As Regional CD at Saatchi, I pioneered and developed a more dynamic way of working, introducing the creatives to the principles of improvisational theatre to help them work faster and more fearlessly: working to the deadline of ‘now’. It is challenging to work at this speed, but exciting, and the most fun for those willing to embrace it. And there are three ways that we have used this: in our Tribes, Ideas Academies and Inspiration Workshops.
The Tribe is most often used to fast-track the initial stage of creative development, looking at a new brief from lots of different angles, so in this case it is very much the start of the journey towards solutions rather than the end. The output will typically be two to three idea territories, with various basic executions attached to each. The Tribe can also be used to develop executions, though not finely crafted ones, given the starting point of an existing creative idea. And it is not at all uncommon for an executional gem or two to pop up in any Tribe, given strong teams.
Tribes typically last three days and involve twelve or more confident senior creatives, often representing various markets, and different disciplines - traditional, digital, shopper marketing etc. We may also bring in PR and Media partners. And sometimes people from outside with particular specialist knowledge – an African Street Dance guru once, for example.
The Tribe always works, and the output is phenomenally impressive. We have used Tribes to win pitches, solve big problems on existing clients, and won some awards along the way.
Ideas Academy is a creative training workshop for junior teams, which at Saatchi we ran once or twice, sometimes three times a year, for over ten years. The fundamental principle on which it is based is that it takes lots and lots of ideas to get to great ideas.
So the workshop was designed to raise energy, confidence and ambition, as well as prepare them for the rigours of a full-on Tribe.
It follows the structure of a Tribe, and always involves a live brief and various presentations, but most important of all, however, are the drama school improvisation and storytelling games and exercises, which are interspered with the work sessions throughout to provide participants with various techniques to think faster and create the requisite atmosphere of playfulness.
Ideas Academy is a cathartic experience, hugely appreciated by everyone who has attended - some of whom have gone on to achieve great things – and also by the Creative Directors who sent them.
Some described it as their ‘best Saatchi experience’, and the format is currently in the process of being adopted bt the broader Publicis Groupe..
Over the last couple of years , the the Ideas Academy format was also adapted as way to inspire whole offices – all levels, all departments. I always say you only get real creative momentum in an office when the creative agenda is everyone’s agenda.
In Hong Kong and Shanghai, for example, we worked with different groups on different briefs (including two live pitch briefs) on different days for two weeks, introducing them to this faster way of working, breaking down divisions between departments, and raising their ambitions for the creative work.
We have done similar workshops now in Dubai, Romania, Hungary, Israel and Germany.
This is the name of my new company, an attempt to capture both the whirlwind of energy we always stir up when we get together in the ways described above, as well as the response we hope to create with best ideas.
Its purpose, to take Dynamic Creativity wherever required.
In its first few months, we have worked with Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and Publicis offices across the world, and for clients such as P&G, Sanofi, Magnum, with more workshops planned for the near future.
Brouhaha is creativity at its fastest, most agile and most productive.
Some other views
Tribes are often run in similar ways: people get together, spend a few hours in a room, brainstorming, challenging each other and coming up with a few ideas. And yet, this isn’t what drives the most productive and efficient teams. Saatchi & Saatchi EMEA Regional ECD John Pallant observes that it is team relay — building on every idea every time one team member shares— that leads over time to productive results. It's a radical rethink of what leads to a great idea. At John Pallant’s tribe in the summer of 2015, he shared a small idea that can awaken much bigger ones: the power of saying ‘Yes, and’. Questioning is a common reaction in a discussion, while it inspires many great ideas, Pallant tries to see it in a different angle. Instead of saying ‘but’ to our peers, he urges us to try to build on others’ ideas.
John’s tribe is well structured – from games to warm up the atmosphere to the final group presentation – giving participants a clear idea of what’s going on and what’s to do next, while engaging everyone to the max. I believe by having the participants fully understood the agenda they have a holistic and thorough take-away from the training. Kicked off with improvising games, the tribe was exercised in a relaxed atmosphere where members had engaging and funny interactions, also where wild ideas came alive.
