My weeks are regularly filled with Skype conference calls with people scattered all over the world. The calls range from organizing TIE placements with participants based in the UK or US; to discussing TIE placement and project opportunities with NGOs scattered around Africa, Brazil and India; to discussing the industry, the future of it, and how sustainability can find a real place within it.  

A few weeks ago I was at an advertising conference in Canada put on by the ICA and the Globe and Mail called Future Flash.  Sir John Hegarty spoke, as did Paul Kemp-Robertson and a few other legends, and we all left pondering the future of our industry.    I came away from the conference with a renewed enthusiasm for adland, and for TIE’s place within it.

As Martin Wolf from the FT explains in this article, the age of unlimited growth is over. And, having now lived with this new reality for the past few years, we are seeing that the nature of global growth is transforming and new dynamics are surfacing – all rooted in human potential and well-being. 

I was in New York a few months ago and I was speaking with a senior VP at a large agency there. In the conversation he mentioned that ‘sustainability just isn’t on our agenda’. And I’m sure he’s not the only senior person at an agency that thinks this.

But, in order for us to ensure we have an industry in the future, we need to very quickly understand these rapidly changing dynamics. And we need to understand that they are all rooted in sustainability. This is about survival. Not about being worthy.

Advertising and marketing needs to stand for more than simply getting people to want more stuff. Instead, we need to make things that people actually want.  That talk to them. As human beings.  As Alex Bogusky says, we need better products, better conversations, and a better impact.

In 2011 Michael E Porter and Mark R Kramer wrote an influential report called ‘creating shared value’  which states  “The concept of shared value – which focuses on the connections between societal and economic progress – has the power to unleash the next wave of global growth.”  And Havas Media’s latest study statistically demonstrates that “Meaningful brands out perform stock market by 120%”. 

The key is understanding, on a broad scale, what’s changing in the world, and find ways to grow business by doing the right thing. We need to find commercially sustainable ways to fix problems. And our industry is just the industry to do it – as long as we recognise the powerful trends that are quickly emerging.

“The human ingenuity that inadvertently created the mess we’re in will have to get us out of it. And proper marketing will be essential both in creating the demand and spreading the word.”  Jeremy Bullmore, WPP.

But, for people to be able to know what future appropriate innovation and growth looks like, and to help managers navigate in complex and uncertain environments, we need to change people’s perspectives, get them out of their comfort zone, out of their mould, and thinking and working differently.

As Sir John Hegarty says, creative thinking is the answer.  And in order to have that competitive edge, you need to see things differently, come at problems from a different angle, and reassemble the solution that stimulates our imagination.  It’s all about innovation, sustainable innovation, and solutions that talk to and resonate with the consumer.

It is also very apparent that more and more people within the industry are looking for opportunities to come together, to discuss the changing landscape, and above all else, take action. It isn’t just about talking anymore, or listening to what other people are doing – it’s about doing, and making change really happen.

But how do we get there? How can the future leaders of our industry develop the skills to have what it takes, think in the right way to solve these really complex problems, and then how can they make this change happen?

At TIE we are committed to finding innovative ways to help our industry be better prepared for what the future has in store. Since 2007 we have been forcing people out of their comfort zone around innovative thought and systemic thinking. We have been shaking up how our communication leaders are thinking, getting them to work differently and think better about how they approach everyday challenges, specifically when working with our clients and at their agencies. 

But until now we have only offered one programme – our very successful Travel TIEs offering where we enable talented leaders from the corporate communications world to learn and grow from the experience of sharing their skills with organisations, people and communities from the emerging world.  We send people all over Brazil and Africa to expand their mind, get out of their silos, be better professionals, push themselves to the limit and make a difference with their hard earned skills whilst they are at it.

But we are also about to offer a Home TIEs programme in the UK (and eventually the US), also rooted in leadership development. We will have two offerings. One where we will provide communications professionals with the opportunity to think about what the next generation of responsible marketing looks like and then help them discover, tangibly, how they can be a driving force for that change. We will also be offering opportunities for communications professionals to get involved with similar placement to Travel TIEs, but at home, working with a team of people to help a local NGO with their communications. Both opportunities will use TIE’s leadership development techniques, dedicated to developing the competencies of future leader leaders in the communications world. We will get them working out of their silos, will open their minds, will get them working in high pressured ambiguous environments with other people, and of course, provide them with an opportunity to make a real difference with their skills.

There are lots of new developments at TIE, and post Canada’s Future Flash conference, I was pleasantly surprised to see that we are definitely heading in the right direction. If you are interested to know more, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

TIE: Better People. Better Business. Better World.