Being a judge of the 2020 DMA Awards has inspired and challenged me. Here are three lessons for growth in 2021 that stuck with me from this celebration of creativity and diversity.
Ticking off boxes during the day is immensely satisfying, and that’s how judging feels for me. It’s exciting to get to view an avalanche of brave, bold and brilliant work first-hand, and being able to step away from my desk (guilt-free) affords me the headspace to reflect on my own agency’s work as I critique others. Judging is also a reminder as to how privileged we are to work with some scintillatingly creative minds, but I also love the jostle in arguing for your choices. Not only is it fun to work with other equally strong-minded fellow judges, it’s also enlightening, and helps to keep our fingers on the pulse.
I’ve judged several awards over the past decade and have also sat on several business panels with Cranfield University. So, I was intrigued to see what this year would bring in judging the DMAs… given it’s now all virtual. While I’ve missed some of the social interaction which comes from spending a day with a heap of other like-minded souls, this year I got to sit at my desk in my joggers & trainers instead of legging it across London in heels to get there in time. Beyond this digital change, these are three lessons that have stuck with me:
1. Representation and background matters.
I grew up in South Africa and was exposed, at a young age, to the importance of giving back – and that’s why it is so deeply rooted within Because’s DNA. These days, CSR is expected of all businesses, and rightly so, but for years it seemed as if it was simply a box being ticked by the powers that be. Likewise, I expect the same could be said of diversity and inclusion (D&I). However, it seems as if we’re all finally sitting up and taking notice of why this matters.
In the past, the judges have been white, middle-class folk, as that’s what most of the senior folk in our industry are. However, this year I noticed the judging panels have been a lot more diverse than ever before: different genders, races, client-side and agency-side backgrounds, and varied specialisations within varying marketing channels. It’s human to view the world through your own lens, but it was this diversity that made the judging experience so valuable. The conversation was more interesting and insightful, and crucially, I was introduced to angles I hadn’t considered when reviewing the award entries, which were raised when we got to debate viewpoints.
2. Teams deserve variety and better brainstorming.
Diversity opens up fresh, unexplored avenues of thought and avoids myopic views, which is critical when brainstorming. People with different experiences have opposing views, and it’s their experiences that inform the way they see the world, and their creativity. Speaking about experience makes it more personal and allows you to assess your point-of-view with more gravity. This creative conflict opens up opportunities you hadn’t imagined as you know unknowingly view the world through your own lens. Brainstorming is an exhausting but exhilarating process; the last thing you want in your team is an echo chamber.
I left the awards experience thinking about my own business, and how critical D&I is, and as a business leader, I need to focus more on this within our global organisation. We’re very fortunate to work with some of the world’s biggest brands, and, given we’re at the forefront of creating and shaping innovative new marketing ideas for these leaders and pioneers, we need to be mindful of the diversity within our internal teams. That will help to ensure that the lens we have on our thinking will relate to diverse target audiences.
3. We can’t grow with a cookie-cutter client roster.
While it’s vital our teams are diverse, and that the standards and judges of awards are correctly represented – it doesn’t end there. Our clients also need to be equally diverse in mindset, ensuring that their decision-makers appreciate why D&I matters within their team make-up. It’s firmly on my radar for 2021, and I believe all business leaders must genuinely show inclusive and diverse behaviours. Progress requires leadership, a support system, and a culture which focuses on D&I.
So, here’s my commitment going into the new year: I’m going to personally champion D&I at the agency in 2021. Why? Because what makes us all different is what makes us all awesome. It’s our differences that fuel incredible insights, spark interesting concepts, broaden our perspectives and give us a better understanding of the world around us and the beautiful people in it. The positive difference diversity can make within a business should not only be championed, but celebrated. And our offices around the globe intend to do just that. I hope you join me on this journey.