This tribe enables us to better integrate and make use of limited resources especially in today’s industry where talent pool is shrinking. Instead of hours of long discussion, the actual brainstorming session is cut down to 45mins, then another round. The fast tempo keeps our brain working in a high speed, while allowing a short break before a fresh start into a new and fertile ground. As a result, the sessions became very productive. Since anyone can lead the discussion at some point and others are trying to build on that idea, everyone stays on the same page while birthing high quality and multi-dimensional ideas that reach a broad range of channels. The key principle “yes, and” is central to progress, forcing each member to build on the idea previous member gives, in this way, as the discussion goes on, creative and well -structured ideas will be born.
John’s tribe takes us through the planning and facilitation of an effective brainstorming session, and then gives the tools we need to take the hundreds of ideas generated and get them ready for polishing, selecting and implementing. In this digital age where quick and diverse ideas are demanded, I think John’s tribe is of great value to today’s agencies. Through instruction, discussions and exercises, we gain immediate application to our change effort and learn how to make next brainstorming sessions a success.
Fan Ng, CCO Saatchi China
Tribes are a powerful tool for cracking big business problems. They are a unique way of focusing our best creative talent on a specific brief to generate fresh creative solutions in a short space of time.
Tribes bring together a wide range of creative people from different offices, cultures, backgrounds and disciplines leading to new, unexpected and sometimes surprising results. They encourage collaboration and cross pollination of ideas that might never have happened if the different tribe participants hadn’t been brought together.
Tribes work best when clients are involved from the outset, at the formulation of the brief and throughout the process, seeing the work as it is created. Including clients as part of the team means they have a vested interest in making the process work and they have a sense of ownership of the ideas that are generated.
The way John runs tribes is by making the sessions fun but disciplined, adhering to strict deadlines. He lays out the rules and expectations right from the start so everyone is clear on what needs to be done and ultimately what success will look like at the end of the process. The working sessions are short and intense, with regular catch-ups for sharing the work with the wider group. He punctuates the idea generation sessions with various stimulus for inspiration, and encourages participants to step out of their comfort zone to deliver the unexpected and original. John is keen to point out that tribes aren’t the end of the creative process they are the beginning. A way of unearthing a wide range of original creative routes in a concentrated, 3-day rollercoaster of a journey.
Rob Burleigh, Global CD, Pampers, Saatchi & Saatchi
Working with John Pallant on a Tribe is a positive and productive event. His creativity and leadership allows him to get the maximum effort out of the creative teams. John's involvement in the briefing stage is invaluable as he makes sure that everyone is focused on the same task well before we commence the tribe, so no time or thinking is wasted.
He sets out very clear goals and allows all creatives to express themselves without fear. His understands how creatives think and work and supports ideas to get to the goal. John also works as hard or harder as everyone else which is inspirational for the creative teams.
Apart from the obvious benefits of being able to generate lots of ideas, John’s approach to Tribes is to have long lasting and positive effect on the creative culture of the agency.
I’ve been working with the Tribe process for over 10 years at Saatchi & Saatchi. Apart from its obvious effect when it comes to pitches I have used it to good effect in other ways.
I’ve worked in demanding countries like Singapore, China as well as Dubai and the workflow can be overwhelming. When you have multiple briefs on and you need to focus on timelines and deliverables, the Tribe is the best way to get ideas out. You can use 2 teams and deliver ideas on 4 briefs in 2 hours – six, twenty minute sessions = lots of focused ideas and it makes the pressure enjoyable rather than negative.
Tribes also help to create a culture in the office. People who are naturally quiet will be pulled in to be part of a team. Younger people get the chance to work with senior people and be on same level plus maybe see their ideas thrive. In many of the tribes I have done you always seem to find new stars.
Richard Copping, ECD Saatchi Dubai