It’s about hiring a different type of person.
It’s about people who can not just outperform the grey, anodyne ‘thought’ that is spouted — at great expense — over and again by the consultant disciples of the big business schools, but people who will also proactively fill a room with the zing and zest of their multifarious knowledge.
People who are instinctively, inherently creative, in that word’s truest, broadest sense.
In our industry, what we ultimately produce is ideas; ideas that fuel change in businesses.
And if ideas have a nursery, if they germinate anywhere, it is in the free exchange, the interplay of differing views; the reflections and sparks that diversity causes leading to the sum being not just greater than the parts but also original. It is this, it seems to me, that enables us to novate.
Creativity is an essentially human trait, and humans are essentially social. There is therefore a direct relationship between the more ideas, the more things, the more people that each of us is exposed to, and the richness of our individual store of knowledge. And the more knowledge we have, the more we need; and so it goes on.
Picasso is supposed to have said ‘the best artists steal’, but he was being simultaneously dramatic and humble. The best artists — in the broadest possible sense of the word — are in fact intellectually curious, and intrigued by life; in particular by life beyond the one they already know. They are not just happy to draw on, and be inspired by, the works of others; they see it as essential.
Such folk are restless, natural adventurers, bobbing around in Jefferson’s ‘boisterous sea of liberty’, unsated by the status quo, thirsty for more; each man or woman a latter day Odysseus for whom the journey is at least as important as the destination.
Enter Renaissance Man, Renaissance Woman: these are the people with whom we need to repopulate the world of marketing.
It is no accident that the creative greats historically were always impatient towards, frustrated by, perhaps even furious with, artificial barriers or silos that inhibited their learning, their discovery.
Walter Gropius, founder and guru of the Bauhaus movement, whose extraordinary legacy still informs so much of what we see around us today, was seeking ‘A New Unity’ between art and technology back in 1923. And Aldous Huxley, scion of perhaps Britain’s foremost intellectual family, in his final work, Literature and Science, urged a rapprochement between those two disciplines.
No man is an island, as English Renaissance poet John Donne elegantly had it.
Quite — or at least no man or woman in a creative agency can these days afford be an island.
We require latter day Da Vincis: people with the mental agility to move from chapel to chopper in one fell swoop.
Ambitious, educated, urgent eclecticism. Intellectual curiosity.
It’s a tall order, I’ll be the first to admit.
But, in 2016, we should aim for the moon, shouldn’t we?
Not, to paraphrase one of Jefferson’s successors as President, because it is easy – but because it is hard.
Nick Jefferson is a partner at Monticello LLP and a curator of The Library of Progress.