Magnus Djaba: Naivety offers that spark of creativity adland badly needs

By Magnus Djaba, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 12 July 2012 08:00AM

The Tao Te Ching says: "The more you know, the less you understand."

Magnus Djaba: chief executive at Saatchi & Saatchi.

Magnus Djaba: chief executive at Saatchi & Saatchi.

It's safe to assume that the great Chinese writers had higher things on their minds, but this is a statement that could have been written for our industry. It's a statement about the importance of innovation and the refusal to accept what is probable in favour of the search for what is possible.

The best advertising, by its very nature, is surprising. Sometimes, the results are surprising too. Who would have expected Toyota to be seeing growth in new car sales in 2012? The way we bring value is that, while others ask "why?", we start by asking "why not?"

Here's the interesting thing: this attitude and innovation often come from people who don't know what has been or can't be done, because they haven't done it before. There's a reason ours is a young business. A little bit of naivety is the spark of creativity and innovation.

Our industry moves forward when people find out how good they can be - when they are not just applying an answer from the past, but when they have the audacity to shape the future.

It's a spirit you often find in start-ups. I was fortunate enough to work for five men who hadn't done it before at Fallon. They taught me that your career should be like Sir Chris Hoy learning to ride a bicycle - you're not sure you can do it, someone lets go, you shit yourself, you have the exhilaration of feeling you can do it, then you change cycling forever (or something like that).

That feeling is tough to create, which is why people try to buy it in. Adam & Eve can only be admired for its success, and every interaction I have ever had with Stephen Woodford at DDB has been charming and exciting - but why buy in something that you can create yourself? What kind of message does it give to young people in our market that the only way to bring in the next generation of brilliant young management is to buy an agency that already has it?

If you want to compete, even (or perhaps especially) as a network, you need to create some of that start-up mentality. Push them. Support them. Find the people in the agency who are going to be running their own companies one day and give them the chance to get involved in running yours.

We are bringing in a new generation of people at Charlotte Street and what we can promise them is the learning to ride a bicycle feeling. The best bit of my job is watching people fly.

As we sit in a market that needs innovation, not in the shape of an "innovation director" but in the way we live every day, I can't help feeling that, at every level, the learning to ride a bicycle feeling is what our industry needs. Naivety is the oxygen of creativity. Let's listen to those great Chinese writers and embrace those three little words: "I don't know."

Magnus Djaba is the chief executive at Saatchi & Saatchi.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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