It may not be the most PC of industry studies we’ve had for a while, however, a new report just unveiled at Cannes has found that people working in creative agencies value life experience as the biggest motivator of creativity.
The study by global communications firm Ketchum and media brand Fast Company and called The Creative Echo Chamber, was based on the views of 500 creatives from US agencies around industry issues surrounding unconscious bias, insularity and sources of creative inspiration.
Over half of those surveyed (some 54 per cent) agreed that agency creatives work in “echo chambers” where there’s a tendency to work with colleagues who think exactly the same way you do. When it came to the respondents who agreed there was an “echo chamber”, some 91 per cent agreed their “beliefs and assumptions” aligned with their colleagues.
Of the respondents, 71 per cent agreed their agency valued diversity, yet 85 per cent said they needed to do more to encourage a diversity of ideas in the creative process.
To break free of the “echo chamber”, 95 per cent agreed it was important to interact with people who challenge their beliefs and assumptions.
Interestingly, race and gender were at the bottom of the list of variables that impact how creative ideas are developed and chosen. Personal experience (87 per cent) topped the list in shaping creative ideas, followed by work experience (70 per cent) and personal experience (61 per cent) where the most important factors in conceptualising ideas.
However, only a quarter said race and 26 per cent said gender where important when it came to shaping ideas; while only 11 per cent said race and 15 per cent said gender matters in choosing ideas.
Two-thirds (66 per cent) of respondents agreed that creative professionals with a decade-plus of experience held more weight in deciding ideas than did those with less experience. Only a fifth said that junior creatives had much sway over an agency’s ideas. In contrast, 73 per cent agreed it was the younger people who often had the braver ideas.
Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of Gen X-ers believe the creative echo chamber exists, while half of Gen Ys (54 percent) and Boomers (52 per cent) agree. However, each generation agreed that personal experience was the number one factor for shaping ideas. Some 91 per cent of Ys agreed with the statement, 84 per cent of Boomers and 83 per cent of X-ers.
But when it comes to selecting ideas, Millennials favour data (75 per cent), X-ers rely on customer feedback (76 per cent) and Boomers say work experience (68 per cent).
The younger generations are more inclined to think diversity is valued within their organisation -71 per cent of Ys and 74 per cent of X-ers believe diversity of thought is valued in their company, compared with 67 per cent of Boomers.
Younger creatives also think campaign ideas are shaped and determined by people with diverse backgrounds (70 per cent of Millennials, 66 per cent of X-ers and 57 per cent of Boomers).
When asked who provided braver ideas in the creative process, two-thirds of men (61 per cent) said it was men, and two-thirds of women (65 per cent) said it was women.
So how do agencies get more diverse opinions in the creative process? Respondents said much of it had to do with the recruitment process. There had to be more explicit hiring goals around diversity and more recruitment from outside the agency bubble. Hire for curiosity over experience; hire from outside the industry; recruit internationally; eliminate jargon from employment ads; and increase blind hiring practices, the study noted.
Commenting on the study, Ketchum’s chief strategy and creative officer, Karen Strauss said: “This survey is a wake-up call.The effect social media has had on limiting interactions with people who disagree with us and filtering information so it confirms existing views extends to our creative process. These findings underscore the need to seek and embrace dissent to break free of conformity and groupthink.”
While Fast Company editor, Rober Safian, added: “The outpouring of ideas for bringing cultural diversity into the workplace is good news for business. The survey respondents see that working alongside people just like themselves limits creative potential, and to get outside our bubbles, we have to build teams from varying socioeconomic, educational and geographic backgrounds.”