Claire Beale: 2012: the year of getting flat, fast and flexible

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Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign
Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign

So it's January and time for optimism. Naturally, 2012 is going to be carnage, but you've got to feel a healthy degree of immunity or find a coping strategy. Or give up.

Battlefield tactics will be critical, and if there's any advice to be had from our Year Ahead essays, it probably centres on words such as small, fast, flexible, flat, collaborative, personal. They all seem like good places to start, though if you aren't already thinking along these lines, what the heck were you doing in 2011?

2012 will be about the further dismemberment of those lumpy corporate structures that cripple creativity, innovation and co-operation. And it will be about the development of new leaner, swifter processes that refuse to respect conventions and balance daring with accountability.

This much you know. How you make it happen if you are a large company with a lumpy structure and internal silos is the real issue, and one you're probably already working on. As ever, the best people will make it work; only those who are insecure or ineffective will resist a more collective, less hierarchical approach. Getting it right also means unshackling creativity (from restrictive departmental structures, from predetermined media choices, from ego-led ambitions), getting it closer to the business issues and absolutely demanding and revelling in the very best creative solutions.

Authenticity will be a talisman, though working out what it really means will be a personal journey; defining authentic is hard, recognising it (or, more particularly, its absence) is much easier.

Working out what success looks like in this sort of landscape isn't so easy. It's not necessarily about winning and running big accounts (in fact, it may be the opposite). On a personal level, success is now obviously less about the old status symbols of inflated salaries, bonuses and company cars (and even if it is, they are much less visible). Feeling stimulated, inspired and fulfilled (while being able to meet your monthly mortgage payments) and having lots of fun are better and more realistic markers.

I hope you achieve them all this year.

If all the above is even half right, 2012 is a good time to be starting out, or starting up, or stopping, rethinking and starting again. Neil Simpson, one of the founders of The Corner, a new agency opening for business this week, reckons that when you leave a company to become an entrepreneur,you exchange frustration for anxiety.

Of course, the best companies find ways to keep and encourage their entrepreneurs. But most don't. So given that anxiety is pretty much guaranteed in 2012, ditching some of the corporate frustrations in favour of a new approach has got to be an exhilirating choice. Good luck to anyone who takes the leap this year.


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