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Two is company but three is no longer a crowd...

Shifting the industry's mindset from thinking in terms of 'twos' to 'threes' could transform the future of agencies says Stephen Maher, chief executive, MBA

Maher: “Let people do what they do best rather than having to constantly justify their actions”
Maher: “Let people do what they do best rather than having to constantly justify their actions”

Numbers can be fascinating – especially if they are big. The scale of the recent black hole photo is a case in point. It prompted a chat with a maths guru colleague who had a beautiful demonstration of the difference between the power of two and the power of three – in this case, between 1,0002 (a million) and 1,0003 (a billion). A million seconds is about 11-and-a-half days. A billion seconds is 31.7 years. Three can make a big difference.

Our industry has focused on twos for some time. The idea-generating unit of the creative team, a series of binary debates (long vs. short term, brand vs. response) and the distinct approaches of creative and technology. The latter has always been key for us and our clients at MBA – how they are not diametrically opposed but symbiotic when harnessed correctly, each nurturing the other and breathing life in both directions.

What are we missing?
Many business models have risen to embrace this duality, notably recent acquisitions by the consulting giants, which have taken a distinctly creative turn. In-housing in both its insourced and outsourced models, as well as the media agency development of creative output, are all efforts to release the alchemical process of combining creativity and tech to make gold. A certain someone’s answer to delivering the marketing altar’s new triptych of ‘better, faster and cheaper’ is a step in this direction too. Meanwhile, some major tech platforms are side-stepping agencies altogether.

But there’s something missing in approaching this challenge simply as a duality; a catalyst from the alchemist’s cauldron that can help propel agencies and their groups to even brighter futures.

For the stimulus to the answer I turn to Daniel Pink’s "autonomy, mastery and purpose". Most businesses can handle the latter two. Purpose means having a clear idea why everyone should turn up for work, beyond getting paid. Often complex, but clear nonetheless. Mastery, again not easy to engender, is solvable with training, leadership etc. Autonomy is far trickier as it’s fundamentally a cultural issue.

At the interface of creativity and technology is a fissure into which many brave souls have been lost. There can be a clash of brain types, of logic and magic, of suits and jeans… Creativity requires free thinking, unrestrained brains given licence to roam outside of business school models and paradigm solutions.

Different makes the difference
The duumvirate of ‘techno-creativity’ needs to become a triumvirate to find its true strength – by wrapping everything in a vibrant entrepreneurial culture. We need people who want to work together, who thrive on sharing their expertise while expanding their own horizons. We need to use the freedom of location and time that technology has granted.

Let people do what they do best rather than having to constantly justify their actions. All forms of diversity must be embraced; different makes the difference. Variety is good for the creative soul. The working environment must be collaborative, unleashed and entrepreneurial to ensure we aim for the most creative, and thus effective, work.

This ‘techno-creative’ future is, after all, already here – if not yet equally embraced across our industry. However, agencies need to provide the right physical and cultural environment for brilliant talent to be brilliant; for the emotive power and beauty of creativity to flourish alongside the skills to handle the wondrous opportunities offered by technology and data. Let’s raise a glass of chilled rosé to this new triumvirate of technology, creativity and collective culture.

Cannes bites

My best experience of the year was signing up MBA to the Real London Living Wage.

Who I trust most to get the job done is our brilliant MBA team (of humans) of course!

Data made us more creatively effective.

We made this new, diverse and inclusive digital campaign for Interflora called #sharesomethingreal

Make me feel at Cannes this year that ‘techno-creativity’ has been truly embraced in deed as well as in thought.

As a person I need to remind myself that the UK and London are powerhouses of world-class creativity

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