The new start-up consultancy was founded by serial entrepreneur Rob Noble and is based on the growing demand corporations have for product and service design with built-in ethics. The consultancy will have a core group of full-time very senior leaders and a network of experts they can tap on a project-by-project basis.
Based in Miami, Noble is a co-founder of non-profit Design Authority and Manchester-based product and service design company Great Fridays which he co-founded with rock star Peter Gabriel in 2014 and sold engineering company, EPAM.
"Chris and I met back when I was running Great Fridays and the opportunity to work with Chris was too good to miss," Noble told Campaign.
The idea for Group of Humans came through the recognition that the agency world is increasingly challenged with high overheads, the difficulty of keeping good people and the "constant headache" around resourcing, costs and facilities, Noble explained.
"I thought, how can I take my knowledge of running and building two companies and creating something made for this day and age. A company that is both virtual and yet uses technology to ensure great interaction," he added.
The reality for agencies, Noble said, is that people are always busy: "You may want to put your best people on a team but they've got other projects going on and you end up with a slightly chemically misaligned team. The goal with this new consultancy is to have people select the projects they want to work on because it means something for them and no one is forced."
For Clarke, he'd long felt that there was a need for a small yet elite consultancy to fulfil this role for clients. "These are all skills agencies have but often they're just too big... when you're trying to puzzle around new models for your business you need a very fluid team and clients want to be more in control of the process. But lone consultants isn't quite enough - you need a network. The client wants the song, but streaming, not on cassette."
The consultancy's clients, Clarke said, will be companies that have started to hire a "head of design and ethics" who have budgets that are "smaller than the sort you'd pay Accenture or PublicisSapient".
"We can think fast, generate ideas quickly and have a product up and running in the market in months, rather than think about it for a year or two," he said.
He was also attracted by the idea of owning the intellectual property of the products and services created and the pull of a global workforce.
The consultancy has already started work with a large technology company, a government body and a financial brand – none of which can be named yet, Noble said.
It is still in the process of recruiting its core group of partners, with Noble in the process of interviewing a head of operations and on the lookout for a media specialist.
The network of experts will be drawn from the extensive list of people Noble, Clarke and their partners have worked with over the years.
"The network of talent needed is available internationally without the need to open offices," Clarke said.