How can an international agency with over 20 partners encourage autonomy? Natasha Jen, one of said partners at Pentagram, focussed her talk on how ownership and individuality play a huge part in creating a successful company. The business model of Pentagram, described by Natasha as a ‘necklace’ made of individual pieces, goes against the traditional pyramid structure typically associated with large agencies. Instead of passing instructions down a chain of command, and therefore creating a huge distance between the designers and the decision makers, Pentagram works in smaller, more collaborative teams. Not only does this allow individuals to shine, but it also creates a community feel where everyone works in partnership.
Thierry reiterated this point of individuality through an analogy of the Mr Men and Little Miss books. (Okay the name pronouns aren’t totally feminist in their thinking but after the recent addition of Little Miss Inventor I think they can be forgiven…). Thierry spoke about how each individual character has a role to play in the team and rather than trying to get each person to fit the same stereotype, it’s important to embrace their personality traits. For example, Little Miss Quiet has some brilliant ideas, so it’s important to give her a platform to speak. And Mr Forgetful is very efficient providing you leave lots of post it notes around. And Mr Bump might break everything but that means he’s also very good at fixing things… Okay I’ve gone too far with this metaphor now, you get the idea.
Overall, it’s important to recognise the characters you have in your team and what skills each individual brings to the table. Allowing autonomy and ownership in projects will ultimately lead to more creative and diverse work.