Opinion: Is agility the enemy of creativity?

Only when leadership has the ability to face constructive criticism, will creativity and innovation flourish, says the author

Opinion: Is agility the enemy of creativity?
Creative agencies, by nature, have been infamous for not adhering to timelines. The relaxed attitude is mostly justified with adages like, 'no one knows when a good idea can strike you.'
Creativity and innovation come from teams that are unencumbered by bureaucracy, multiple opinions and the constant sword of timelines hanging on the head. If there is one ability that is most cherished in a business head, it is his or her craft to negotiate flexible timelines from clients for their creative partners. Those were the days when ideas were marinated for days, crafted with passion and handed over after thorough research.
Cut to the modern era of communication. The digital medium has made any marketing strategy succeed or fail in hours, sometimes in minutes. A simple tweet can go viral in a jiffy and can decide the fate of a brand/company for years to come. 
#BanHyundai or Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars are two extreme examples of that. Not to mention Elon Musk or Anand Mahindra who can practically carry the brand without any communication, completely leveraging their personal use of social media.
So what role does the relaxed creative culture play in this era? Is agility to create and respond the only benchmark of creativity? Is there no place or time for craft? 
Brands today, irrespective of the category, can’t afford to stay complacent and therefore traditional agencies have suddenly felt out of breath to match up to this fairly unknown culture of agile creativity. The same people, who have conducted business for decades in a certain way are forced to change overnight. Can they? Or should they? 
The answer to the latter is a simple ‘yes’. 
There is no other way, but to be agile in thinking and executing. Agencies and people who are not able to fall in line are falling off the grid faster than one can think. Smarter, nimbler agencies are giving the bigger agencies a run for their money. No amount of old wisdom or strong relationships built over years can hold on to the pressure that brands have to stay relevant every day. SOVs are not getting measured quarterly but by the minute.
But this is a no brainer – evolve or perish, has been well understood by every large agency today and while it is not possible to change their entire workforce overnight, systematic efforts are put in place to infuse younger talent to manage the perception of offering agile creative solutions. 
Some creative agencies have been able to do that faster (media agencies have done better and faster), but most of them have been struggling to transform at the right time. The rise of hybrid agencies and their success in a significantly shorter period is testimony to that. Agility is in their blood, and not acquired. But are they doing this at the cost of creativity? The answer is a resounding, NO. 
Today, for the consumer, a Tesla is a larger brand than Volkswagen, Zomato is more famous than Burger King, Nykaa has more TOM recall than Lakme, and Netflix has higher salience than Star Plus. And all these brands are not built on agility alone but are built on creative agility. They are in tune with the times, ready to risk a few failures, and are constantly pushing the creative agenda every minute. 
Although agility is remarkable in itself, when combined with creativity and innovation, brands can really take off, and the three traits tie into each other. Agencies that are more creative will in turn be able to be more innovative and agile and vice versa. And, how can agencies become more agile? What are the conditions one needs to put in place to ensure these three traits run through the veins of your agency? 
In my experience, it comes from the top down and then back up again! Our world is in the midst of remarkable changes, and change equals opportunity. In this climate, successful leaders will look for any opening to rally their teams to take risks and make bold moves. We all know that an agile work environment means that feedback should be more readily shared despite hierarchy, but that means that leadership has to buy into an agile way of working. Leadership has to demonstrate smart and effective decision making in a rapidly changing world and be able to anticipate the best way to go forward - know the best ways to inspire their teams, turn thoughts and ideas into actions, and evaluate results for successes and failures
Only when leadership can fully grasp that agility means, taking on board constructive criticism, will creativity and innovation flourish. 
(The author is CEO, GripDigi.)


Campaign India

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