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When Creativity Trumps Ego, Everyone Wins

Collective energy is everything at the advertising firm 72andSunny. CEO John Boiler explains the company mantra: "When it’s on your desk, it’s yours. When it’s on the wall, it's ours."

When Creativity Trumps Ego, Everyone Wins

At 72andSunny, a big part of the culture is how we think about "ownership" of ideas and the role of collaboration. And we think it has a good deal to do with the kind of work we make. We’ve fostered a culture of brave and generous people, where people have the confidence to share their ideas in the open and the generosity to allow other people on the team help iterate on them and improve the end product. There are some simple values that support this way of working that start with recognizing the creative identity and potential of everyone in the company—regardless of specialty—and embracing the hybrid nature of emerging talent.

One practical manifestation of this idea is that reviews of work-in-progress happen in the open among the extended team on a wall filled with work. We have an expression: "When it’s on your desk, it’s yours. When it’s on the wall, it's ours." This way, we can maintain the important elements of authorship and personal accountability while also getting the benefit of the extended team’s objectivity and ideas. It’s one of the things at the heart of a fast tempo and iterative process that drives work to a better place more quickly.

Not everyone who works in creative industries is able to function in this kind of environment, but a lot of people do flourish in it. A common thread we have found in the talent that excels here is a universal appreciation for collaborative work and a recognition that all product that leaves the agency comes from the collective 72andSunny. You’ll also notice that our company title doesn’t consist of a series of last names—an intentional decision—where we decided to focus on building the credentials of our company as a whole, and not its individuals.

We also tend to emphasize support in a way that ego-driven cultures often can’t. A win is a win, regardless of who came up with the initial idea. Likewise, we recognize that a great pitch or a winning campaign is supported by the rest of the company. Nothing could have happened if we didn't have everyone pulling their weight. That’s not to say we’re not a competitive bunch: You can’t win if you don’t keep score. And you can’t coach without knowing the strengths and weaknesses. But when you put the creative outcome above everything else—including the egos—you set a higher standard for everyone.

You often hear about the hot tempers of people in our business, but we find that passion and ego don’t have to go hand-in-hand. In fact, if you’re finding that your agency’s creative isn’t up to snuff, it may just be that ego is getting in the way.

John Boiler is the CEO of 72andSunny, an advertising firm based in Los Angeles and one of our Most Innovative Companies of 2012.

[Image: Flickr user Ken Teegardin]