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Great British Diversity Experiment finds that agencies should embrace ‘messiness’ and consider scrapping creative director role


By Katie McQuater, Magazine Editor

May 26, 2016 | 4 min read

Agencies should embrace ‘messy’ creative processes and reassess the role of creative leadership if they are to build truly diverse organisations, according to the results of the Great British Diversity Experiment.

Karen Blackett, GBDE

Over 20 teams comprised of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, races and sexes took part in the experiment, answering a brief from Tesco to create solutions to the problem of food wastage.

Following the announcement of the winners in February, the full report on the experiment’s findings, produced by Flamingo and Tapestry, was launched at an event at BBH’s London last night (Wednesday 25 May), featuring talks from MediaCom chief executive Karen Blackett (pictured) amongst others.

The teams that performed best in the experiment were found to be those where individuals could be themselves and where ideas emerged as a result of democracy rather than cultural consensus, the report found.

It also surfaced a few tangible steps for agency leaders to take in order to make a meaningful commitment to diversity:

  • Change the creative process; don’t take the easy route: Agency leaders should go beyond the status-quo decision making mechanisms, even if this adds more complication to the creative process. While 60 per cent of the experiment's participants felt that the discussion of ideas went well, only 20 per cent felt the same about agreeing which idea was best. Additionally, almost half (48 per cent) of participants agreed that increased diversity is likely to create more arguments.
  • Retrain leaders and reassess the traditional creative director role: The study found that the most successful teams were led by empathetic, careful facilitators. 80 per cent of participants felt their industry mentors played a significant role in the teams, with the best leaders facilitating 'messy' debate rather than dominating discussion based on their own judgement.
  • Acknowledge that bringing in diverse talent is critical to business success, not a CSR endeavour: Leaders should ensure that each new role has a diverse short list. The experiment highlighted the positive results that emerge from a mixture of personal experiences, reference points and cultural knowledge.

The Great British Diversity Experiment is a cross-industry initiative formed by Nadya Powell, managing director at Sunshine; Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder, Creative Social; Alex Goat, managing director, Livity; Jonathan Akwue, chief executive at Lost Boys and Laura Jordan-Bambach, creative partner, Mr President.

Nadya Powell said: “The Great British Diversity Experiment set out to bring to life how diversity leads to brilliant, differentiating creative thinking and to show the on-the-ground reasons why a diverse workplace is a better workplace. In doing so, we’ve unearthed some of the current barriers to accessing the benefits of diversity and most importantly, how to overcome them.

“This experiment was conceived of by the industry, for the industry. The participants, mentors, sponsors, founders and partners are all from the industry and for many of them, we hope the experience of being part of this means they will take action.”

The full report is now available to view on the Great British Diversity Experiment website.

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