Having a culture of play and adventure in work is important. Sergio Lopez, head of integrated production at McCann Worldgroup, explains how he avoids boring in his everyday...
Nobody wants boring. Friends don’t want boring. Partners do not want boring. Clients definitely do not want boring. It does not matter the context, the industry, the country. Being boring is a very lonely way of strolling across life.
Boring is my biggest fear. It is not difficult to become boring as a corporate entrepreneur. Corporations provide a certain level of stability which minimise the level of personal risk in the short term and therefore a key driver in entrepreneurship: hunger. They also tend to be certainly averse towards the main driver for innovation: risk. So many times I’ve seen people around me that reach a certain level of seniority, recognition or success and quickly lose sight of what brought them there.
That tends to be the case with people that put their entrepreneurial skills at the service of the company’s goals, but lack a personal mission. While the company’s vision and values are a great way to bring the workforce together, it is the personal vision which defines and drives entrepreneurs. My own personal mission is what makes me get out of bed early in the morning and what makes me stay awake until late. What makes me read, research, theorise, try, learn, improve, think. Living my life like an adventure reaching out for my mission is my way to fight boring.
I grew up not understanding an industry that segregated creatives and business people and boxed them with titles. I struggled for years to fit in a place that separated creativity and how that creativity was brought to life. After a couple of decades, I reached the conclusion that there was a need in the market for a place that challenged that model. I made it my mission to be a part of building an industry model that revolves around evolving the 'creative' culture into a 'creators' one.
While the temptation to open my own company with some very smart people was there, I felt that developing this vision within an existing organisation of a certain scale with existing resources provided the ability to play at a much bigger and exciting scale. Being a start-up has challenges and having a start-up mentality within a successful global organisation brings the best of both worlds. In the pursuit of my mission, I have embarked on an adventure which has made me do things that at the times were not understood by my peers - taking financial gambles, changing companies, changing cities, changing continents. I then joined McCann in 2014, the place I call home and the company in which I have been able to develop as an entrepreneur.
I’ve been lucky to be able to bring my vision to life at a time when marketing and advertising are constantly changing and there has been a lot of room to play and grow. Being part of an industry in flux is not for the faint of heart. We’re all trying to reach a constantly changing target, therefore I find myself continually rethinking how to get there. It has become a terrific adventure and boring seems like a very foreign concept.
Now. There is a difference between adventure and professional Russian roulette. Here are some things I tend to evaluate before jumping into one:
- Is this an opportunity to do something new? It might be cliché, but doing something that has been done is not necessarily worth the effort. I get a thrill when I have to build something new. I do my research and get inspiration from other people, most of the time outside my industry. I can’t imagine spending a few years of my life building something that somebody has built and wondering what my value was.
- Will it broaden my network? My strongest reason for taking global or regional roles is that it has allowed me to meet people all over the world and industries. I truly enjoy being a connector and I often find myself helping other people with their projects. Sometimes those projects inspire me and I can bring some of these people on board with my adventures.
- Am I going to learn something (even if I fail)? I can easily pin point everything that I’ve learnt in each job that I’ve done and all those lessons have made me stronger. I have sometimes found myself in jobs that I hated at the time, but even in those I learned something about my job and also about life.
- Will it make sense and pay off: "Why would you leave your current job to go to...?" I have heard that one many times. When I was going from big companies to smaller ones, from creative to more corporate, from the US to the UK. The answer is as simple as "because I see it as an opportunity to do something new and different that will propel my career if I succeed".
- Will it make my son proud? As a single dad of one boy we spend a lot of time together. He puts up with a few weekend conference calls, worrying faces and frustrations. It is great when I tell him what we are working on and he says, "That’s worth the effort Daddy. Make it amazing".
It is easy to fall into complacency, routine and defensiveness but truth be told every business is in constant evolution and in desperate need of entrepreneurs to move it forward with their new visions. Meanwhile, I’m far from being bold enough, rich enough or stupid enough to allow myself to be boring.