June 8, 2015 Karen Bouton

Is “Repeatable Creativity” an Oxymoron?

The most successful companies in the world don’t get that way by being flighty. They do it by perfecting a system that works really well, and then duplicating that set of activities with great consistency to get the same results on a larger and larger scale. By strictly adhering to and continuing to refine these repeatable processes, they outpace the competition and come to dominate their industries.

The importance of repeatable processes in business can’t be overstated, as the concept applies in so many ways. It’s how Ford, the company that literally invented the modern assembly line, can churn out thousands of vehicles, each containing around 30,000 parts, in a single day. It’s how McDonald’s French fries taste exactly the same wherever you go. And it’s how, somewhere in the world, Wal-Mart opens a new store every other day. Even if you’re not a fan of these mega-brands, there’s no denying that they’re run like finely tuned, well-oiled machines.

That got us thinking. What if we don’t want to be machines? Can the benefits of repeatable processes apply to a company whose product can be (and must be) different every time? For any services-oriented firm such as a consultancy, advertising or design firm, the work they produce must be unique and customized to the particular needs of every customer. If a creative agency like Nextwave turned out the same cookie-cutter branding campaign for every company, we wouldn’t be around for long. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a few things from those masters of sameness.

For companies like ours, the key is to identify and repeat the high-value activities that foster creativity and lead to inspired, one-of-a-kind results. We, like many other agencies, have a step-by-step process that we work through with every client, to ensure we understand their goals, consider their input, research their audience, and find ways to build meaningful connections through imagery and words. So while the artwork that results may appear random, we arrive at it in much the same way every time. That’s how we’ve managed to create successful marketing and communications work for dozens of very different clients for nearly two decades.

We’re a small firm, of course, but the idea applies on a larger scale as well. Take leading technology companies like Apple and Google. They redefine the world as we know it year after year, not by producing the exact same products but by pushing the limits of what’s possible, constantly introducing new devices and software. They have found a way to make innovation a repeatable process. And that is what’s kept them ahead of the competition.

So, is “repeatable creativity” a contradiction in terms? At Nextwave, we think not. With every new client, we may start the journey in the same way, but we never know exactly where it will end up. And that’s what makes it fun.



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