When you’re taken on a tour of any agency as a client or a new employee, chances are you’ll be introduced to various sections of the agency, one of which will be the ?creative dudes?, or the digital creatives, or the creative technologists – those “crazy” guys who apparently come up with the “awesome” thinking and pictures. I’ve also sat in creative presentations to clients where they’ve been genuinely excited and asked which “creative” came up with the idea.

Truth is with a good integrated, collaborative agency model it would be an unfair and virtually impossible question to answer. Why? Because, in my opinion, no-one person is ever the single creative genius behind a campaign. Someone may have had an initial thought but somewhere along the line many equally creative people have been involved to allow the idea to come to life and stay alive. In fact, before a single idea is possible, other creative thinkers have already prepared the ground for the idea to germinate. A great behavioral insight and a great brief are creative jump-starts and ultimately lead to consistently more effective creative work. Creative channel insights and planning will ensure the idea gets in front of the right people at the right time. An inspired presentation of the work will get it over the line, and passionate and creative account management will keep it sold.

Creating a distinction between creatives and non-creatives and/or digital creatives and technicians, is the start of creating siloes and tensions within an agency. It’s the beginning of the end. A genuinely integrated model, where shared creative thinking and ownership are nurtured, encouraged and championed throughout the agency, is the model that encourages collaboration, breeds a healthy, strong culture and that will ultimately add value for the clients who invest in it.

Being “creative” is not a special power bestowed upon a select few (the creative directors or the ones who do the layouts or write the words, or who come up with the concepts — these are all disciplines). Creativity is guided mastery and applies to every skill set in the agency. It’s a skill that can be learned by everyone and nurtured over time. Robert Sternberg, a behavioral psychologist suggested: “Creative people are creative, not as a result of any particular inborn trait, but rather through an attitude toward life. They habitually respond to problems in fresh and novel ways, rather than allowing themselves to respond mindlessly and automatically.” Isn’t this what clients expect from us and pay us for?

Turning creative thinking into habit requires: Practice; opportunities to engage in it; encouragement to go after it; time, but also deadlines; and reward for doing it. Turning creative thinking into habit also requires openly sharing all thinking. The late Paul Arden, a legendary creative advertising thinker believed, “you should never covet your ideas. Give away everything you know and more will come back to you.” By sharing ideas, you give permission to others to run with them, build on them and share their own. It builds trust and confidence. It encourages people to explore possibility. It allows people to try, and even allows them to make mistakes. An integrated agency model brings various communications disciplines together under one roof and encourages a sharing of ideas. Bestow the creative privilege on a select few and you kill ideas and kill the model.

We’re working hard to instill a genuinely integrated and collaborative approach to all our work. We believe in the model and it’s showing some great results. We know we’ve still got a long way to go before we get it completely right. But as Paul Arden also said, it’s sometimes “right to be wrong”. One things for sure, should you at any stage come and visit us and have a tour of the place, either as a client or prospective employee, you’ll find a collaborative creative hub, and meet a strategist sitting right next to a digital technician, sitting across from a creative director and behind the studio manager, alongside a designer, facing the new business developer and an account director having a laugh with a writer. Or something like that.

Whose idea was it for us to set it up this way? I can’t remember and it doesn’t matter. It works for us.