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Tracy Brown, The Future of Doing study

The following excerpt is transcribed from the Zoom event that took place on 26 March.

Key points

  • Purpose -the strength and ubiquity of an organisation’s purpose and strategic direction more often than not resulted in a healthy working culture.
  • Authenticity – must be operationalised, eg. it must be seeded into the work an organisation chooses. As well as the way they hire.
  • Impact – Creatives want to do work that will have an impact on the audience. Most also shared that they had a side hustle or another type of creative outlet. Organisations are recognising this trend and are responding by getting their teams to work on ‘side projects’ that could potentially unlock new, existing or old revenue streams. 
  • Professional development – what seems to be missing is dedicated training within the organisation from leadership on a regular basis. Many people learn on the job.
  • Value – Many people felt as though they’re not understood and that they’re discriminated against based on who they are. 
  • Reward – there is a limited connection between impact and reward within most organisations. Promoting on tenure is something that we’ve become used to and we all think that’s what we’re entitled to.
  • Team dynamics – great work is about the people, the small team they work with, and how they work together. Creative making is largely about chemistry. 
  • Politics – great ideas simply cannot happen without collaboration from multidisciplinary teams and across businesses. Unfortunately, politics is a killer to creativity. 

Speaker

Tracy Brown is an experienced consultant who focuses on getting the best possible experience for customers and teams that deliver them. In collaboration with the Berlin School of Creative Leadership and strategy partner, Barry Mowszowski, Tracy has been leading a global study and podcast series called The Future of Doing.  The study focuses on the needs of teams who deliver innovation and creativity as their primary function. 

Future of Doing

The Future Of Doing study has been an ongoing project, Tracy and Barry have been gathering insights over the past 8-months. The study was conducted globally with over 40 participants from various creative disciplines and different types of organisations; tech giants, to start-ups, to client-side. Participants came from a range of backgrounds and were a combination of permanent and self-employed.

Initially, the study was more broadly focussed on the future of work. At this time the market was saturated with this type of content. There seemed to be a gap related to how the way in which work is changing based on the unique needs of creative making teams. Inspired by her background in the creative services industry, Tracy decided to pursue this insight further and make it the foundation of the study.

 

Purpose

The focus of the FON session was on purpose. Purpose was the core pillar of the study. This is due to people being more vocal in the types of organisations they want to work for, based on shared principles.

Insights were gathered from Google to Instagram to gain an understanding of the net result of an organisation that has a clear strategic direction. Regardless of scale, a common trend was that a company’s purpose is more than a series of pithy statements on posters. They need to be genuine, something that people can see in the way said company acts and makes decisions. The strength and ubiquity of an organisation’s purpose and strategic direction more often than not resulted in a healthy working culture.

Authenticity

Authenticity is critical to any purpose statement. It must be operationalised. Instagram, for example, who have a very high ranking on employee experience, have operationalised their purpose. When they talk about their values that sit underneath purpose, they make sure that it’s seated into the work that they choose. As well as the way they hire.

It could be argued that they are a billion dollar company with a lot of room to take this approach. However, adopting this philosophy is not a capital expense. It’s about nurturing a great culture, having core principles and acting on them. If you’re going to talk about being a force for good socially, then you have to be able to show this and measure it so that it is seen by employees. An example given by a subject from the study was –

“if you’re an organisation that has a sense of purpose that you state explicitly, it has to be more than just occasionally taking part in a charitable event, it has to be demonstrated within your operations as a business”.

 

Impact

All subjects said in one way or another all they wanted was to be able to do really great work that will have an impact on the audience. Most also shared that they had a side hustle or another type of creative outlet, eg. strategists who are writers, techs who are musicians, as well as creatives who are building products. 

The trend indicated that a combination of things drive people to an individual sense of purpose. They want to be able to do good work that has an impact on the audience they’re designing for. They also want to be able to continue to invest in their own professional development by having my own interests. Organisations that really win with creative makers are those that understand that side hustles are part of the way that creatives tend to work. 

