In 1665, the last major bubonic plague to hit England swept through London killing a quarter of the population. It also spread to Cambridge, forcing Sir Isaac Newton to flea North to Woolsthorpe Manor (site of the famous apple tree). This resulted in breakthroughs of staggering creative genius, including developing the theory of gravity.
You may have seen this circulated as an uplifting COVID-19 meme recently, and also one about Shakespeare writing King Lear in isolation. The evidence on the latter is far less convincing it seems, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story!
I can safely say I haven’t yet ascended these creative heights. Perhaps the Muses are social distancing. Of course, neither Newton nor Shakespeare had to deal with block-booked Zoom calls, baying children or the social (media) pressure to do HIIT with Joe Wicks. On the flip side, they also didn’t have Ocado, Deliveroo or Amazon.
In the communications world, particularly in consultancy, we thrive by being surrounded by the bright minds and diverging ideas and experiences of our colleagues. Brightly coloured sticky notes, infectious enthusiasm and enclosing yourselves with peers in a small room are the recipes for success in breaking out of the existing tired formula.
So how can we persevere and bring fresh thinking to the table during lockdown? Here we provide our four top suggestions:
1. Put Empathy First – walk a mile in their shoes!
Uncertainty has coloured initial responses to the pandemic – is it an opportunity to be leveraged? Is the window closing? If we say something now, will it look like gratuitous ambulance chasing? But this is potentially asking the wrong question. The companies that have communicated well throughout the crisis have done so from a point of empathy and also sincerity. As Shakespeare wrote in Lear, “the weight of this sad time we must obey / Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”
One guiding principal for communications planning in the emerging environment is to put empathy front and centre in all creative campaign thinking. How are people experiencing and feeling the pandemic? Whatever your target audience is – HR software buyers (currently fretting about how they keep their employees motivated) or early consumer tech adopters (stockpiling their yearly purchases in a matter of weeks to relieve the boredom) – walking a mile in their shoes is critical.
2. Get it from Amazon (like everything else!)
Research seems to indicate that more meetings do not necessarily lead to more decisions and the lockdown has actually increased meetings in some cases as we seek to maintain human contact!
Instead of turning up with a blank page, try the Amazon memo route to drive an outcome. Participants need to prepare a narrative form memo to investigate a problem and a solution before the meeting and then opening this up for ‘real’ discussion (and brainstorming).
3. Cast the Net Wide for Inspiration
Likely, at this point, you may have exhausted the must-watch Netflix shows. With a little more time for reading around the edges, you can escape the treadmill of Today show, daily newsfeed, email newsletter and the weekly Economist. Deliberately try a source or section you wouldn’t normally that brings new ideas to the fore – The Guardian long reads is a good bet for content still closely tied to the current situation. For new ideas fast, try the free trial of Blinkist, even let yourself soak in music or art. It doesn’t necessarily matter what it is, just add something that brings more diversity into your information and creative diet and new ideas will emerge.
4. Embrace Boredom and an Emptier Calendar (if possible)
Projects you have always wanted to work on, but never find the time, are now a possibility given the emptier social calendar. That could be professional training or learning a new language. As a parent, you may even pick up ideas from the home-schooling curriculum and listening hard to those around you.
Increasing the frames of reference and connecting disparate ideas may in some ways be easier while we await wider easing of lockdown measures and the chance to connect more as a social species. But it probably takes more a structured approach and effort than the haphazard eureka moments that may crop up in energetic, in-person conversation.
Then again, we ought to make the effort. “Nothing will come of nothing.”
Sunday 8 March was International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s campaign theme was #EachforEqual, promoting the message that we can all actively choose to “challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements.” With this in mind, members from each of our practices have highlighted inspirational women from different backgrounds and fields that have made huge impacts to our world as we know it.
Margaret Calver – Kat Dominiak (Creative)
Female designers have had a huge impact throughout the history of design and their works are engrained in our everyday lives. It isn’t a surprise that historically the male-dominated graphic design industry hasn’t always had the best reputation for gender equality. However, female designers have played an important role in establishing graphic design as we know it today.
Did you know Margaret Calver’s work has helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the UK? Her very simple and easy to understand graphic language is on every single road sign and signpost across the entire country. She helps you get safely to work, school or home. Margaret is a typographer and graphic designer mainly known for her collaborative work with Jock Kinnir on the design of Britain’s roads – she’s a creative icon that had a huge impact on the design industry.
“With talent, dedication, and creativity in spades, women are – and always have been – killing it in graphic design.” – Rebecca Gross
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw – Elisha Raut (Insights)
You might have heard of the term intersectionality somewhere in the stratosphere. Maybe it’s because you’re engaged in critical race theory, or because you once eavesdropped on a pretentious and overly jargonated conversation at a LEON (just me?), or perhaps somewhere in between. In a reductive nutshell, it’s the idea that a person’s lived experience is contingent upon several overlapping axes of their identity, and it’s a foundational concept that was developed approximately 30 years ago by lawyer, professor, philosopher, and theorist, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.
While the inception of the term was mostly within the context of legal advocacy, where discrimination regarding sex and discrimination regarding race were treated as mutually exclusive entities, it has now pervaded many areas of academic and everyday discourse.
