This Philosophy Changes Everything

Luke Miller, President and COO – Shop Marketing and Creative Group

It’s a philosophy I have operated with since my first agency role. It’s about treating everyone, including their thoughts, with respect.

Flash back a few years: you see a younger Luke sitting at his new desk nervously trying to figure out just what it was he was supposed to be doing.

“Luke come with me,” shouted an unknown superior of mine. “You’re coming to a brainstorm session,” he said.

I stood up and anxiously followed him to the conference room, while he gathered up other young minds and newbies. I was finally doing something! I was doing agency stuff, I was agency-ing so hard!

Of course, at the time I thought this was just fantastic. I got to sit in a room with colleagues and conceive ideas for one of our biggest clients. They told us what the client asked for, how much they could spend, and what they wanted out of it. My hamster wheel started spinning and, just like my overzealous, sixth grade self, I was the first to blurt out an idea.

BOOM! Hard part over, right? I just gave them a golden idea. Meeting over…

Not so fast. They casually wrote my idea on a giant whiteboard and kept asking for more. I continued to pump out ideas, some big, some small, some expensive, some inexpensive, some good, and, what they quickly made me believe, most bad. Just like everyone else in the room, I was promptly brought down to earth. My ephemeral ideas never to be mentioned again.

This was the agency slaughterhouse: where ideas came to die. This was the agency dairy barn: where brains were milked dry. This was the reason I was hired. I was a young, eager mind, but little did I realize, I was just another plot of land at the idea farm and I would be farmed until the soil ran dry.

This was the beginning of the end for me. My naivety died in the conference room that day and from then on I was a cynic. I was able to notice everything that was wrong with the agency world. From the status meetings to the quirky, uncomfortable furniture to the contrived culture, so much about agencies is wrong. Everyone has their breaking point. About one year after that fateful meeting, I reached mine. However, I didn’t leave that company with my tail between my legs. I left with my head held high, because I knew one day I was going to change everything that downright sucks about agencies.

If you can’t tell yet, this blog is about respect and the small philosophy I previously mentioned and will always carry with me.

You see, whenever I brainstorm with clients, interns, and colleagues, I make it a point to make sure everyone feels equal from the start. More importantly, I start out every single brainstorm by saying there is no idea too big or too small for this room.

Sure, we may only have budget of $30,000 on this project, so that $3 million idea isn’t going to fly. But the reason there is no idea too big or small for this room is because behind every idea has an essence.

Size doesn’t matter! It’s not the idea, it’s what lies behind that idea that makes it great. Why is slapping a giant logo on the moon a great idea? Can we accomplish the same thing back here on earth? Can we make an impact with the essence of that idea?

If you are able to say yes to that question, you have yourself a good idea. If you can’t say yes, it’s back to the drawing board. The biggest point to take away here is that good agencies don’t just farm ideas, they harness essence.  Everyone new and old can be creative. The idea itself may never be great, but the essence behind it always is. Never make someone feel as if their ideas aren’t good enough. If one can’t think, one can’t create and isn’t that what we do?

Creativity only exists when it’s ok to fail. Encourage thinking good and bad, weird or boring. Respect your colleagues new and old, superior or subordinate. Everyone is essential, essential ideas have essence, and essence is everything to an agency.

 

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