An open question for Wendy Clark, CEO, DDB North America

In a recent Fast Company, you make this proclamation: “ We get infinitely more productive when we have time to think.”

Being the cyniskeptic that I am, I immediately wonder if you truly subscribe to this tenet. Or is this just more ad-agency-upper-management lip service, of which there is already a never-ending supply?

If you mean what you’re saying, how have you instituted this belief at DDB? I’m asking this question because I really don’t know. I haven’t been in the corridors of DDB for several years, but I can assure you, this tenet was nowhere to be found back then.

I assume that, if you are serious about this time thing, you are building time into the creative process at DDB, so that your people can be more productive, not by routinely working through lunches and into the evenings and weekends, but by doing whatever works for them during working hours, the way exercise apparently works for you.

Me, I’m more productive when I have a 30-minute afternoon nap, and when I do my “producing” in 90-minute sessions, with time in between to change gears by going out for a walk, or watching TV, screwing around online, reading or yakking with co-workers. How will that regimen fit in at DDB? Have you directed your CDs to not just tolerate, but embrace, whatever form of “think time” each of your creatives chooses?

And, really, shouldn’t this apply to every single DDB employee, not just the pampered creatives, since you want every employee to be more productive?

Is there a line on all DDB’s time sheets reserved for “think time”? And have you informed all your clients that DDB will be billing them for “think time” for every employee that works on their account?

I ask you these questions because your statement about productivity and think time is radical, bordering on sacrilegious, in today’s management handbook. It seems to me that everything is geared toward compressing timelines and increasing efficiencies. Carving out think time in the name of increased productivity runs contrary to the approach that every company’s management for whom I’ve ever worked subscribes to.

So, Wendy Clark, are you a management revolutionary? Or did we just “meet the new boss . . .”? I sincerely hope it’s the former, because goodness knows this business is lacking genuine revolutionaries, while being overrun by pretenders.


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