This has resulted in a trend of some organisations who will invest in getting their teams to work on ‘side projects’ that could potentially unlock new, existing or old revenue streams. As well as giving people time-off to pursue their own endeavours.

Professional development

Organisations tend to have a training budget, that includes an allocation for conferences and courses. What seems to be missing is dedicated training within the organisation from leadership on a regular basis. The study indicated that many organisations are weak in this area. A common insight was that many people learn on the job, if they are lucky, they also get access to the right people for hands-on training.

Value

A big question was around the topic of value. Specifically if creatives were valued in their role and the impact they have for the organisation. During the study people spoke on diversity and intolerance. There was so many forms of discrimination people faced; being neurodivergent, being foreign, being from the wrong class, in addition to ethnicity and gender, etc. Many people felt as though they’re not understood and that they’re discriminated against based on who they are. 

Reward

The study revealed that there is a limited connection between impact and reward within most organisations. Salary negotiations are massively problematic for those who are not naturally entitled. People don’t necessarily understand their worth. Promoting on tenure is something that we’ve become used to and we all think that’s what we’re entitled to. Contradictory to people’s thinking or the broader study, this way of thinking has nothing to do with impact, nor with talent.

Team dynamics

When people were asked about the best work that they’ve done, it always ended up being about the people they work with. Great work always ended up being about the people, the small team they work with, and how they work together. Creative making is largely about chemistry. It takes the time to build, sometimes it’s immediate. There are concepts around agile at scale and stable teams and squads that will help with that. But ultimately, chemistry is very important. 

The creative making process is messy and uncertain. As one of the creative technologists interviewed said –

“people need to be uncomfortable with the discomfort of creativity, because what tends to happen in the creative process is that you just have a whole bunch of scattergun ideas. And you don’t know when you’re going to come up with an idea. But you do eventually”’.

 

What was apparent is work that has the greatest impact is largely conducted in small teams. Which is why a lot of R&D teams are a small group of multidisciplinary people working together. This way of working within a small dynamic team, outside the ‘laws’ of a typical organisation construct is something that also can cause a lot of friction. As they can be treated with suspicion and as a new silo. Or alternatively, they can fall into the silo trap themselves and become another blocker to the flow of information. 

Politics

Something that has been discovered from the study is that great ideas simply cannot happen without collaboration from multidisciplinary teams and across businesses. Unfortunately, politics is a killer to creativity. This becomes an issue when a team wishes to execute on an idea that involves technology which needs to be actioned across silos. There are so many cohorts within organisations that are perpetually looking at ways to gain more territory and not focus on ideas. This means collaboration is not enabled from the outset. 

There was a call from the study for leaders to shift their thinking to have empathy for others, to understand what other people need to do and share their skills as much as possible across the board. Then to really embed this way of working is to develop a shared form of KPIs.

 



About the Future Of Now series

Our goal at More Space For Light with the Future of Now (FON) series is to build a community of like-minded passionate professionals. Initially this series was created as a small in-person gathering to provide a knowledge share for our and our event sponsors community of clients and partners. However, by switching our operations to remote it has allowed us to raise the bar, and include our global network.

Our vision is the same, regardless of the potential scale of remote FON events. We intend to bring together like minded professionals to share, inspire, and explore new opportunities for growth. So you can discover new ways of working, and hopefully bring them back into your organisation.

Relevant links

Future of doing study
Tracy Brown
Future of Now series

If you wish to connect with the broader community please connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/danlevy1979/ with the message ‘#futureofnow and I’ll add you to the group.

To learn more about More Space For Light and to post any other questions about the session and/or remote work contact us at:

To learn more about the organisations connected to this event:
  • MURAL.COheaps of new templates and tools. Sign up it is brilliant.
  • https://www.spacesworks.com/ – globally located co-working spaces. They foster great communities. Although, maybe not so relevant in the near term. But we are looking forward to hosting these events in person soon.
  • https://www.berlin-school.com/ The Berlin School of Creative Leadership.
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