Are we challenging ourselves with the biggest questions? That was provocation from John Harrison when he ignited fierce competition amongst the BBH London strategy department with a challenge to save the nation.

Sir John Hegarty often says “Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you”. So with that in mind, all the Strategists at BBH were encouraged to enter the recent IPPR Economics competition. To be in with a chance of winning the £100,000 main prize (and a special BBH prize) all we had to do was answer the following question –

“What would be your radical plan to force a step change in the quality and quantity of the UK’s economic growth?”

Whilst solving this question may appear a tad above your typical Strategist’s paygrade, the call for entries specifically said “you didn’t have to be an economist to enter – you just have to have a brilliant idea”. So, given that BBH prides itself on the power of difference to make a difference, then this seemed right up our street.

In the end 28 BBH Strategists authored or co-authored 19 entries, with radical ideas ranging from sacking the treasury and replacing them with a panel of independent economic experts; enforcing mass transparency across business so that the tide rises for everyone; and driving productivity through happiness by providing everyone access to a pet at work.

There were two things that really shone through from the judging and the following discussions with the strategists –

  1. Sir John was right (who knew?) – once people overcame their initial fear due to the apparent enormity of the task, they genuinely enjoyed coming up with radical ideas and demonstrating why these ideas would solve the problem. Whatsmore, it’s amazing how frequently they have since used what they learnt in other aspects of their work. Doing this competition has made them better at their job.
  2. The competition re-enforced that creativity is such a powerful and criminally underused tool. All too often it is saved for ‘the communications bit at the end’. This competition was a good reminder that we should be approaching every single problem with a radically creative mindset to see where it can take us.

The result for the main competition is still ongoing, so we still hope that one of us will be £100,000 richer come mid-May. Congratulations to Richard Madden for having won the BBH internal competition as marked by 4 independent judges. Richard’s winning paper on Gross National Creativity is here.