So we have a new word. Interconnectedness. I’m assuming that’s because "collaboration" became a dirty, sullied word that we’ve pushed down the back of the industry sofa. Best not fix it, just move onto another word, that’ll make the difference.
Only it won’t. The fundamentals of creating better ideas, more relevant experiences, communications that inspire, are prefaced by a simple truth: smart people with a variety of different experiences and talents, exposed to a bloody good brief and who can figure out how to work together, will deliver great things.
That is truer now than it has ever been. Businesses succeeding in the digital economy share, partner, collaborate and hack. They avoid wrapping their arms around a problem or opportunity, while shouting "mine" like a toddler with their favourite toy. Our industry has behaved like toddlers for the past 20 years.
Those that have successfully collaborated have done so in spite of the general business culture, rather than as a consequence of it. We’ve lived with a tired discourse of: "Who owns the idea?"; "Which is the ‘lead’ agency?"; "Only creative agencies can create ideas"; "I want to know who gets the majority of the fee before I do anything."
Why? We’ve made little effort to foster the environment and conditions for the alchemy of different disciplines, talent and technology to thrive. If we want our people to connect our industry disciplines together, we have to nurture that as a collective ambition and reinforce the permission to engage in it. We must set aside business self-interest and empower our people to create collective work and shared success that is in the best interest of our clients.
The diversity of our talent also affects our capacity to look at the world through different lenses and create meaningful collisions in our thinking and ideas. In order to evolve, our industry demands the recruitment and fostering of more diverse people from different backgrounds, with different life experiences and personalities. Our industry’s homogeneity is undoubtedly a barrier to more powerful collaboration.
At Dentsu Aegis, we share a vision to "innovate the way brands are built", a collective direction that states what we aspire to as an organisation in the way we work with our clients. We don’t want to "innovate the way brands are built in media" and then connect it clumsily to how we "innovate the ways brands are built in creative". We are beyond the point where any single company can do everything brilliantly; the future of our industry lies in the coalition of genuine experts in media, creativity, digital technology and data-driven effectiveness. We simply start from a single origin and work together to arrive at a single destination that defines the best solution we can create.
Our ambition can be achieved only if we create a context in which our people feel empowered to fulfil that goal every day, alongside their 4,000 colleagues in the UK and Ireland, our clients and their partners.
It demands an agile organisational design, underpinned by shared behaviours that make it easy for people from our different agencies and specialisms to work together and focus on a single opportunity, uninhibited by contradictory P&Ls.
Fulfilling our goal is a consequence of living these good behaviours in our business every day. It requires our leaders to make active interventions if self-interest or insular behaviours re-emerge. Collaboration won’t be achieved through "command and control" leadership. It requires leaders to explain, reinforce and reward those people and teams who demonstrate collaborative behaviours that create the most compelling work. The more we demonstrate the power of collaboration, the less time we’ll spend finding new words to define it.
Make the connection
• Businesses succeeding in the digital economy share, partner, collaborate and hack.
• If we want the people who work for us to connect our industry disciplines together, we have to nurture that as a collective ambition and reinforce the permission to engage in it.
• The future of our industry lies in the coalition of genuine experts in media, creativity, digital technology and data-driven effectiveness.
• It demands agile organisa-tional design, underpinned by shared behaviours and uninhibited by contradictory P&Ls.
Mark Creighton is chief operating officer at Dentsu Aegis Network UK & Ireland