As the Lunar New Year arrives, and we reflect on the past and get inspired by the future, it feels like this year, beyond most, in addition to being the Year of the Pig, should be the Year of Creativity.
“But shouldn't that be the mission for what companies like yours do every year?” And the simple answer is yes.
But as our industry, broader culture, and the world of work evolves at an even more rapid pace than it ever has before, it feels like a pivotal time to refocus the belief that creativity is the most important weapon in modern commerce today.
That weapon of creativity is something that it feels like our industry, ourselves included, has at times lost sight of as we adapt to market conditions. What I really mean by that, is that it feels like there has been a rapid devaluing of creativity, driven by a rush at times to take the easier, safer, cheaper option, versus the harder, braver, investment that truly drives business change.
At this moment of Lunar New Year reflection, we thought we would share a couple of lessons we have learned recently that might provide a source of inspiration to others as we all keep pushing the industry forward.
1. The power of diversity
Potentially the most obvious, but, creativity at its best, is a beautifully diverse, innovative piece of thought that inspires a holy-shit reaction the moment you hear it, feel and want to build it. That comes from a diverse group of thinkers (agency and client), who have culturally and professionally diverse backgrounds that create that spark. Globally, we have a mission to expand and diversify the creative class that means locally we have a vision of building a company that looks and sounds like modern South East Asia, versus one that looks and sounds like me (middle aged English dude). One way we tried to do this, is by partnering LaSalle to create a unique learning program, which breeds a modern group of cultural makers versus traditional advertising thinkers, in an effort to bring entrepreneurial energy into the business, to broaden the scope of inspiration in our teams.
2. Creativity is born in conversation
Creativity comes from conversations and collisions versus presentations and meetings. We have a simple equation that good people, having good conversations can lead to great stuff. In our company, we aim to empower the creative voice in all. We try to spend more time at the wall building ideas with client partners, by believing in an improvisation philosophy of “Yes and...” as a way to build thinking, and by collaborating optimistically, a closed door to a conversation might stop the genius idea getting out. Not rocket science we know, but losing the ego and having a chat is refreshing and inspiring in equal measure.
3. Be constantly learning
Inspiration can come from anywhere and experiencing the world is way better than being sat at your desk. A guiding principle of ours is to be constant learners. No-one in our company is an expert or smarter than others. We all learn from each other, and having a posture where we bring inspiration from culture to the table is important. As well as giving our talent unlimited leave so they can get out and see the world, we created a research product recently, you can steal it from 72voices.com, which has helped us understand the changing shape entrepreneurship in Singapore and the evolving face of modern Australia. Meeting 72 awesome people in Singapore and Australia, opened our minds to more potential and reminded us of the importance of being magpies out in culture.
4. Creativity is opinionated
Creativity is opinionated and we shouldn’t be ashamed to have a POV. In a highly competitive industry like ours, sometimes it’s safer to do the expected thing or the requested thing, but true magic comes from being smart and unpredictable, and at times challenging and having a belief in what’s right. For us there is no magic formula beyond having a belief in our ability and having a point of view as hopefully, the experienced people we aspire to be should do. Try it, it’s fun.
5. Creativity is odd-shaped
The final thing we thought we would share, as more than five learnings might turn a bit preachy, is that creativity is odd-shaped, and it’s cool to embrace that. As a business, we’ve learned to value the broadness in a brief, and the multi-faceted requests that a modern brand needs from partners like ours. Recently, instead of pushing against this to try to sell a one size fits all solution, we have enjoyed a fluidity to our product offering which has been both liberating and creatively challenging. Whether that is creating a brand from scratch with our brand creation tools, building purpose into client business through our brand citizenship practice, getting media thinking closer to our creative output, or being a quick-to-market content maker like hechostudios.com. We have loved the challenge of being told that the way we are needs constant evolution as we keep up with the pace of change in our client's businesses.
So as the new lunar year approaches us, and according to Chinese predictions of 2019 being a year for more generosity in the air, it felt like a good moment to reset ourselves, and share the things we learned. Hopefully, there might be something that sparks another company, person, or partner, to help push the broader creativity agenda forward.
Chris Kay, president and partner, 72andSunny APAC