Chris Hirst on ‘Open Culture’ - NABS
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Chris Hirst on ‘Open Culture’

Our Tuesday Club Talks returned this week with a presentation from Chris Hirst CEO of Grey London. He spoke about the concept of ‘open culture’, providing tips and techniques on how to bring cultural change to our own organisations.

Hirst credits open culture as being the key to success at Grey London. Open culture helped Hirst turn the agency around, double it in size and achieve second place in Campaign’s 2013 agency of the year ranking.

Cynics can often be quick to turn their noses up at the first mention of culture in business. But Hirst showed how some of the biggest organisations such as IBM credit culture as a deciding factor for their success.

NABS agrees that culture, and the feeling of being part of a team can have a genuine effect on happiness in any agency. So how do we go about bringing a cultural change to our own agencies and teams? For those eager to learn how they can make their agency culture more open, Hirst suggested the following six rules:

1. Culture is the behaviour of management

For eager admen and women looking to progress in their careers, this was an important point. Culture can only take hold in your organisation or team if management buy into it as well. How you run your team will define what your team and its culture look like

2. Ultimately all strategy devolves into work

Theorising around your work can only go so far. We’ve made strategy a short hand for intelligence. But it’s how we take a strategy and implement it that should be the focus rather than thinking about strategy itself. Too often there can be inaction in getting a strategy started because we fear failure and that’s why strategy never gets done.

 3. Create collisions

Our industry used to be about the people who have the answers. But it should now be more about being the person who can help find the answers. Collaboration is key, and it means that as a team you will guide and rise together with each other. Some of the most important people in an agency are the ones who acknowledge that their role is to help other people get to the answers.

4. Not one of us is as smart as all of us

A team that complements each other’s strengths collectively is stronger than the individual.  Think about your own individual skills, and undoubtedly you’ll have some weaknesses, but together you stand as a stronger unit.

5. Management as mentors

Open culture overturns the standard managerial hierarchy. A manager’s role is to remove the barriers in the way of our success; it shouldn’t always be about dictating what we should do.

6. Nothing matters more than the team

Your ability to build and maintain powerful teams is incredibly important. Success will come from working as a team, not an individual.

Culture is something that can take time to implement in any agency. It’s not an easy thing to do, but if we want to build a better, more open culture in our own agencies then we’d do well to follow the points that Chris made.

Our next Tuesday Club Talk is with Rory Sutherland on “Trust or Game Theory”. The venue is yet to be confirmed. Please note that the date has now changed to the sixth due to the tube strikes. To find out more or to book your place visit:

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