Creativity: thinking outside the box
Creativity: thinking outside the box
A view from IPA

IPA Adaptathon blog: Creativity in the organisation

The IPA has asked leading industry figures to describe how they unleash the creativity of their employees for the benefit of their organisation...

Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, alongside IPA President Ian Priest, will discuss how to unleash the creative in everyone on Wednesday 20th November at Imagination*, as part of the ‘ADAPT’ event series. Mildenhall believes that creativity drives effectiveness and that improving individual and agency creativity can diversify all an agency has to offer, to achieve greater commercial success. How do other industry figures harness this creativty?

Patrick Collister, head of design, Google:

"The word creativity has been hijacked to mean ‘artistic talent’. In agencies, we talk about ‘the creatives’ as if they are the only people allowed to have ideas. Actually, the creative department often houses some of the most reactionary and uncreative people in the building.  For me, creativity is asking yourself: How can I do today what I did yesterday, but better?

"In one of my agencies, the head of traffic moved his desk three feet so it jutted out into the corridor. No-one left and no-one came without passing by this stern gate-keeper. He prevented account guys from taking work before it was ready and he prevented creative teams from leaving before the job was done. Moving his desk was a wonderfully creative thing to do because in his own way he was trying to make us all better. And it worked. We got listed in the Gunn Report’s Top 10 Agencies in the World.

"In another agency, the proof readers felt undervalued. They commissioned a poster campaign, which ran inside the building reminding everyone of the important job they did. Wanting to do things better and finding ways to do it, that’s real creativity. Not the ability to draw nicely."

Karen Blackett, CEO, MediaCom

"Unleashing creativity starts long before you actually think about the "C" word itself. There's no point having the most creative people in the world if they come to work in a dull, sombre office. A leader's first task is to create an environment that promotes and enhances creativity - an environment that encourages fun and playfulness, trust and openness. MediaCom's Freshness programme is designed to keep the office a lively and inspirational place; our management style is designed to empower people to challenge and question the way things are done.

A leader's first task is to create an environment that promotes and enhances creativity - an environment that encourages fun and playfulness, trust and openness.

"Creativity also involves risk-taking, a quality that is considerably less valuable in other areas of our work, so we create a separate physical space - a Room for Ideas - and don't allow it to be used for any other kind of work. That may sound pedantic, but it's important that people know they are allowed to - and supposed to - use their mind differently in that space.

"It's no good just saying creativity is important you have to prove it. Creativity is one of our company's key pillars and is built into KPIs. We train everyone in the building (yes, everyone) in creativity and encourage them to be their own creative problem solver, but then also support them with trained facilitators throughout the company, and by ensuring that our creative leaders receive ongoing training and development."

Neil Christie, managing director, Wieden & Kennedy:

"We’ve got all the usual wacky creative cultural stuff at Wieden+Kennedy. Yes, we have a padded cell meeting room; we have office baking competitions, wild parties, free booze on a trolley, in-office band performances and art exhibitions. But we also encourage and enable people to do volunteer work in our local community and send people as far afield as Rwanda to enable them to achieve things they never thought they could do.

"We have furniture made out of dodgem cars and junk stall finds. We have a Dude of the Month award that bestows a special ceremonial jacket upon the winner. We have sing-songs, and pie-offs, and stitch-and-bitch sessions, and art outings, and portrait painting, and interactive window installations.

We have a Dude of the Month award that bestows a special ceremonial jacket upon the winner.

"We have creative bursaries to help everyone broaden their minds, we invite in all sorts of interesting visiting speakers and, yes, our reception is so filled with bric-a-brac it looks like a jumble sale and we have to keep turning away passers by who mistake our office for another Shoreditch vintage store. We even have the obligatory agency table football table somewhere under all the junk.

"We have all of these things, but they don't happen by management design, they evolve organically out of the environmental slime. They are the products of our culture, not the cause of it. Everyone knows we’re here to do the best work of our lives. That’s what W+K was founded to do. It’s our promise to our people and our clients. We have remained fiercely independent so that we can stay true to this principle. It’s what we are and it affects everything we do."

To attend and find out more about the IPA’s Jonathan Mildenhall event, click here.

*Imagination - 25 Store Street, South Crescent, London, WC1E 7BL