While Crenshaw’s past achievements could span novels, she remains consistently active in educating the masses, not just through academic avenues, but also as a public speaker. Many of her highly engaging and thought-provoking talks are available on YouTube.
Although the term intersectionality has entered the everyday vocabulary of many people who may be characterised as, and sorry in advance for using this term, “woke”, it has also faced criticism from the anti-woke crowd. This is the main reason her continual educational efforts are still invaluable: in the information age, we can (fortunately and unfortunately) still believe whatever we want, whether it is justifiable and evidenced, or not.
Rosalind Franklin – George Mitchell (Healthcare)
Science is supposed to be paving the way for the future and yet, when it comes to gender equality, it is stuck in the past. At present, less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women and they continue to be overlooked and undervalued in a male-dominated field. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Rosalind Franklin, a chemist and x-ray crystallographer who, in May 1952, captured an image that would quite literally change the DNA of biological and healthcare research.
Franklin’s seemingly uninspiring and blurry ‘Photo 51’ would lead Watson and Crick to discover the DNA double helix, for which they won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Since then, we have sequenced our genome, increased our understanding of genetic disease and even learned how to edit our DNA.
Franklin died in April 1958 from ovarian cancer, possibly caused by exposure to the very x-rays which led to her discovery, something for which she was not recognised until the years following her death. With the Nobel Committee still unwilling to award posthumous prizes, Franklin remains one of the greatest unsung heroes in the history of biology and healthcare research.
Admiral Grace Hopper – Ben Gascoyne (Technology)
While the typical tech sector stereotype is male-led, you should know that some of its earliest and most influential innovators were talented and inspirational women.
That includes Grace Hopper, an American mathematician who began her career in computer science as World War 2 began. Working with the very first computers throughout the 1950s, she pioneered the development of programming languages that were based on natural languages, such as English, instead of abstract mathematical symbols.
That may seem obvious now, but was met with resistance at the time. Delivering her vision for computing made programming more accessible for everyone who followed her and paved the way for the tech giants you know today, like Microsoft and Apple.
Somehow, alongside a hugely successful career in computing, Grace Hopper found the time to rise to the rank of Admiral in the US Naval Reserve. Admiral Hopper passed away in 1992, but today, social enterprises such as the fantastic Stemettes are making sure that girls across the UK can follow in her footsteps and are inspired and empowered to take up STEM careers, including in the tech sector.
Mary Prince – Hoda Awad (Energy and Environment)
Mary Prince was a courageous woman who helped to change Britain as we know it. She was an enslaved woman who campaigned in the 1800s for abolition.
In 1829, Mary was the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to Parliament, arguing for her human right to freedom. She was also the first black woman to write and publish an autobiography, which was a key part of the abolitionist campaign in Britain. It was during that very same year that her peers in the abolitionist movement introduced a bill proposing that any slaves must be freed.
Mary was an inspiring woman who invented political activism almost 100 years before other more well-known movements began to gain traction, such as the Suffragettes.
With modern society becoming increasingly competitive and divided, it is more important than ever that we champion and communicate the achievements of women. We have a shared responsibility to remove barriers and create opportunities so that, regardless of gender, anyone can fulfil their potential. By working together towards gender equality and providing women and girls around the world with heroes and role models, we can inspire the next generation and create an environment from which we can all benefit.
So Pantone® has chosen its colour of the year for 2019.
It’s handily entitled Pantone 16-1546, but to you and me it’s been named ‘Living Coral’.
They say (it’s)…’an animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge’.
A softer edge that what you may ask? I’ll leave that to you to decide whether there was ‘political thinking’ involved?
However, for me, with our natural planet under so much threat, it’s interesting to see Pantone® and other early, indicative ‘design’ trends openly nudging today’s designers and creators to return to a more primal simple colour signpost to provide a visual inspiration to the very digital world we live in.
Expect to see this colour and creative thinking in a lot of studio outputs in 2019.
Madano was named by Great Place to Work® as one of the UK’s 2018 Best Workplaces™ for Women in the Small category (organisations with 20-49 employees), taking 5th place in its inaugural year of ranking.
Judging is based on honest feedback from employees, and the award recognises Madano’s company culture and flexible working environment.
Michael Evans, Madano’s Managing Partner, said:
“Whilst Madano’s committed to creating a collaborative, flexible and supportive environment for all employees, this award helps us to recognise the support and flexibility put in place to help the development, engagement and wellbeing of our female employees, something which is not only an issue of importance for our industry, but society as a whole.”
About Great Place to Work®
Great Place to Work® UK is a consultancy specialising in workplace culture, helping organisations to create exceptional, high performing workplaces where employees feel trusted and valued. We help employers improve recruitment, retention and productivity by putting employees at the heart of the organisation, analysing what they think and feel and identifying the real issues that need to be addressed. Part of a global organisation, we apply data and insights from approximately 10,000 organisations across the world to benchmark individual performance and advise employers on how to continuously improve employee engagement and wellbeing and so help build and sustain business performance. We run the Best Workplaces™ awards to enable the organisations we work with celebrate their achievements, build their employer brand and inspire others to take action.
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