Lessons From My Interns

Posted by Admin


Are you one of those who think that motivation could almost beat mere talent? Well, beginning today, I am. I just finished my third year leading the internship program at my agency and after roughly four months immersed in the world of highly opinionated, yet unbiased, young professionals, the experience certainly made me think about some of the challenges strategy folks will face in the near future. Chances are, you have lived most of your career believing that your endless curiosity made you a strategist. Well, at the end of the day, that is part of the job description no? But isn’t curiosity indeed part of human nature? So then, what makes a strategist really different from anybody else? The truth is that while in theory we are all born with an inherent desire to understand behavior, usually looking for answers to questions such as why we never got that call back or why someone is wearing a certain shirt, in practice, strategists are unique at mastering the art of ‘digging deeper’. That is why going beyond the obvious is a characteristic that planners own. Or at least I used to think so. The thing is, I got the chance to see these young people working on what, for many of us in this discipline, could be considered as very standard planning projects and it truly surprised me to realize that their approach was everything but ordinary. Their motivation to perform made them challenge everything we told them. Instead, it inspired a quest for new solutions to mundane challenges. Solutions that, although in most cases were objectively wrong, provided results so interesting that were just impossible to ignore. Predictable? Perhaps. But I must confess that what really triggered my desire to write this post weren’t the results but rather the richness of their methods. Rules of engagement resulted from the dynamics between twelve young people born and raised in the digital generation, but certainly open to a world beyond that. Shifting from curiosity to innocence as the driver to creativity People often translate innocence as inexperience resulted from immaturity, but in its true meaning, innocence is the ability to experience life without the distorting filters of fear or cynicism. The reality is that in every project we approach, there is already a significant space of our mental capacity with information from the past and predictions of the future that do not allow us to tap into our inner innocence, and approach each project with a truly fresh and more imaginative viewpoint. These young people had a natural pair of innocent glasses to see through every assignment, which allowed them to daydream and brainstorm without restrictions. Let’s copy that. There is no doubt. By instinct, we all aim for making things right. Since childhood most of us are taught to avoid doing things wrong. Like Sir Ken Robinson once said, school usually doesn’t teach us the incredible benefits of making mistakes and, as we grow in life, there are few people around to fuel that feeling. Most of my interns’ ideas came from a place very far from their orthodox area of thinking. Ideas provoked by their ceaseless desire to stimulate change. That, leave us with a quite practical piece of advise: let’s get out of our bubble of rightness and take some risks from time to time, from brief to brief. The results may surprise us. Following the rules is definitely fine and there are certainly moments in which it should be the standard but, once in a while, it is tremendously healthy to challenge the status quo and try something new. Simply by asking, why not? In over ten years working in this business I have never experienced a harder interrogation session like the one these young people made me go through. Why to the brief, why to the challenge and even why to the brand… you get the idea.