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    Creativity in 2023 will require less in-person whiteboards and more time zone empathy

    In the time of quiet quitting and the great resignation, AKQA’s chief creative officers Hugo Veiga and Diego Machado have mapped out a plan for balancing local challenges with international opportunities. They share their best practices as part of our Globalization Deep Dive.

    ’One studio with different rooms worldwide.’ That’s been an AKQA mantra since we joined the agency back in 2013. This took on an entirely new meaning during lockdown and now during the hybrid work era. Connecting teams from different parts of the world has its challenges, but we’ve been crafting how to engage the teams and constantly evolving along the way. After many brainstorms, here are several learnings from our journey that will guide us in the coming year and beyond.

    1. Set an inspirational north star

    The concept of great creative or state-of-the-art craft differs for each individual, even among local teams. So when we bring teams from different studios together, we do our best to align the level of ambition, tone and commitment. Upfront, we try our best to give examples of projects from different industries that set the tone for our goal. This inspirational phase is among the most important.

    2. Provide a map

    While very tactical, this helps create a more efficient process. Since we’re all working on a shared deck, we try to create a backbone for the final presentation with the deliverables that each team is focusing on. It’s like a map that guides the work and sets the pace.

    3. Build bridges, always

    We have the privilege of being exposed to many different cultures and people. In order to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each studio, one of our main responsibilities is to build bridges and connect amazing people without the friction of hierarchies or bureaucracies.

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    4. Remember: a boat doesn’t need two captains

    While we’ve always believed that the best people for the job should be able to work on a project, no matter where they are in the world, it is important that you don’t duplicate specialties. If you put Roger Federer working with Rafael Nadal, you get a match of tennis. But imagine getting Roger Federer and Ray Dalio together to create a game about the economy.

    5. Create a home feeling

    When working with teams across the globe where in-person interactions are almost impossible, we must dedicate extra attention to how we communicate with each other. Digital tools can be so cold, so it is important to welcome everyone with genuine excitement and try to stay optimistic about the work, bringing good vibes into all interactions. It’s hard when you’re tired, but be nice on email exchanges, Slack channels and video calls. Gestures of care and a simple smile make everyone feel welcome and comfortable sharing even the most nonsensical thoughts, which are usually the most creative ones.

    6. Recognize that it’s always 6pm somewhere

    When speaking with team members from different time zones and home dynamics, you must embrace each individual’s context. If you’re waking up full of energy, you need to understand that a team member from the other side of the world may be already tired from their day. Trust and empathy are key for the wellbeing of the team.

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    7. Most of all, discover the worlds inside the world

    Working with talent from different cities worldwide helps us expand our creative horizons, especially within creative manifestations that go beyond the main cities. That’s why we’ve been searching for talent from peripheral regions. For example, our São Paulo studio created AKQA From Your Home, a program that gives talent from smaller cities or cities with no universities the chance to work on projects they would never have access to. This allows us to unveil and learn from the ones experiencing living and experiencing local sub-cultures.

    Hugo Veiga and Diego Machado are both global chief creative officers at AKQA, a global ad agency. For more on what marketers and their partners need to do to succeed on a global level, check out The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive.

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