In this opinion piece, Synergy Group creative director Jason Perelson shares what his team has learnt when it comes to helping government departments think creatively and do things a little differently.
For years there’s been talk about consulting firms encroaching on the territory of creative agencies. And while the debate wages on, many consulting firms continue to push the boundaries when it comes to creativity; particularly within the Government sector.
Many believe the words “Government” and “creativity” don’t go hand-in-hand. The reality is, it takes a special kind of person and special type of agency to navigate creative work within Government departments.
1) Know the system
In order to agitate and drive change, you first need to know who you’re talking to. And in Government, there’s no faking that.
Before moving to the consultancy world, I would have never imagined presenting creative ideas with a former ADF director-general on our team. As a creative agency, you just don’t think about that type of resource. A number of our team across the firm are public servants, veterans or come from working within government, giving the team a competitive edge when it comes to the kind of complex work we do.
From the Department of Defence to the Department of Environment, first-hand experience of what it’s like to navigate the ins-and-outs of Government departments is what sets consultancies apart. It allows us as the “crazy creatives” to get work that’s creative, relevant and able to drive real change internally and externally.
Understanding who you’re talking to and with, are carefully balanced elements in the recipe for success. Rather than getting frustrated with the message not landing, look inwardly in how the message was crafted (more often than not, it’s not for the right audience – your client).
2) Get outside your comfort zone
So, once you know the system, it’s time to step outside of it. That can involve drawing on learnings and creative inspiration from outside of Government – it can also mean stepping outside, literally.
In an effort to engage and inspire creative thinking, our team helped Synergy cook up an initiative that sees client meetings taken out of the “bored-room” and into the great outdoors. Earlier this year we launched Another Meeting, which is a refurbished 1965 VW Kombi that acts as a mobile meeting service – providing the chance to meet with clients outside the office, with coffee, to help encourage collaboration and creativity.
By helping clients step outside of the day-to-day, we encourage them to think differently and inspire more creative outputs.
But this applies to us just as much as it does our clients – stepping outside of our creative agency comfort zone and pushing ourselves to think differently about the problem. Discomfort from the norm is a two-way street.
3) Don’t disappear
Creativity isn’t just a product, but a process. This rings particularly true when we work with Government.
As creatives we tend to lock ourselves away from the client until we have a final, polished piece of work that we’re ready to present. The challenge with this model is that the client isn’t brought on the creative journey enough – something that needs to happen when working with Government departments that have different decision-making channels.
Driving real change and creativity in Government requires us to work closely with the client to involve them in the creative process. Frankly, all our clients appreciate the regular engagement and collaborative involvement every step of the way.
Co-design doesn’t have to be a buzzword for boring models that mean nothing more than workshops, but actually a process of collaboration in ideation. Our role is shaping the idea to solve the problem; the idea doesn’t have to come from us for it to be right.
We’ve learnt that in creative ideation we don’t need to focus solely on the big pitch, “razzle dazzle” at the end. We are able to engage far more collaboratively with our clients. And through working with them during the ideation process, we get to the heart of their business problem more directly – which only makes the creative and approach that much more effective.
It is important that we live by our own rules when it comes to creativity, and ironically this at times means throwing out the rulebook altogether; something we have found that our clients find tremendously valuable – and so do we. By pushing ourselves as a consultancy to think differently and work on the idea collaboratively with our clients, we tap into a new level of business understanding and uncharted potential for the Government sector.