Are you creative, but not an artist? This used to mean you would work at an agency and lend your talent to creative campaigns for big brands. But creative talents are increasingly choosing careers at startups, or tech brands such as Google. Why would creatives prefer a career in another industry, rather than at a place that should embrace creativity and foster their talent? And what does this tell us about the state of the industry?
Prodigies versus Originals
To answer this question, we can look at a recent book by organizational psychologist Adam Grant – Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. He examined the nature of creative genius and suggests ‘originals’ are people who want to take the initiative to make their visions a reality.
Grant draws a line between the super-talented and people who are less talented but real innovators.
Prodigies, as Grant describes them, represent the fixed mindset and are motivated by meeting accepted standards. In other words, they are talented people who want to exceed within existing boundaries. Prodigies tend to practice a lot, whether they’re practicing sports, music or marketing.
Originals, in Grant’s words, are people who won’t conform to current standards.
Originals embody the growth mindset and are driven by curiosity and a continuous desire for improvement. Grant believes that originals are looking for ways to make a difference. They want to move the world.
To Originals, success isn’t defined by the standards of others, like industry awards, but in their ability to do something different. Startups and tech brands offer this opportunity.
“To Originals, success isn’t defined by industry awards, but in their ability to do something different”
The fact that talented people who won’t conform are leaving agencies is a potential problem. The lines between advertising, marketing and PR have blurred and agencies are being confronted with the fact that competitors are incorporating services which may have once been a unique offering. It’s becoming harder to stand out of the crowd and to offer something truly original.
As I have written before, I believe agencies should reinvent themselves, either as a whole or with every briefing they receive. To break through barriers and move the industry forward, agencies need to ask themselves how disruptive they are. And to be disruptive, you need a team of non-conformists.
Creating a true entrepreneurial spirit as an agency requires a mind-shift. Being an entrepreneurial agency means that you are willing to take risks while looking for innovative ways to grow. It’s about shaking off conformity to be different and better than before. The agency of the future is as disruptive as a startup, and like a startup, needs a team of Original thinkers.
Image by Seth Capitulo via Flickr.