Editorial: Jury to be out for a while on IPA Diagonal Thinking

Launched a year ago to attract more unusually talented people from a broader range of ethnic and social backgrounds into advertising, the IPA's Diagonal Thinking initiative has a way to go to prove its worth.

On the plus side, almost 7,000 people have taken the online test to find out if they have what it takes to be a success in adland. However, many agencies remain to be convinced, believing that their well-established and rigorous selection processes are already robust enough.

Moreover, 66 per cent of those who have taken up the Diagonal Thinking challenge class themselves as white Britons, many of them having been to an elite university. Nevertheless, it's too early to dismiss Diagonal Thinking as a well-meaning attempt not only to find those most likely to forge successful agency careers but stop the industry being the almost exclusive preserve of a white upper middle class.For one thing, the IPA has invested much time and energy over the past five years into making a compelling case that the ability to think "diagonally" is a prerequisite for a top job. Moreover, if it's true that just 10 per cent of the population has such a skill, the initiative should have the effect of honing the agency selection process still further.

No bad thing, perhaps, when research has shown that 20,000 students annually express an interest in an advertising-related job. Even in a good year, there are rarely more than 600 openings. Where Diagonal Thinking is likely to have a more limited impact is in speeding the development of an industry that's more ethnically diverse. Until the ethnic profile of Britain's leading universities changes, progress is bound to be limited. And it's been argued that Britain's creative culture fosters diagonal thinking in a way that some more rationally inclined foreign regimes do not.

The Diagonal Thinking initiative will be a slow burn, but look at what happened with Continuing Professional Development, which launched a decade ago. Today, agencies can't get IPA membership unless they're committed to it.


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