Manifestation of Corporate Hierarchy and Culture

Posted on September 6, 2006

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(A toilet door in our office)

It’s an age old cliché that great ideas can come form anyone, anywhere at any time. But do they, really? We often hear ad agencies and other companies talk about corporate cultures where everyone lives this motto: “We’re proud to have a very flat organizational culture in our company”  

Truth is that it is a rarity. But is that really a bad thing? I don’t think so, but it depends on which aspects of it we’re talking about. 

If you want to be strict about it, it’s not that great ideas can’t come from anyone because they do, it’s just that in reality, those that come from people at the top (read: creative directors) tend to survive and make it all the way to the client presentation and out into the real world. Not always, but very often.  

The explanation for it is obvious and really quite simple. In the ad world just like in most other industries, individuals’ career progression is dependent on self-promotion. Getting one’s own ideas out there in consumerland is the best way to ensure it. So when everyone operates on this premise, only those at the top will see their ideas prevail on the strength of their formal power as it gives them the right to decide what is good and what is bad (evil). It’s like being God on a smaller scale.  

I’m actually not against this structure, nor God for that matter, as I believe that greater creative standards are achieved when only one or a limited number of people are involved in deciding on creative direction. Too many cooks ruin the broth. Always. Intuition and seasoned judgment are invaluable assets when embodied by the decision-maker. The challenge is to make sure the right person is in the right role.  

Whilst viewpoints on creative work from a lot of people both inside and outside of the agency should be sought by the decision-maker(s) throughout the creative development process, when it comes to making calls, the fewer people involved the better.  

This means the Lee Kuan Yew model of power allocation is far more conducive to creative excellence than Tony Blair’s, for example.

This sign in our office can be interpreted as a manifestation of the kind of desirable hierarchy I’m talking about and advocating. That should be a great thing……I guess…..even though the reasons why this sign is up there on that door were totally, totally different.    

Posted in: Opinion