Last night I went to a discussion at the Times Center, a 300-seat auditorium in the new New York Times building. It was moderated by three-time Pulitzer-prize winner Thomas Friedman and the panel featured Nobelist Paul Krugman, National Book Award finalist Joe Nocera and author-historian-economist Carmen Reinhart. Together and for the next 90 minutes the four had a lively discussion about the economy and the trouble the entire world faces.
At one point, Nocera brought up two factories he visited recently in North Carolina. One built by the German mega-corporation and Nazi lubricant Siemens, the other built by Caterpillar, the tractor people. Together to build these factories the companies were given $36 million in tax relief (socialism for the rich) and together these factories employ a whopping total of 1,200 people.
In Obama's Osawatomie speech yesterday, he mentioned "Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100."
Everywhere such realities are present. Except perhaps in our industry.
Yes, I know most agencies have dramatically downsized. Yes, I know that basic digital work is being "off-shored" to places like Costa Rica or Minsk. Yes, I know all that.
However, I also know that I have a purportedly big client meeting tomorrow to discuss 2012 planning. I know that to put a deck together has probably, so far, cost the agency 500 man hours. And I know that, unsatisfied with the meandering group-think that is the output of all these banal and wasted hours I sat at my table and wrote the deck we eventually decided to use. It took me one hour.
I do not like writing decks. It's not what I do. But I like even less sitting in massive meetings and "collaborating" with people who are sentencely-challenged.
It does not take a lot of people to do what we do.
It takes, often, a lone person thinking clearly and without distraction.
That "model" is cost-efficient and produces work that is more solid.
I don't know why we make things so hard.