Thursday, November 01, 2012

Should Planners Have Ideas?

An interesting twitter debate kicked off earlier today over the merits of a John Steele quote as tweeted by Dave Trott.

"It's not a planner's job to have ideas, rather to create an environment where others can have them." - John Steele

Followed by Mark Hancock (Holycow) responding to say he agreed that planners need to foster an environment, but that the stimulus planners give to creatives usually comes as an idea. W+K's official account also tweeted that they'd rather have people who create ideas across the board, from planning to HR. I've yet to see any response from Dave Trott, but I think it will be worth reading if he does.

I find this a fascinating topic, because while in many respects it feels like a case of semantics, it comes down to one key point for me:

If a brief is devoid of ideas, how is is likely to inspire creatives?

We can't exactly claim that strategy isn't full of ideas. If a strategy has no ideas, we'll just end up with boring cliche'd briefs that will nudge the creatives towards limited ideas.

If people across the agency are creating ideas, it helps to foster people working together better. Not only that if creatives see that the people around them have the capability to generate ideas then it must give them more confidence that the briefs and development around them are well thought out, and appreciate how they are going to produce ideas.

Personally I have to agree with the tweet from W+K. If you run a creative business, everything that you produce is based upon ideas. Strategic ideas to develop great briefs and real useful insights, creative ideas to bring the strategy to life, account handling ideas to ensure everything runs smoothly and efficiently. Why on earth would you not want anyone in that team to have ideas, to share them and create a culture that works together to create a whole that is massively beyond the sum of the parts. In fact if you look at the difference between the best and the worst creative organisations, I bet one of the key differences you will see is their openness to ideas and the culture of collective creativity that it can help to foster.

Of course John isn't bad mouthing ideas, and I doubt he means planners shouldn't have ideas, just that this shouldn't be the key thing we do. However I think ideas are such an intrinsic part of what we do, that we cannot possibly be great planners without generating ideas.

As I've said before, I am a firm believer that creativity comes from anywhere, and that while we are separated as planner, creatives and account handlers for a reason, that doesn't mean that we are incapable of ideas or feedback on those other areas. We inherently have to understand each others' positions to produce the best work. A planner should accept that a creative might have a great strategic idea, just as a planner might have a great creative idea. In a football team no one says to a defender "You should not score goals", you make sure they do their job of defending, but if they turn up and score, you applaud them for their cross team effort, just as you would a striker who makes a key tackle in the penalty area. (Sorry for the football metaphor, it seemed apt.)

I think perhaps the two things are very closely linked. Fostering an environment that encourages ideas is partly done by having ideas yourself. To cut off yourself from having ideas is to stifle any atmosphere of sharing and generation that you try to create. If you want to foster a relaxed culture, you shouldn't turn up in suit and tie every day, you have to live the culture you are trying to create.

I've seen John Steele present his core thoughts at work, and he is a compelling speaker. I don't want this to come across as a criticism of his work, because as we know, context is everything, and this is a quote out of context and without substantiation. I do think it's an interesting topic to debate further though.

1 comment:

Rob said...

It should never be one or the other ... life isn't like that and shouldn't be like that.

Ideas are not prejudiced ... they can come from anyone [though they don't appear as often as some people believe they do] and to suggest otherwise is both misguided and - to be honest - a bit insulting.

Of course, creating an environment/scenario that allows idea to develop and be nurtured is hugely important, but my point is that this can come from a planner providing the initial seed of what that idea can be ... so while I love and respect John Steele, on this point, I think he's talking bollocks.