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Diversity in agencies

Fresh out of doing the IPA Foundation course – better late than never – the question ‘how to cultivate creativity’ had me thinking. The perfect example essay response nudges you to detail the classic nuggets of advice: Be curious, provide candid feedback, collaborate, the list goes on. I could bore you with the research findings […]

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Fresh out of doing the IPA Foundation course – better late than never – the question ‘how to cultivate creativity’ had me thinking. The perfect example essay response nudges you to detail the classic nuggets of advice: Be curious, provide candid feedback, collaborate, the list goes on.

I could bore you with the research findings of Les Binet and Peter Field on the importance of creativity in advertising, or really any field. Obviously, we should all know the benefits of creativity and how it can make an advert punch above its weight in terms of PR, fame and emotive storytelling, further exemplified by taglines such as ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ becoming part of pop culture and creativity’s massive impact on the bottom line.

An important takeaway for me was the insight from economist Harford. His book cites a study conducted by psychologists who looked at how well groups made up of four friends worked together to solve a murder-mystery puzzle, compared with groups made up of three friends and a stranger. The study found groups that included a stranger were significantly more likely to reach the correct conclusion — they did so 75% of the time, compared with a 54% success rate by the groups of friends. Diversity of thought, experience and interests all provide a wider net of source inspiration and problem-solving approaches.

One of the mantras of M&C Saatchi is ‘Diversity of thought’ and I couldn’t agree more. The (arguable) shock of Brexit and Trump’s close second run for presidency sent shockwaves through my various social circles. We were gobsmacked. Then again, we tend to be the by-product of the five people we hang out with the most. As the majority of my connections are of a similar background, upbringing, political leaning, work in similar industries and have similar interests, is it really such a shock, when we all live in such a bubble?

The issue of diversity, or lack thereof, has always been apparent in agencies but it’s not the only sector. With #BlackLivesMatter it came to the forefront once again with viral black squares, but I feel it reductionist to purely focus on BAME minorities. It’s an issue that stretches far and wide, and a thought-provoking elephant in the room is the impact of class too. A black square is an uncomfortable starting point for making us think more deeply about our own social circles, backgrounds and the struggles we’ve faced, or perhaps the ease we float through life.

We need more than just virtue signalling and ticking the diversity box.

One of the many things we can do right now is make more of a business case for companies and agencies to tackle the lack of diversity. It’s uncomfortable to sidestep the implicit micro-aggressions or even to question hiring someone because they ‘kinda’ remind you of yourself. There are already numerous agencies that conduct blind skills challenges, remove gendered wording from job adverts or even anonymise names when selecting from a pool of applicants. A truly marvellous example of this in practise is the Certified B Corporation: actively we stand against anti-Black racism and all forms of oppression including transphobia, classism, sexism, and xenophobia. The new company commitment of overhauling its hiring process encompasses health and wellness, in addition to promising to value and embrace diversity of identities, experiences, thoughts, needs, and approaches.

The economist Harford goes on to say; whilst it doesn’t come naturally to us, we should embrace the challenging process of seeking input from people who are different from ourselves and expect it to be uncomfortable. Force yourself out of your comfort zone and into new experiences, interact with different people and seek out tension. Challenge a lack of tension and strive for goal harmony over team harmony.

One of the best bits of advice I’ve received is to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Want a bit more of this? Head to nirvanawright.co.uk

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