After four years as Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at frog I left.
I feel fortunate to have contributed to something as dynamic and interesting at a particular moment in time in that company’s history. It is definitely the right time to go.
My principle has always been that if someone more junior can do some of what I do, they should step up in order to grow. This approach naturally puts a time limit on my role which suits me just fine. It has been rewarding to take on one of the few global roles in an organisation that by its very DNA is based around the gravitational pull of studios and I’m grateful to Doreen Lorenzo (previously frog President, now President at Quirky) and Mark Rolston (previously frog Chief Creative Officer and my boss at frog, and now founder of Argo Design) for the space to figure out what that role could be. I’m also grateful for the many colleagues that have inspired me including Robert Fabricant (my other boss at frog, recently resigned), Paul Pugh (formerly VP software, now at Amazon), Tim Leberecht (previously frog CMO, now CMO at NBBJ), Fabio Sergio, Rainer Wessler, Ravi Chhaptar (recently resigned), Aric Cheston and Nick de La Mare (previously ECDs and recent co-founders of Big Tomorrow), Katie Dill (recently joined airbnb), David Sherwin, Reena Jana (recently joined IBM), Kristina Loring (now at NPR), Rayna Wiles (recently joined Westfield Labs) and Cara Silver (recently joined Google X) plus a few others. As you might imagine losing a significant amount of talent in six months radically alters the DNA of what the organisation stands for and what it can achieve.
People are the lifeblood a consultancy. Its ability to charge a premium to clients is predicated on the assumption that it has the best talent, the smartest processes, the most precise tools, and can operate at a scale and apply the right experience and creative nous to getting the job done. A consultancy might (but by no means always) pull it off if it has the talent and everything falls into place. But any consultancy that cannot retain or attract talent that binds it all together is in trouble.
I’ve enjoyed the last three months being on unpaid sabbatical. It was good to get away from the intense politics that accompanies any significant change in executive leadership (something I also experienced at Nokia), running a social impact project in Myanmar with a fine team and wonderful partner, launching one book in Korea and another in Japan, and collecting thoughts on what the next few years should or could look like. Last week I started a my own studio to focus on and continue the work that I’ve been doing on the side for over a decade. It is important after all to love what you make. Our team is about to deliver our first project, and are ramping up a few more, advising a few local start-ups, and generally devoting more to time chat with interesting people.
The sabbatical was also a good time to reflect on what I learned from the past four years, the values that bind employees together into something more than four-walls and a pay-check, and the tensions, personalities, processes and business realities that can tear it apart. (Drawing on my experience of working with a wide range of clients I’ve written a number of long articles about corporate culture with enough characters to make a Games of Thrones scriptwriter flush. At this point it doesn’t feel right to publish it, so most-likely I won’t, but the writing process is oh-so-theraputic).
If you’re an ex-colleague who reached out personally after the internal announcement I won’t be answering your emails. It is far more interesting to look forward than look back. Friendships are measured in decades. Feel free to reach out once you’ve moved on.
Why people join a company and how it it communicated by that company is kinda interesting.
But why people leave and how it is communicated internally reveals far more about that company and is worthy of more attention (looking well beyond my own situation which is quite trivial in the big scheme of things).
I’m frequently asked by designers and researchers for careers advice and in particular whether they should apply to work at frog or other another consultancy. At some point I’ll share why, and definitely more interesting and insightful, why not.
I wish my ex-colleagues the very best.
Perhaps like me, you prefer to focus on those projects.
Photos: fixer in Beirut taking a cig and a shot of caffeine, the deck of the popup studio in Myanmar, another kicking off in Bolivia. Today’s office is what you make it.