How do you make Magic?

I used to think that the agencies with the best people, would make the best work. It was simple. Hire talent, and only talent, and excellence will follow.

I know now that I was wrong. Because I left out a really important part of the equation – the connections between those people.  Every agency has a creds presentation which claims they are dedicated to “collaborative working”. The reality is that most agencies still work in a highly linear fashion. These agencies are crammed full of very clever and very creative people, each of whom is really working on their own (or in pairs). They overlap for brief periods in meetings and reviews, but broadly they work in parallel to all the other disciplines in their team.

There is a very good reason for this. It’s more efficient.

Why waste time in conversations outside of your specific role? None of us has any extra time to spare in work. Better that everyone gets on with their particular part and hands over the baton when they’re finished.

Ironically it’s only in pitch scenarios, when we’re up against the clock to deliver, that we take the time to really delve into and discuss the task in a wider collaborative group. We don’t have a minute to waste, so we waste lots of time sharing, talking and going round in circles. It’s no coincidence that agencies often produce their best thinking and ideas during the pitch process.

The reason is, that this process creates a setting where inspiration is more likely strike.

The concept of inspiration and how to command it, has been a subject of fascination for a long time. Most of the research seems to reinforce the importance of two factors. The first factor is hard work / perspiration / preparedness. This is something that agencies aren’t short of. This is where hiring talented, motivated people will deliver.

The second factor is openness. This is messier. It’s about letting the mind wander. It’s about meandering away from the task at hand, exploring seemingly irrelevant stimulus.  And it’s about connection, the merging of minds, receptiveness to other people’s views and alternative perspectives. This second factor is just as essential for inspiration as the first. And in a climate of time sheets and efficiency, it’s increasingly in short supply.

Open and collaborative working is less time efficient but it leads to an agency culture where inspiration thrives. When we’re focused on the day to day, this way of working feels like a luxury we can’t afford. When we look longterm, it’s a necessity. Creative advertising is more effective at selling product.

Which is why all agencies could benefit from a little less efficiency and a little more emphasis on messy collaboration. That’s how you make magic.

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