Change the sport

Not knowing can be your biggest advantage.
change the sport

Play the same game.

When moving into new sectors, your biggest advantage can be not knowing how it’s done. As we found when we set out to make a movie.

Launching Story, our film production company, as a partner to our brand agency DixonBaxi was an exhilarating and often brutal process. Along the way we met many people who asked, quite reasonably, why we had any right to be allowed to do this. Who would take us seriously? Who would invest the fortunes required to produce feature films with people who – impressive as the CVs of our team might have been – had no track record in delivering the product we set out to make?

These objections will be familiar to anyone who has set out to do something radically different to what they’ve done before – from taking a position in a new industry to launching a new company. The conversations they led to would give us invaluable insights into how things were done in our new industry.

What they overlooked, however, was the power of the alternative experience that the new entrant brings.

Go with your gut and reap the rewards.

As we pushed forward into financing and producing our first feature film, we observed a very interesting recurring phenomenon. At several points we came to a fork in the road; one route was the path of our instincts, while the other was the path of doing what we had recently learned we should do.

Whenever we chose our instincts [and experience in other sectors] over conventional wisdom, we generated positive outcomes. Conversely, in several situations we chose the path of doing what we had learned worked for others at the expense of following our instincts, and regretted it – even to the extent of making costly reversals of those decisions later.

Ignite creativity by looking outside your ‘bubble’.

The takeout is of course not that we were always right (we weren’t). The key observation is that there’s an inherent power to having different experience. Different ways of doing things will lead to different outcomes – ones that are truer to how the people behind them view creativity and business.

So with our agency hats on, it still surprises us that prospective clients obsess over sector experience as a prerequisite to even getting a foot in the door. Occasionally a bold thinker emerges who realises that attitudes and influences from outside these little bubbles can be the driver of real stand-out creativity. And that actually, the agency with no preconceptions could just be the one to shake things up.

Borrow from other industries to challenge tradition.

In every business sector, ways of thinking and acting develop organically over time. Related sectors will often develop quite different ways of working, and may also have low levels of mobility between them, preserving this dissimilarity of process. The man in the street could be forgiven for expecting ‘film’ people, ‘television’ people, and ‘advertising’ people to operate in very similar ways, but the working practices of each industry are in fact extremely different.

How industries work often evolves at a relatively glacial pace. How things are done is often a matter of tradition, and structures shaped by the prevailing technologies of the preceding decades. Processes and ideas from other sectors can kick-start radical new ideas, and create significant advantages for new entrants.

Gain buy-in by imparting your experiences on others.

In an industry such as film, an overcrowded marketplace with an oversupply of homogenous product, our different way of looking at how the work should be made has enabled us to challenge our partners and collaborators. Subsequently it has built a powerful platform from which to make a product that stands out.

As we move onto our second and third films, we will be learning at an incredible rate. We will, however, be determined not to forget how we saw the world before we joined the industry.