The past, present and future of CPD

Wunderman Thompson's Kate Bruges celebrated 20 years of IPA CPD at the 2019 CPD Platinum Dinner.

How has the world of CPD evolved? Wunderman Thompson's Kate Bruges' speech at the 2019 CPD Platinum Dinner reflected on 20 years of IPA CPD.

Good evening. I can’t tell you what an honour and a privilege it is to be here speaking to you tonight. In the world of professional development, this is the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury for me (certainly as nerve wracking) but I am with my tribe. You are the pioneers and the brilliant exponents of CPD and it is thanks to you that an idea that was born 20 years ago has gone mainstream and flourishes with a vigour that I don’t think the small group of us who came together to design and create IPA CPD could ever have imagined.

So on the 20th anniversary of CPD and with 24 agencies who represent the very best in talent development, it seems right to reflect on the journey we have been on, celebrate what CPD is achieving and think about what the future should be.

The fundamental shift from know it all to learn it all

In that time the attitudinal shift towards learning and development has been fundamental. We have moved from a "know it all" culture to a "learn it all" culture. From "smart ass" to "curious". Back then the know-it-alls believed in the cult of the gifted amateur. You either had it or you didn’t. And generally that led to superficial judgements as to whether you had it or not. And here’s the thing, the "had its" all looked remarkably similar – same schools, same universities, same socioeconomic groups, same gender… you get it… So the CPD journey of course has been about qualifications, logged hours, appraisals and inductions, and I salute you all for putting in the hours on these essentials that underpin CPD, but it has also been about some much bigger more fundamental shifts that I would like to celebrate.

The democratization of learning

Firstly it has been about no less than the democratization of learning, knowledge, understanding and expertise. Capability is no longer the domain of the chosen few, it is the right of everyone. The professionalization of our industry in particular through qualifications has opened up opportunities to a far wider group than was ever possible in the "know it all" days. These top quality quals, with amazing content written by industry leading experts with free access learning and low exam fees have truly allowed anyone who wants to develop, that chance. It is quite remarkable that 23,777 people have now passed IPA qualifications in over 60 countries, across all the major creative and media networks. This democratization is also about breaking down silos of expertise, it allows account managers to flex their strategic muscles, Planners to understand the numbers and commercial reality of the business, Finance and HR to get a good understanding of the industry at the sharp end and Creatives to understand the legal and regulatory framework that their ideas have to exist within.

From the superficial to depth and breadth of knowledge

Secondly, as well as superficial judgements on capability, I would also argue that in the era of the gifted amateur it was also possible to get away with a superficial knowledge of our business as long as you gave good PowerPoint and even better lunches. I am SO glad we started the CPD journey 20 years ago, because since then the complexity of our business has grown exponentially. It was a pre-lapsarian, pre-smartphone embryonic digital world, so maybe you could get away then with being a gifted amateur. But not now when the pace of change is so extreme. CPD has kept pace and allowed our talent to upskill and adapt to the evolving workplace and allow breadth and depth of learning through the newly revamped Excellence Diploma, the Production Certificate, and the new Digital Performance Certificate covering all the key disciplines of Digital marketing, launched last year and already with more than 150 practitioners taking it.

A key part of the mental wellbeing of talent

The third benefit I want to highlight is the crucial role that CPD has to play in the mental health and well- being of our talent. The very nature of CPD (and this was a foundation stone of CPD when we first discussed it back in the Nineties) lets you the individual take control of your own development: it’s the opportunity to learn something new, it keeps your career exciting and without exploring these opportunities there’s a good chance you’ll become bored in your work. So CPD is not only beneficial for your current and future employment but for your motivation, morale and confidence too. I would go even further than that. For those of you that attended the brilliant IPA lecture delivered by Baroness Susan Greenfield on the Neuroscience of Creativity you will have already been scientifically convinced of the benefits of using your brain to learn. Neuroscience shows that when we learn new things it induces positive changes in the brain: brain scans show an increase in grey matter and enhanced connections between the brain cells. This effect becomes even more valuable as we get older: even as we age, brain plasticity can be improved.
So when your staff are revising for their Foundation Certificate or Eff Test you can remind them of the permanent good it’s doing their brains.

