In defence of the brave

Posted by Tim Burley
April 16 — 2013
Thoughts

One statement at the heart of our strategy is “We help brave clients enjoy greater success through meaningful design”.


Plenty of material to work with there. What constitutes meaningful design? How can meaningful design enable greater success? But we’ll save those for later and start at the beginning with “What makes a brave client?”


Any design business worth its salt will want to work with brave clients – ones who embrace creativity, who are inspiring to work with and who enable us to do our best work.


Most organisations understand their need to define and communicate a ‘valuable difference’ – one that their customers appreciate and that sets them apart. At the same time, it’s human nature to prefer ‘safe’ to ‘risky’, to prefer ‘familiar’ to ‘new’, and to prefer ‘complex’ to ‘simple’. In other words, people often want something brave right up until they experience it, at which point they suddenly want something (anything!) else.


This is why we don’t believe it’s the clients’ responsibility to just ‘be brave’, as if it were some kind of default setting. Instead, it’s our responsibility to inspire their bravery, and to help them reap the rewards. Because if we fail to give them confidence by explaining the value in what we do, it’s not bravery the client is demonstrating but recklessness.


So what marks a client out as potentially brave? Well, some clients place complete trust in the expertise of partners to develop the right result. Others will fight tooth and nail within their organisation to champion the role of creativity in making a difference. Others will simply have a clear plan and a commitment to seeing it through. Others will accept that sometimes the cost of true innovation is failure. There’s no cookie cutter and great client relationships often grow from the most unlikely beginnings. If there was one universal trait, I’d say it was that they care. A lot.


To understand the benefits of bravery, consider the team at the London 2012 Olympic Games. They weathered the storm that threatened to engulf them when the identity was launched. They believed wholeheartedly in what they were doing and they went on to stage one of the most successful Olympics ever. And the voices changed from derision to acclaim. You may not have liked the logo, but you had to admire their style.


Even the bravest of clients need to strike a balance between creating space for innovation and exposing themselves to risk. A 70/20/10 rule might do this, where 70% of resources are applied to proven techniques, 20% to emerging techniques (that may in time become proven) and 10% on ‘shoot for the moon’ techniques (that may never even get off the ground).


Finally, when deciding whether or not to make better use of creativity in your organisation, remember this quote by AA Milne:


“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”


Having earned their trust, we will fight to support a brave client who’s willing to go further in search of a better outcome.