Right now, on my creative team, I have an ex-lawyer, a former newscaster and an MD. And the work has never been more interesting.
In the same way our work should be innovative, so too should our approach to how we structure our teams and define what it looks like to be creative. I believe everyone can contribute something to telling great stories, and agencies and those who lead them have a responsibility to build neuro-diverse teams and provide people from across disciplines and backgrounds the opportunities to help tell them.
It’s been many years since we thought about how we structure our creative teams and, in many cases, the creative organizations related to advertising and marketing look the same way they did 10 years ago. This status quo is problematic for an industry with the core mission of understanding how to create work that resonates with the diverse audiences and individuals we serve around the globe.
It’s time to rebuild our creative teams from the ground up.
Building the next generation of storytelling teams begins by evolving how we recruit talent. People need to be handpicked from a multitude of places: from entertainment and music to medicine and architecture.
While there is value in hiring people with decades of experience in the advertising industry, there is equal—albeit, different—value in bringing individuals without an advertising history onto our teams. These new story-finders, story-builders and story-connectors ask different kinds of questions and challenge the status quo. These diverse backgrounds evolve and innovate the work that we produce. Especially in an industry like healthcare, an industry that touches everyone, having neuro-diversity on creative teams is essential to creating work that resonates with the customers we engage with each day.
Next, especially as creative directors and agency leadership, we have to build environments without stigma. Whether it’s talking about their same-sex partner, asking for a mental health day or just discussing their unconventional career history, I never want my teams to feel they need to hide their background or cover certain aspects of themselves. When people feel they can bring their whole selves to work—including the parts of them we can’t see—they feel safe enough to do their best work.
Fortunately, agencies have believed in the power of diversity and have made significant strides to include its various forms over recent years. We are in the early stages of building teams that are both more likely to creatively problem solve and be more representative of the outside world.
Restructuring teams also means being open to new ways of working and allowing our creatives the freedom to do what they do best. This could look like designing our offices for inclusion or rethinking flexible work policies. Often, true inspiration and discovery come from being immersed in the world around us, not inside a high-rise.
Rebuilding creative teams starts by re-evaluating who we see as storytellers. There are a lot of pieces to get right if we are going to engage audiences and ask them to do something, especially when it involves their own health. Behavior designers, social, experience, data and media people along with our art directors and writers, in any odd assortment you can imagine. They need a seat at the table (or in a cafe somewhere) in order to get it done just right.