“Creativity Can Inspire and Tell the Story of Change”
Adobe XD is a proud supporter of LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of the sponsorship of the Digital Craft content channel, we will be spending time with some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry.
In this conversation we talk with Andrew Sandoz, creative partner at Deloitte Digital. Andrew’s role sees him working to put humanity at the heart of businesses, making the case for a more creative and purposeful future from which we can all benefit. Here, he reflects on his own creative journey, and why despite - or indeed because of - the events of 2020, he is as optimistic as ever…
Q> What was your upbringing like, and how did you first get into technology?
Andrew> I didn’t get into tech, it got into me. My father set up a software engineering business in the 80s, delivering control systems through pattern recognition - you would probably call it ‘digital twinning’ today. Our home was full of big computers, and we had a van to move them from around. The computers got seatbelts, and we kids went in the back compartment and bounced around, as bones healed faster and cheaper than computer bits. Safety was different then. Anyway, as a result technology is like a third sibling. We love each other, and argue like any other.
Q> And what were your first experiences of tech’s relationship with creativity?
Andrew> I ignored it entirely, as some sort of teenage rebellion. I drew and painted, learned drafting skills and how to use an airbrush. But over time, I started to use the drawing packages and in high school the latest computers were enticing. I still pursued illustration, and admire to this day the ability for a pen to skewer a political perspective. But over time I became more into 3D and animation, later graphic design and motion graphics, and so gently fell into that symbiotic creative state with technology where my annoying sibling was more like a conjoined twin.
As I started my career it became very clear to me that working with technology, and people who really understood technology, was very powerful for creativity, and one of the most enjoyable parts. I’ve not changed since.
Q> Today, businesses re-organising in response to the pandemic, with greater disruption on the horizon in the form of the climate crisis. How can tech and creativity guide businesses through these stormy waters?
Andrew> I don’t think tech will guide businesses through - strategy and creativity will, enabled by technology. Clarity of thought, understanding of purpose, and relevance of offer and narrative are more likely to be the guiding elements through disruptive change. They will inform what organisations use technology for, and ensure that the impact of doing so is positive for all.
Creativity can inspire and tell the story of change. It can make it into something impactful, inclusive, and exciting that people can believe in and share. In fact, I recently spoke to Adobe to make precisely this point for a video we produced together.
Q> Is it possible to respond to these crises effectively without a creative application of tech?
Andrew> I do think tech is a vital part of how we choose to respond – it being such a powerful enabler and co-creator. However, I think the key driving force is humanity. How our ideas, behaviours and values adapt, and do so for the benefit of more than just the business. It doesn’t take tech for that, it takes heart. Though, of course, tech can help.
Q> Are you confident in the industry’s ability to maintain high standards of creativity in a world where speed and efficiency are increasingly the priority?
Andrew> Weeeeeeeell, that depends on how you define creativity. Creativity is wide, and slippery, it can operate at scale, at speed, build over time, it doesn’t need to be finished at the beginning.
But your question raises the value of craft. The parts of creativity that are more about a discipline and long-learned skill. We have to ensure that this is respected, valued and allowed for in time and process. Craft is a differentiator, mark of quality, source of excellence, of joy, and statement of distinction. It’s vital, but in fast moving, design-led, iterative pursuit we need to consider how, when and where craft adds the value it can.
Make space for it though. Long term you won’t regret it if you do, you will if you don’t. As a competitor will focus on it and make it a key selling point against you.
Q> And more specifically, how can a company hold onto the benefits of long-term brand building when it needs to be shifting and adapting in order to be relevant to our fast-moving cultural conversations?
Andrew> You have to move slow and fast at the same time. Consistency and change must be concurrent. The core of the business, the brand at the centre needs to move slowly and provide consistency to the entire organisation. To offer strong leadership, ordinance and trust. But the edges of the business, where it touches consumers, need to move faster alongside the pace of culture. That builds relevance, insight and improvement.
These are the bookends of creative services for me. Brand and Content. Brand that is the moral guidance system for the business in change, and Content that keeps it moving in real time amongst all that change. I say bookends, but they are really connected. What happens in the fast change of content feeds into the slow change of brand.
Q> In 2007 you founded Work Club, aimed at changing the way the digital industry worked. Looking back, do you feel you’ve accomplished that goal?
Andrew> I co-founded it! There were lots of us in that Club. We started on a path that I still follow today, and did some impressive and innovative things that broke new ground. We explored and showed how digitally-led creative thinking can fundamentally transform a way of working, not just change where you put cheaper advertising assets.
What I learned is what I really already knew but on a larger scale. To quote John Hegarty, ‘advertising is 80% idea but also 80% execution’. The same is true in business transformation. You can imagine a future, but unless you can deliver and run it, it won’t ever materialise and therefore - what is that really worth?
That’s why I work at Deloitte today, because you need to be able to use technology and operations and cultural change and analytics and data and governance and lots of other things to really deliver and run a future you imagine. By adding creativity to consultancy, I think you have the best chance of doing that, at scale, and with real positive impact on society.
Q> You’ve said that creativity has a role to play in making businesses ‘more human’. Can you expand on what that means, and why is it an advantage for a business to be more human?
Andrew> Creativity in business helps address that people are now looking for businesses to be more purposeful, innovative, customer-centric and responsible in how and what they do. And so, if you use creativity to meet this need - through Brand, Ventures, Experience Design, Advertising and Content – you can connect better with your employees/customers and offer better experiences. Those experiences will be better for people, planet, and profit, than those of your competitors. Therefore, your business is going to perform better if you do that. Creativity is a competitive advantage.
Q> And are you optimistic that businesses are already in the process of becoming more human?
Andrew> Yes. There is evidence all around. It’s a journey, we’re travelling it. But you can see shifts in purpose, approach to sustainability, more meaningful experiences, equality, wellness, social responsibility, and positive impact everywhere. All good markers and points of progress.
Q> Finally, we’re at something of a bleak moment in the industry and around the world due to the events of the year so far. But what is currently exciting and inspiring you day-to-day?
Andrew> Watching Bake Off with my kids, obviously. Or teaching them about bubble gum. However, the most exciting thing for me professionally is the drive for more purposeful business and an understanding that this isn't a counterpoint to a more profitable business. This is opening up richer and much needed focus on societal values and sustainability, responding to the climate crisis and being a responsible business.
New festivals like The Good Business Festival are directly supporting and addressing this and platforms like B Corps seem to be on the rise. This is really encouraging as we face such difficult challenges ahead, wicked problems in people and planet, that many businesses are now marshalling around to best apply what they do to solve them. Let’s have more of that, and let’s let more creativity in to help drive it.