How important are first impressions? The first humanistic touch point of any creative agency is at the front door. How is the intercom answered? Is the walk from the door to reception peppered with touches of creativity? When a potential client (or in fact anyone) walks into the agency reception area for the first time - what are their first impressions? Do they feel welcomed? Are they greeted well, or are they left to fend for themselves? Does the environment contain visual creative nuggets of joy?
It's these simple touches that a 'creative' agency often overlooks. There is a real danger that day to day work can take over humanistic touch points that collectively represent internal agency values (if they exist). Naturally as designers, (strategists, planners, writers etc); we spend our working day defining who a client is, what they represent, their vision, their values. We charge our clients through billable hours to align all their brand touch points so that they communicate a cohesive brand story. However, what does the internal culture of the agency you work for or own communicate about who you are?
I've recently been reading 'Preserved Thoughts' by Jim Prior (CEO of WPP-owned brand consultancy, The Partners), it has been enlightening whilst also reminding me of some key principles that we often forget. He states, "The office environment, the social calendar, the way you conduct meetings, can all have a huge impact on the extent to which your organisation is creative, or not".
I couldn't agree more with the quote above, however this should merely be a starting point from which everything else should be based. In other words, if you get your foundations right, everything else will have purpose and meaning. It's the small things within an agency environment that can have the biggest impact on internal culture.
- Is the lighting bright and airy or dark and dingy?
- Does the same level of attention go into the crockery selection for your clients as well as for the staff?
- Is taking time out over lunch encouraged in order to be inspired or is a quick bite then back to work the norm?
- How does your agency mark things well ie, birthdays, Easter, the run up to Christmas, a successful project, an individual achievement etc?
- Are projects process driven or creatively driven?
- How are people rewarded; just for being themselves?
And so, the list goes on.
As creative people we are not happy to just settle and work within a culture where maintaining the status quo is accepted as the norm. We naturally want to challenge, stand out, be pro-active and collectively help to build a culture where asking permission is put in the bottom drawer. In a permissive culture, individuals start to shine and willingly invest themselves and their personalities into every aspect of agency life which interestingly tends to go beyond the Nine to Five routine.
So how do you cultivate a culture of creativity? It starts with the personnel that reside within the agency. By letting people have a voice, an opinion, an idea. By giving people ownership, permission and creative license.