Working environments have become more pressurised. With obtaining and retaining business now incredibly competitive, clients are becoming ever more demanding for their cash. However increased workloads in conjunction with reduced response times (further exacerbated since e-mail went mobile) means that employees are rarely given the necessary freedom to produce their best work.
Overall, whilst the advertising industry naturally holds innovation and creativity as paramount importance, client pressures typically prevent such a culture from being entrenched into working life, and is instead an all too often an unfamiliar luxury. But what's being done and how can we all make room to be more creative?
Google Engineering Innovation
Whilst predominantly a luxury for Engineers, over at Google they are given an allowance of 20% of their time to go towards non-day-to-day tasks and projects. These can be either solus or collaborative, and can utilise any resource within the company. The ideas with legs are given a chance to walk, and those with real merit can run, and be further developed into products for the company.
As a part of a working ethos this is fantastic. Employees are provided with consistent variety to their working week, as well as being given a sense of purpose and worth within the company and a chance to make a name for themselves. Through facilitating and nurturing a truly creative culture the company also benefits by having happier employees, better inter-departmental knowledge and relationships, and ultimately gaining a better product.
Whilst building new products is an unlikely use of this time in agencyland, promoting such a culture means that in situations where ideas are actively required - say for a pitch -people are familiar with thinking and interacting in such a way, and will consequently be better at it. Most notably however, through giving yourself the freedom to increase your base level of creativity means that you can potentially push ideas further than you're currently able to.
An easy way to think of it is like racing. If you stick a novice in an F1 car and ask them to do a few laps as fast as they can, they'll probably start out slow, maybe even spin out from time to time, but will every now and then get a decent lap time. However stick a veteran behind the wheel, and they'll not only start out quicker, but end up with a much faster best lap. Whilst performance peaks may not stand out as much with the veteran as with the novice, their familiarity with the scenario means that their base level and peak performance will be far superior.
(Apologies for my lack of skills in paint)
So how can this work in the normal working world?
The engineers' freedom to create hinges on being given the freedom to do so. So in order to give yourself the same freedom you first need to display the value of "creative time" to your company. Just as with a startup, this may initially mean spending additional time on what's seen internally as personal endeavors. However if you can show value of your undertaking to the business - through additional revenue gained, better quality of product etc - then it can become incorporated into working processes.
As a small scale example, once a week our team takes an hour away from their desk to discuss cool/interesting new campaigns and technology. This encourages and facilitates exposure to innovative ideas and debate within the team, that (even at a small scale) ultimately impacts how we plan and buy.
A slightly larger example would be working on a proactive campaign idea for a client. Not only does such an undertaking show great client servicing regardless of the outcome, but in the 1/6 times it comes off it will result in additional revenue for the agency - though don't forget the day job!!
Even if it's just personally or within your team, if you look to increase your base level of creativity the consequent improvement in work will be evident. Not only will such behaviour benefit and reflect well on you as an employee, but in providing additional value to the company it will naturally promote others to follow suit. It may take a bit of effort, but in striving to emulate Google's proven work ethic and build a culture of creativity within the workplace you can achieve great things.