Let's not take ourselves too seriously

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Key learnings from a 6-year-old at 'bring your kids to work' day

"I’ve got no idea." So said my 6-year-old daughter as she was being interviewed as part of our DDB Kids Day initiative about what I do for a living. Apart from making a mental note to share with her the glorious early VW work from Bill Bernbach and give her an overview of the latest customer journey analysis for State Farm, I was hoping to rectify this by bringing her and her three siblings to the office. They joined more than 30 other kids aged between the ages of 1 and 10 at the event.

However rather than trying to teach her about what we do, I think we as an industry need to be reminded of some important and valuable lessons from the kids who attended the day.

Enthusiasm is infectious and don’t be too serious
Energy and laughter impacts everyone. There is an infectious power of positivity and this is massively important today. Not only are these tense and unsettling times from a political perspective, it can sometimes feel that the joy is being squeezed out of our industry. The focus on efficiency, the need to do more for less. Or the doomsayers predicting the death of creativity where machines will take over the world. 

Of course, we must embrace a more automated world, and yes, it is a serious business. But we need to remind ourselves positivity has never been more important. Sometimes as adults it is important not to take things too seriously.

Keep it simple and remember creativity doesn’t follow rules
The kids seem to know this better than most. During the day, they were given some creative challenges, and it was fascinating how they used their imagination in approaching the tasks. Bill Bernbach once said that ‘rules are what the artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula." The best creativity reimagines the world and shows us things in a new, surprising or simple way.

This feels increasingly important to remember as our world becomes more complex and the inputs we have for creativity expand exponentially. I have always been jealous of M&C’s positioning of ‘brutal simplicity of thought’. Very compelling both to clients and as an operating philosophy. From a creative perspective one of my all-time favorites is W&K’s Honda Grr campaign: "hate something, change something, make something better." It is beautifully simple and broke the category rules. 

I remember working on Diesel campaigns for Volkswagen at the time, and I was blown away by the originality and simplicity of the work. As we rapidly accelerate change in our own business to reflect the modern marketplace, we must never forget that the enduring value we provide is unleashing our creativity to help solve problems in fresh and simple ways. 

We are more than the roles we play at work
I know it sounds obvious, but it is always worth remembering that we all have other more important roles in our lives beyond work. DDB Kids Day reminded me that we do not talk about this openly or focus on this enough. Our lives are a combination of many thing where work is just one part. We are not just Business Leads, Social Strategists, Creatives, Presidents or Producers but more importantly Moms, Dads, Fairy Godmothers, Daughters, Sons, Grandparents, Caregivers, Best Friends, Brothers, Sisters, Neighbors, Coaches, etc.

Our recent campaign for the AARP / Ad Council recognized the toughest or heroic roles exist outside of work and often go unnoticed. We should all have an ambition to create an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work. As an industry, we are very much a work in progress and recognize we need to do much more. However, it was great to understand more about the lives of the people we work with and take the time to meet some special people in their lives. I think the agency world will benefit as a result.

So, what did my 6-year-old daughter learn? Well the day was so brilliantly organized by the team that she now thinks that work is one big party with magicians, games, cake and lots of sweets. That only happens every other Friday, I joked.