I presented yesterday at Google Firestarters #3.

Mel Exon, Martin Baillie and myself were asked to address what the agency Operating System of the future might be.

My take covered two key areas:

What we will do, and how we will do it

I guess the core themes were as follows:

  • The future comes by more quickly than you realise, and our capabilities in the future depends on our readiness to experiment now


  • Despite the confusion and convergence in the market place, Simon Waldman’s idea of Creative Disruption gives us a helping hand with what he terms the ‘Incumbent’s Dilemma’ – understanding the trajectories of change happening around us, and knowing how/when to respond


  • Firstly, transform the way we perform our core functions. This is critical when you think of the threats of disintermediation we all face


  • Second, look for the ‘big adjacencies’ – the sort of business territory we could take a sideways leap into once the core business begins to falter


  • Thirdly, innovate at the edges – think about the things agencies are good at (on behalf of clients) but which we don’t recognise the value of yet


  • Whatever the system, though, we need to ensure the Operators (our people) feel sufficiently empowered (and responsible) to contribute to the agency’s greater ambition – after all, as Drucker say, culture eats strategy for breakfast


  • People feel empowered when they are trusted; being trusted means being allowed to make mistakes, since people learn from experience, but are also more likely to come up with original ideas


  • To get the most from their people, agencies will need to be social (using tech platforms and structures that allow diffusion of skillsets and knowledge), agile (finding new ways to recruit, work internally, and drive revenue) and open (using multiple touchpoints that allow greater and more direct contact with more people/functions within our clients)


  • This will take us into new and more relevant ways to solve client problems – following the thread of a brief no matter where it takes us


  • But with this empowerment comes responsibility – everyone needs to add value through creativity, and foster a climate of creativity so that no-one feels inhibited (think Pixar’s multiple ideas rather than the lone creative director)


  • Ultimately ideas need to breathe and live in the real world in order to work – we need to get less precious about ‘ownership’ and think more about allowing ideas to prosper through collaboration and the power of interpretation


So here’s the deck. I’d love to hear what people think of it.

A vast topic, though, and there was loads of great stuff covered.

Check the #firestarters conversation on Twitter for highlights of the immediate response, and there’s a great build from Phil here too