s seen in the reverence of data, the preference for all things quantified and dominance of rational arguments supported by a mountain of information. Browse the business book shelves and you’re bombarded with strategies, best-practices and methodologies. Just don’t mention the C word.

Creativity isn’t a dirty word but it certainly knows its place. It’s usually confined to a tight turning circle, boxed in and kept in check. You’ll find it in design studios, in the form of products or packaging. You will see it bubbling up in the marketing department as they work in-house or with agencies to promote and sell whatever it is companies make. Where you’ll rarely come across it is in the boardroom (apart from in presentations). Even brainstorms are conducted more like the The Hunger Games, a competition for attention or validation where he who talks loudest wins. What if creativity had an equal seat at the big table? Right next to business strategy. In a time where every business is talking about transformation – we need the transformative power of the creative mind to truly succeed. The ironic thing is, everyone talks about innovation but ultimately, innovation always starts with imagination. The tech world is full of dreamers. Some dream in code or in circuits but what they do takes an incredible amount of creativity.

This was the starting point that led me to write a very short book called The Axis of Success: Where Business Strategy & Creativity Collide. Mostly aimed at startups and small business entrepreneurs, it is a manifesto for thinking differently. Even Einstein knew the power of creativity and used thought experiments to imagine answers to mind-boggling problems. As I explored the power of imagination, I took a decidedly non-rational journey from theoretical physics, stopping off in the Roman Empire, a detour via mysticism along with some great learnings from big businesses that have used creativity beyond the superficial or traditional ways.

Having a 360-degree vision of business and being able to pivot effortlessly between strategic and creative ways of thinking can help anyone take more control of the forces that impact success. Being able to visualize all the moving parts of your organization, in both concrete and abstract ways, can lead to brilliant solutions to complex problems that the normal approaches might never stumble upon. Get ready to say yes to more mental fluidity, being open-minded for left and right brain equality, allowing yourself to be illogical and irrational from time to time. We are all born with imaginations. Unfortunately, for most people, it is suppressed in favor of more “serious” occupations as we grow up. It might be sleeping but it’s still waiting there. You just need to poke it.

I hope that The Axis of Success will stretch your mind and help you open up to the possibility of more creativity being used in every aspect of business. Knowledge and experience alone isn’t enough, information is a level playing field. But imagination, that’s the true game changer.

E-book available now:

on Amazon Kindle

on Apple iBooks

April 17, 2009

Cooking up the perfect digital agency

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Although this blog is inspired by David Ogilvy’s book is not going to be just about him. Saying that, I thought it could be interesting to cover some of the topics he wrote about but update them for the digital world.

His first chapter is called How to Manage an Advertising Agency, He starts by saying that it is not different from managing an other creative organization such as a research lab, magazine, architect’s office or even a kitchen (David Ogilvy was a chef in an earlier life). Over the years I’ve worked at various interactive agencies and even set up one from scratch. Looking at these and other successful digital agencies there are a few common factors that stand out. So how do you create & manage the perfect Interactive Advertising Agency? What’s the recipe for the ideal organization? It would be a mixture of some of the best agencies…

 Ingredients:

A slice of Razorfish

With strengths in quantitative and qualitative audience research capabilities, Avenue A | Razorfish broad experience creates a strong base for cross channel campaigns.

A bagful of R/GA

This is where creativity meets technology in startling new ways. A perfect example is Nike + which illustrates their approach of building communication platforms that attract and retain customers while weaving marketing and product together.

A cupful of Ogilvy

Brand-focused communication based on big ideas, all mixed up in a 360-degree approach that puts the customer at the centre. Traditional marketing and advertising has a lot to teach new media in terms of crafting the right message.

A little Organic

A strong belief in empathy-based experience design and flair for harnessing Web 2.0 technologies like YouTube, Flickr, and a Facebook applications this brings a lot of smart thinking into the mix.

A sprinkling of Sapient

Spice things up with excellent technology integration ranging from sophisticated transaction-based systems to interactive marketing platforms. For a digital campaign to provide a good customer experience your technology needs to be rock solid.

A dash of Digitas

Last but not least we need some robust measurement and analytics capabilities. Strong measurement and insight from that data is vital for the perfect agency combination.

 

Method:

Make sure your melting pot allows space for strategy and creative to really blend their thinking. Stir in real consumer insights rather than just what you think the target audience would like.

Look beyond digital. Adding traditional media to campaigns may result in a more startling outcome.

Raise the heat by experimenting with fresh ingredients. Be unafraid to explore new ideas or technologies but be careful not to get carried away with the flavour of the moment. Watch trends closely and take advantage of new ways to surprise your audience.

Don’t forget the human element. Each person in the team must pour their expertise and passion into the project in the right amounts. The best work is only possible with the perfect blend of strategy, creativity and technology…. all coordinated and delivered flawlessly.

Measure everything carefully to ensure the right balance of ingredients and to improve your recipe. Never be satisfied. Stay in beta.

 

Presentation:

The best digital agencies naturally present themselves in the best light. From the office environment through to their own digital marketing efforts. Seeing is believing and the ideal agency should look the part, walk the talk and be constantly striving to be the best. Even with all the right ingredients in place my perfect agency would always feel that it could be a little better.

A digital agency should never be bland. It should have contagious passion for great ideas and defend them to the end. Be brave to walk down new avenues and balance intelligence with ambition. Always staying hungry…

 

Bon appetit.

 

Thanks to Forrester and AdAge for a little inspiration.