For all the division the last two years has brought us, there is also something inspiring happening.
An awakening to the realization that to see the change we believe in, each of us must play an active part in creating that change. People are engaged on a deeper level and eager to take a stand for what matters to them most. I’ve seen it in our halls, across our industry and throughout the nation.
This attitude is infectious and inspires me to believe that even amongst the uncertainty, now is the time for us to commit to action. To stop righteously pointing at the problem and start doing the things that will positively impact our industry, our economy and our culture.
For us, an important solution to our problem is to expand and diversify the creative class. Because we know that putting economic opportunity in more hands makes better work, and a stronger culture and economy.
The term “creative class” was coined by Richard Florida after studying the evolution of the labor force. He found two sectors growing faster than all others: the creative class and the service class. The creative class is made up of people who create intellectual property everyday – they are the ones scoring movies, creating ad campaigns and designing innovative experiences online and off. Along the way they are building new companies and inventing novel ways to acquire and keep customers.
They are the reason Silicon Valley exists and cities like Los Angeles, our hometown, are experiencing a renaissance. They make up one third of the total United States workforce, yet they earn half of the country’s wages and account for 70% of the discretionary income (Bureau of Labor Statistics). When we hear statistics like “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in a job which doesn’t yet exist,” (World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report) it’s the creative class that is creating these jobs.
The opportunity for the creative class is massive, but the careers are not accessible to all. When access to these skills isn’t equal to different ethnic and socio-economic groups, it means access to the future isn’t equal.
72andSunny is on a mission to change all of this. Our greatest strengths are creativity and innovation, which is why this issue is so personal to all of us and the reason why we decided to focus our efforts on one area, specifically expanding and diversifying the creative class. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but in the spirit of sharing and affecting change across the industry – here are some lessons that we have learned.
Flatten power – push it into everyone’s hands
Modern companies are successful when missions are personal to all, owned and executed by all levels of the company. This truism applies here. Our interest in the creative class reflects our employees’ personal journeys. We don’t frame diversity as just a morally aspirational idea, but as a practicality and personally beneficial idea. This gives it momentum and ownership. Empowering a junior level employee to represent us at his HBCU alma mater puts him in the driver’s seat. He’s not just representing us, but owning a role in talent acquisition.
Try things, but reserve the right to change your mind.
All innovative companies race to a minimum viable product to learn faster, focus iteration and maximize traction. We embrace this approach, but believe awareness programs aren’t enough – multiple approaches are needed. We love the idea of “Returnships,” a program tailored to help women re-enter the workforce after raising a family and have added it to our talent curriculum. To double down on this focus, we were also one of the first creative agencies to sign the Free the Bid pledge which drives inclusion, consideration and demand for female film directors. Both reflect a spirit of learning, a “perpetual beta” mindset, and programs that amplify another’s impact.
Don’t be afraid of the quota conversation.
The discussion of quotas can be an affront to the notion of a meritocracy. And we believe in merit. But, quotas are an acknowledgement of unconscious bias and the need for an active approach to combat it. This subject becomes less challenging in context of advancing innovation – decades of research underscores that creativity benefits from diversity. When we talk about quotas we’re talking about it within the context of advancing our creative muscle and pushing the boundaries of the most engaging creativity possible.
Hack the education system.
We believe that too many schools are not preparing children for the jobs of the future. The education system is desperate for unconventional approaches. We want to partner with teachers and schools to bring out unconventional approaches for teaching about creative careers. For example, one of our most successful and longest partnerships is with Da Vinci Schools, a group of innovative high schools in Los Angeles, that draw kids from more than 80 zip codes. Together we’re creating school programs spanning 9th grade to post-high school that expose kids to creative careers through various levels of commitment on our end. We’re also creating a program with CreativeLive with the goal to scale programs like these widely and get creative training to more than a million kids.
Put a target up before arrows start flying.
All ideas aren’t created equal and prioritization of funding shouldn’t be based on presentation savviness. We’ve defined the key elements of success into a simple quantitative framework. When we look at new opportunities our framework serves as the target. It helps us have shorter, informed dialogs and yield tightly focused programs. This ensures incremental impact exactly where we’ve placed the target.
More important than these lessons, though, is the stark realization of how much we have yet to learn and the scale of this opportunity – it’s not overreaching to say that the potential is a world and economy unlike one we’ve ever seen. The opportunity is for culture and commerce to reflect more people, include more people and create more surprising innovations – and that’s a world we all want. And one we must all create together.