The Fast And The Curious

March 22, 2017

Here is a simple but often overlooked fact about life at a creative agency: Unless one is curious by nature, the only hope for staying engaged is working exclusively with brands or in industries of personal interest.

Don’t get me wrong, that just might happen for stretches of one’s career, but it’s a recipe for intellectual complacency. It’s a far greater challenge (and skill) to take interest in really understanding the interests of others. Frankly, it’s what we’re paid to do!

At Fast Horse, we hold curiosity in the highest regard. In our industry, curiosity compels one to think beyond their own interests in search of what it is about a brand, product, service or experience that makes it appealing to others. Curiosity also leads one to be mindful of differing perspectives, judgments and value systems. If one is genuinely curious, every client, project and brainstorm is interesting in its own way.

Agencies (including Fast Horse) are constantly focused on fostering creativity, but recently, we introduced a weekly one-hour program to foster curiosity.

It’s called “The Fast and The Curious,” and the concept is simple: Create the time and space for employees to demonstrate their curiosity in a pre-selected topic, theme or creative prompt. Attendance is encouraged, but not mandatory. The only ask is that everyone pre-reads a few selected articles to inform the discussion.

Our first session focused on the Best Picture debacle at the Oscars and how PricewaterhouseCoopers managed its crisis response. Our second session looked at State Street Global Advisors and the polarized response to “The Fearless Girl.” This week, we’re talking about waning human attention spans and the advent of the six-second(!) digital ad. Over time, our vision is to evolve F+C to include debates, mock pitches, creative critiques and anything else that can be deemed an exercise in curiosity. We also are passing the baton each week to allow new people to select the topic and moderate the discussion.

After a few sessions, what I have come to enjoy the most is the venue we have created for younger employees to demonstrate their thoughtfulness and communication skills in a group setting. Unlike a client brainstorm, there is no pressure to deliver. And unlike a random sidebar conversation, there is a greater opportunity for inclusion. It’s a chance to say something profound — or spectacularly lame. In the process, we get a chance to better know peers who work on separate accounts and to see curiosity in motion.

Here’s another cool thing: It’s impossible to not sit in the circle each week and think, Damn — I really work with some smart and talented people. Don’t get me wrong — rooftop grill-outs, happy hours and all-agency outings are all wonderful aspects of our culture. But it’s incredibly satisfying to now have a weekly program exclusively dedicated to the one trait that we all have in common.