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Why diversity of thinking, ideas and people is what makes agencies a joy to work with

Why diversity of thinking, ideas and people is what makes agencies a joy to work with
At last week’s Members’ Lunch Sarah Ellis, Head of Marketing at Sainsbury’s, gave an address to the audience on her experiences and insights gained from chairing the judges for the IPA Gold CPD Accreditation. We thought her perspective as a client was an important read for our wider membership. To that end, here’s a specially edited version of that opening address.

25823008753 c6e76d0876 zGood afternoon everyone I’m delighted to be here today to present the IPA Gold CPD awards. Chairing the judging panel has been a real privilege. I’ve been inspired both by your submissions and the dedication of the IPA and my fellow judges to supporting best practise across the industry.

The brilliant news is that we have a record number of agencies being awarded CPD Gold, 41.  Very well done to everyone. I’d just like to share a couple of thoughts about the submissions this year. After a couple of years working in Corporate Affairs, I’ve recently returned to the Marketing fold and am back working alongside agencies. Someone asked me what’s the best thing about my new role and being back working with some exceptionally talented agencies is up there (albeit I’m definitely still in the honeymoon period!). There were three things that particularly impressed me about the gold awarded submissions, which I think also reflect more generally the nature of what it takes to build a brilliant agency.


Successful agencies are predicated on their ability to bring together different people, with various skill sets, to collaborate effectively in the pursuit of brilliance. This diversity of thinking, ideas and people is what makes agencies a joy to work with. The best submissions all demonstrated an inclusive approach to learning and development, where everyone could contribute to and benefit from the opportunity to learn and grow. I think we all know that learning and development isn’t the job of the HR team. As Stephen Covey, says ‘strength lies in differences, not similarities.’ Diversity and inclusivity is a hot topic and rightly so because a diverse workforce equals more innovation, improved leadership and ultimately business growth. I think agencies have an opportunity to lead the way both fostering diversity of people, thinking and ultimately in the work that’s being produced. We all get the benefits but there isn’t an easy answer so who better than the creative industry to show everyone the art of the possible.


Whatever type of communications you work in we’re ultimately all trying to stand out from the crowd and be noticed. I’ve heard this described now as thumb stopping moments. Well, there were lots of thumb stopping moments when I was reading the submissions and these range from small ideas and big cultural changes. I think what impressed me most is examples of where agencies are using their creativity to overcome constraints or challenges.

Start with the why

And finally I’m sure many of you have read or watched Simon Sinek’s talk about ‘starting with the why’ rather than the what or the how. Organisations and leaders who start with the why are the ones that outperform their competitors. All the gold awarded agencies had started with the why for CPD. There was a clear link between CPD = happy people = successful organisation. When learning is part of the DNA of your agency it permeates everything you do and it’s nearly impossible to copy culture.

There is no end to learning and development for the individual or the organisation. We all need to view ourselves and our companies as being in a constant state of ‘work in progress.’ You’ve done brilliantly this year so please keep exploring and establishing new expectations of excellence.

Thank you for inviting me to be chair of this year’s awards, it’s been brilliant to be part of such an expert judging panel and thank you particularly to Gwyn who puts all her heart and soul into championing the CPD cause. Achieving a gold award is tough and expectations are high. You have to demonstrate all the things I’ve mentioned and much, much more. You should feel exceptionally proud of achieving an IPA Gold CPD award, so very well done.

Last updated 20/04/2016

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