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Top-Down, Bottom-Up Change

It's rare that you read something with the searing honesty of this interview with a 'top digital exec' at a big agency. In a way it's a shame that the interviewee remains anonymous but if you read it you'll understand why. It contains a huge dollop of cynicism, but in amongst all that cynicism there are some telling points about the pitfalls of attempting to drive change and the tricky positioning of digital within larger 'traditional' agencies.

Over a year ago, Ben Malbon kicked off a great debate on whether agencies really need 'innovation officers'. It's worth revisiting the great comment thread on the original post, and Ben's subsequent summation of the resultant themes. In that summary Ben made the point that innovation does not equal digital, but captured well some of the opportunities but also challenges that sit around these kinds of roles. I have some sympathy for the in-the-trenches executive trying to push the boundaries and be a change agent in an environment characterised by business-as-usual. Individual roles and even teams may well be catalysts for new ways of working but this says (again) that real change can only come from a combination of top-down and bottom-up. A strong vision, the right organisational structures, priorities, and a serious commitment to cultural change from the very top. This combined with a bottom-up approach focusing on knowledge, skills, rewards, processes, tools and behaviours.

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