But perhaps the most important link I want to make between CPD and mental health is that when people are intensely engaged in doing and learning new things their wellbeing and happiness can blossom. I am so happy that the industry has made great strides recently to talk far more openly about mental health and it’s great that Mindfulness, Yoga, Healthy Eating and Exercise classes are some of the many resources that agencies provide for their staff (and by the way I think all these activities should be CPD eligible) I want to add CPD to this list, in fact I would put it at the top of the list as what CPD does for mental wellbeing in the workplace is so important: it fundamentally fulfills three critical needs that behavioural psychologists highlight we all have: Competence, Accomplishment and Recognition: C.A.R. (I picture my CPD CAR as a sky blue convertible, electric of course, with a leaping unicorn on the bonnet zooming over the horizon to the next challenge… I’ll park that metaphor for now). When our Talent feel Competent, skilled and able to do the work they are required to do; when our Talent feel Accomplished- achieving new goals, becoming expert and gaining those MIPA letters after their name , and when our Talent feel Recognised - through regular, skilled feedback and appraisals, they flourish. They have the mental fitness and resilience to perform at their best, in the high challenge but high support environment that characterizes our most successful CPD agencies.

So, I have talked about the fundamental shift from know it all to learn it all, from smart ass to curious, CPD and its role in 3 key changes: the democratization of learning; from the superficial to depth and breadth of knowledge and upskilling in a fast changing world, and the key part it has to play in the mental wellbeing of our Talent.

A look to the future of CPD

So what next? The discipline of CPD already forces us to look to the future: what is our business objective or vision? What does this mean for our talent? What skills do they need to develop? As a result of thinking about and answering those questions many of you here are already part of shaping where CPD goes next and I encourage all of you to engage and share your thinking and needs with the brilliant CPD leaders at the IPA-Patrick, Lou, Gwyn and their team. I know they will respond nimbly and practically as they always do. In the near future we will see the free EFF essentials launched, which will, alongside Legs Regs and the Commercial Certificate, become part of the standard CPD criteria. There are now 19 learning programmes eligible to earn MIPA status and by 2020 we will hit our target of 500 accredited MIPAs.

A new focus on Creativity

From my own perspective I would like us to build more on the notion of Creative Professional Development. Cannes this year saw a return to focus on Creativity, after playing second fiddle to excitement around Data and Tech. As AI makes distinctiveness and originality through data and tech alone more difficult, and more commoditized, Creativity remains the last unfair advantage for brands. And when I think about my favourite creative artists, what characterizes them is that they are relentlessly curious ,always learning, always changing: David Bowie from seventies concept album Ziggy Stardust to the pop of Let’s Dance; Madonna from Eighties disco to Madame X; David Hockney from ink drawing to I Pad; Alexander McQueen-from radical tailored bumsters via Kate Moss’s hologram to the computer technology of his Plato’s Atlantis collection. Those few examples demonstrate that continuous learning is central to great creativity, Creativity is central to what we do, and CPD can become a far more powerful driver in developing Creativity. And I firmly believe it’s a skill that can be developed like any other , across every discipline, and Creativity shouldn’t be shut away in the old fashioned ”you either have it or you don’t” box, never to be opened.

The only prediction I will make is that in the future the idea of NOT learning throughout your life will seem as ludicrous as driving our own cars in London. I love this quote: “Live as if you were about to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” And if your CEO says that’s all very well but we don’t have the time or resources for everyone to learn like that, point out that if a 77 year old leader of a brand new nation of 330 million people had the time to have that learning mindset then so do we. Thank you Gandhi.

You are amazing

The pioneers on this CPD journey are here in this room and so I want to finish by celebrating and thanking you for your sustained commitment to CPD excellence. I want you to be the SUNG heroes tonight. Come up here on the Pyramid stage. I truly believe there is nothing more important for our talent than what you do.

You feed Creativity.

You fuel competence.

You fire up ambition.

You fanfare recognition.

You foster healthy minds.

You find brilliance.

You fight complacency.

You focus on the future.

You are flipping amazing.

Thank you.

Kate Bruges is the UK & Europe Head of Learning and Development at Wunderman Thompson and was speaking at the IPA's CPD Platinum Dinner 2019. To successfully achieve Platinum Accreditation agencies must earn Gold Accreditation four times over a five-year period. More information can be found at the IPA's CPD Hub. Photos from the IPA CPD Platinum Dinner can be found on the IPA's Flickr .

Full list of CPD Platinum agencies: 23red, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Bray Leino, Cuttsy & Cuttsy, Generation Media, Hunterlodge Advertising, iProspect, Manning Gottlieb OMD, MBA, MediaCom, MediaCom Edinburgh, MullenLowe London, Now, OMD UK, Posterscope, MKTG, PSI, The Kite Factory, The&Partnership London, Total Media, Vizeum, Wavemaker London, Wieden + Kennedy London and woolley pau gyro

Last updated 07 December 2023