MDC agency leaders urge industry to high-five change

Karina Wilsher, partner and Global COO at Anomaly
Karina Wilsher, partner and Global COO at Anomaly

"Silos are bad. Ultimately, they breed very simple-minded thinking."

The message from 72andSunny’s COO and partner is clear: "You can choose to be afraid of change, or you can high-five it."

Evin Shutt’s choosing to high-five it. So are Silla Levin, global CEO at Forsman & Bodenfors, Karina Wilsher, partner and global COO at Anomaly and Scott Kauffman, MDC Partners’ chairman and CEO -- who joined each other on stage at the 4A’s Accelerate conference on Monday.

The MDC agency leaders spoke about how creative and entrepreneurial organizations can retain their unique cultures as they grow in size and ambition.

They spoke of the need to feed off the energy young people are bringing to the table, and stressed the importance of seeing where the new way of thinking takes us, instead of protecting agency culture.

"We took aim at a lot of the legacy thinking that exists -- and quite frankly still exists -- and we’ve been successful in developing a more progressive culture and model," said Wilsher. "We are super clear about who we are and who we want to be. Silos are bad. Ultimately, they breed very simple-minded thinking. All we do constantly is remove any barrier of greater collaboration. We kind of blew up the traditional power base that tends to exist in an agency."

Putting that in motion requires accountability. It’s something Anomaly lives and breathes, and is the reason why the team never charge on time or input, but ask for value-based compensation instead, said Wilsher. Also critical to Anomaly’s master plan is investing in egoless talent.

"We talk about high on content, low on ego," said Wilsher. "Everyone is around the whiteboard and the energy of the room is dictating the outcome."

People were at the heart of the discussion. Levin said that removing hierarchies and layers and fueling collaboration are key components in making people "run at 125 percent of their capacity." 

"There is only one boss and that is the task itself," she said. "Everyone needs to let go of prestige. When you find an equal way of working, it’s beautiful."

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