The next generation of strategists have to create the future for themselves

Nowhere are the symptoms of a fractured agency market more evident than in the skillsets of planners/strategists, and the multidisciplinary skillsets they are having to develop, writes James Lees, creative strategist at Sword & Stone and co-founder of Group Think.

The next generation of strategists have to create the future for themselves

The old debate of "generalist vs specialist" seems to be less relevant than ever. Today, the truth is that strategists have to be both – otherwise you can’t hope to be able to deal with an ever-widening variety of challenges.

This development represents an opportunity for our discipline as a whole. The chance to become true problem solvers, capable of calling on a breadth and depth of skills to solve the problem wherever it lies. 

Most junior training budgets are small, if they exist at all

But as any strategist knows, standing in the way of opportunity there are always challenges.

And it’s the next generation of strategists that know these challenges all too well. The big problem is that there’s less and less time to do the job. Time has shrunk in our professional lives as margins have been squeezed. (This is one of the reasons why primary research informs less than 2% of all creative briefs.) And with less and less time to do the job, it means there is less time for the next generation to actually learn and develop the multitude of skills required for the job today. It’s a Catch-22 and it’s screwed.

Training could be one solution. But currently it isn’t. Because most junior training budgets are small, if they exist at all. There are many "boutique" agencies out there with one or two planners (i.e. no one really to learn from) and absolutely no training budget – in a market where those that offer relevant training, sell courses that regularly cost upwards of £1000.

This is how you kill the promise of a bright, shiny future for our industry - you allow junior talent to be stifled.

We have to create the future for ourselves – by learning from each other

Those of us that have found agencies that treat learning and development as a driver of business success, rather than a luxury, know we’re lucky.

But what’s the answer for the rest?

We have to create the future for ourselves – by learning from each other. That’s why one year ago we created Group Think - a London based community dedicated to developing the next generation of strategists.

We get strategists to meet up, to socialise and grow through conversation. We get the young and the hungry one-on-one face time with mentors to improve their skills. We get interesting folk from inside and outside our industry to share their perspectives and blow our minds away.

Today, the community is made up of 300-plus members from all kinds of London agencies, and in the space of just one year we have run 40 events.

All for free.

June is our anniversary and tomorrow (Thursday 15 June) is our big celebration. If the above sounds interesting, join us over at the Grand Union in Farringdon from 6:30pm, and see what we’re all about.

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