Posts in Thought Leadership
BBC Analysis - Maintenance
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BBC Radio 4’s Analysis show spends some time looking at Maintenance and interviewed Truth & Spectacle’s, Alex Mecklenburg.

As Chris Bowlby discovers, keeping our infrastructure in good condition is one of the most crucial and creative challenges we face.

They look at the creativity required in maintaining and improving the roads, bridges, buildings, and technology we already have and don’t look after properly.

Alex talks about responsible innovation and the role of maintenance and legacy in ensuring we make a better world. She makes the case for responsible innovators and says;

You can maintain something in innovative ways. 

It’s a really interesting look at getting maximum value from good ideas. Even if they aren’t your own.

David Edgerton (@DEHEdgerton) who teaches History King's College London had an interesting comment that helps contextualise the world we work in now;

Most of us are imitators rather than innovators […] Creativity today means getting rid of the idea that we live in a radically innovative culture and to set about our world in new ways that may not be quite as dramatic as the false prospectus that is on offer.

It’s definitely worth listening to if you work within an existing structure and have the responsibility of maintaining and improving it, whether it’s a bridge or a brand.

Listen on the BBC



How to add Spectacle: Where's the battle scene?
A dramatic reenactment of Spartacus fighting Romans.

A dramatic reenactment of Spartacus fighting Romans.

⚔ When Stanley Kubrick was directing Spartacus, he said, "You can't make a spectacle movie and not have a battle scene in it."

Kubrick was referring to the fact that he’d inherited a film script that had missed the point completely. It’s a film about a slave army who battled the Roman army for their freedom, and there was no battle scene!

It’s human nature to become blind to a story when we’re working very hard to produce it day in and day out. For most of us, we’re telling stories about the organisations we work with and those can too easily become pointless.

I think speed and efficiency are key but generally easier to do since you’re basically removing obstacles to help water run downhill faster.

Spectacle needs more. It doesn’t matter whether you design vacuum cleaners or brief in sales videos, every now and then you should ask yourself the question,

Where is the battle scene?”.

How to add Spectacle: The power of a lobster
Image from tate.org.uk. Art by Salvador Dali

Image from tate.org.uk. Art by Salvador Dali

🦞Salvador Dali understood the power of a lobster to make this dull telephone absolutely memorable.

Lobsters may not be your style, so think of a small element you can add to usually humdrum work stuff that will create useful cognitive dissonance (i.e. get some good attention). It can be as simple as a hit of colour in your PPT, or a well devised metaphor in a speech.

Courtesy of the artist Michael Keith Chapman

Courtesy of the artist Michael Keith Chapman

If you’re not sure where to start, Ivan gets his lobsters here.

Creativity is dead! Long live create!
This a wonderfully (un)chained piece of graffiti from Mexico City. I love the duck.

This a wonderfully (un)chained piece of graffiti from Mexico City. I love the duck.

These are interesting times for the creative industry.

Traditional hotshot agencies are protecting their creative turf and talent pool with statements like BBH’s Sir John Hegarty that the in-house model is for “boring creatives”.

Big agencies are watching their bottom lines get squeezed into oblivion (read Madison Ave Manslaughter) and responding with aggressive resizing (Ogilvy) and mergers (Wunderman Thompson).

Old holding companies like WPP are streamlining to become a “creative transformation company”, while new holding companies like S4 Capital and You and Mr Jones are built on the idea that data drives creativity.

Not to mention management consultancies like Accenture who have seen the value of delivering creative assets, not just business services.

Organisations of all sorts are experimenting with in-house creative services, or subcontracted units of agencies, or communities of creative collectives, with various degrees of success.

The CMO of RBS has said that clients “can’t do creative communication”, yet 78% of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in 2018 had an in-house agency.

So, are they all failing at their jobs?

With so many opinions about what is and isn’t creative, who is right?

After 18 years as a creative at Ogilvy and adam&eveDDB I co-founded a consultancy called Truth & Spectacle to see what creativity in business could become.

A big part of my journey outside of the traditional creative industry has been working with an award winning tech company called what3words.

Over the last two years what3words has successfully scaled up to create most of its marketing, brand design and product design in-house; and we’ve had the same debates everyone else is having about the quality of work, striking the balance between pragmatism and belief, attracting and keeping talent, outsourcing and in-housing.

what3words x Airbnb with the reindeer tribes in Northern Mongolia in 2018. Photo by Chris Sheldrick.

How has a tech company like what3words become good at creating?

Early on the management team understood the impact of storytelling on the company’s value and sales, and invested in their own people to improve that skill.

There’s a studio but there is no “creative department”, creativity is the responsibility of everyone in the business.

what3words is confident in telling its core story through everything it does, whether it’s through products, sales conversations, video content, PR, or event posters.

And finally, we’re comfortable challenging our best ideas and experiment constantly to be fit for purpose.

When management consultancy McKinsey looked at the correlation between creativity and financial performance they found that more creative firms outperform their peers, so it seems to be more important than ever.

I believe we could do with less narrow minded rhetoric about who owns creativity and concentrate more on how we’re going to create.

In these interesting times it’ll take open minds to help the industry and discipline flourish in every organisation.

What do you think?