I just came back from a great session at the Mirren New Business Conference. Laurie Coots, TBWA Chiat Day’s CMO, no stranger to change and innovation, moderated a panel with CP&B’s creative technology lead Scott Prindle, HUGE CEO Aaron Shapiro, Taylor CEO Tony Signore and me.
We tried to cover everything from sources of inspiration to methods for transforming an organization. I actually took notes. The two thoughts worth sharing are the following: Laurie’s presentation of John Kotter’s time-tested eight steps to change; and Aaron’s answer to how HUGE listens.
Here they are, recapped.
The five ingredients for change
No doubt many of you are familiar with Kotter’s 8-step change model. Laurie had it simplified to five key criteria: pressure from the top; a company-wide shared vision; an investment of money, time and resources; actionable steps to be taken; and measures of success. Sounds obvious, right? But take any one of those five characteristics away and you fail.
I can attest to that. For years Mullen tried to accelerate its digital transformation (still underway, I admit) but only had three or four of the five. We applied pressure, but didn’t have buy-in across the organization. We made investments, but weren’t always sure of the specific actionable steps.
Eventually we figured it out. We laid out a vision (unbound) that everyone could buy into; then weeded out the few who wouldn’t. We made investments in people and resources and took specific steps to accelerate change. We moved to Boston, dramatically changed space and redefined the composition of creative teams. And while we’re still not done, it’s been working.
Find a way to stay up on technology
This has to be the biggest challenge for any agency moving from making ads to building digital platforms and experiences. How do you get traditional creative teams familiar with all that can be done with APIs from Google, Twitter, Instagram or whatever comes along next month. How do you get people knowledgeable about NFC and other mobile technologies? How much development do you need in house and how do you integrated it with creative?
Aaron Shapiro and HUGE do it by thinking and behaving more like a software company than an advertising or even digital agency. Their office space — a completely open environment in which not even Aaron has a private office — helps foster collaboration and sharing. But they take things a step further. According to Aaron barely a week goes by when HUGE doesn’t host a tech meet-up at its offices. The agency stays incredibly close to the local hacker community, bringing them into the agency for mutually beneficial get-togethers. It sponsors new product capability presentations on a regular basis. More importantly it’s embedded itself in the local start-up community, even making angel investments in new software companies.
Granted you need some technical chops and track record just to interest the developer community in your company. But certainly you can create these kinds of relationships with SoMe types, local colleges, start-up clubs and, yes, developers.
Conclusion? You can’t do it alone; it takes the entire company. And you’re never ever done; it requires a constant effort just to stay up with what’s going on. If you have thoughts, please share. We can all learn from each other.
Photo credit: KellyFerrara