News & Views

Agency 2030 Debrief / Cross-Discipline Duos

by Contagious Contributor

Duane Holland, founder at DH READY and Dr Alastair Moore, deputy director at UCL summarise the fifth AGENCY 2030’s event hosted at The Zetter hotel's Club Zetter powered by Central Working on the trend Cross-Discipline Duos, a movement where interdisciplinary specialists replace the traditional model of art director and copywriter to solve modern brand challenges.

In conversation Prof. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a business psychologist at UCL and Patrick Collister, head of design at Google discussed why the creative process needs to change and how.


1. From saying to doing
Collister highlighted how brands are no longer in the business where they can just say things, today they need to do and make things, commenting, ‘We’ve shifted to a new paradigm from one-way storytelling to creating ideas that get people telling stories to each other’. This requires a much different set of creative skills.

2. From art to science
Experience working with large FTSE 100 companies to smaller agencies, Prof. Chamorro-Premuzic observed how organisations have done little to make creativity happen, explaining ‘They think it’s more of an art than a science, but there are lots of evidence-based tools that can be implemented. Much like there is a science to managing people, there is a science to managing creativity.’

Creativity doesn’t just happen; it’s the people and the processes in place that advances ideation.

Creative People: beyond domain dependence
Prof. Chamorro-Premuzic shared insight how everyone has a 20-30% creative range that can be stretched, saying, ‘The problem isn’t in attracting creative people, the most challenging thing is managing and harnessing people’s imaginations.’ Creativity is more than just a job title, meaning organisations should start looking across different departments and industries to create a healthy tension.

Collister added that every creative team should have a “Creek”; creative geeks that make stuff, prototyping ideas with as little as sticky-back tape and Lego.

Creative Processes: nuclear and networked
Collister feels the process has shifted from ‘linear to nuclear’, which he actively embraces by bringing together disparate talents including the client, data analysts, planners, creatives and developers. With these people in the room ‘there’s not much you can’t solve’.

The consensus supported a cross-discipline approach and the two fundamentals for it to work effectively:

1. Do as Hollywood does by building an extensive talent pool of specialists that are managed by a core team of directors, in this case who are brand literate and media savvy.

2. Look for synergies in personality, motivation and values between individuals. This is why informal groups tend to be more creative than formal set-ups.

As Collister said, ‘the traditional duo are yesterday’s people’ so maybe it's time to see the cracks in existing models and welcome in those creeks, after all, it’s probably them who are creating them in the first place.

DH READY is a cross-discipline creative consultancy and innovation network of collaborators in science, culture and tech. If you’re interested in the topics raised or would like to see the final academic report contact me on