Innovation through adversity: Kieran Mineham
Kieran Mineham is Creative Director at Bow & Arrow, an award-winning innovation consultancy based in London. Over the course of this year, the Bow & Arrow team have transformed the way they communicate. Read Kieran’s thoughts on innovating your way through adversity, creating virtual nightclubs and the unexpected benefits of Zoom.
What has lockdown been like for you as a team leader?
This year has been a huge change for Bow & Arrow as we were recently acquired by Accenture Interactive (joining the likes of Droga5, Fjord, Rothco, and many more great creative agencies) – and this November was our first year anniversary.
So really, the pandemic has been a big part of an even bigger change. Despite all of that, at the end of this year I’m left seriously impressed and deeply proud as the quality of our work is better than ever before, and the team have been finding even more agile and creative ways to work and collaborate.
Have you noticed any changes to your team culture?
Our culture hasn’t changed its just gone digital
We’ve stayed very positive and adapted to the changes by moving a big bit of our main comms onto platforms like Miro and Slack; then whenever in-person meetings are permitted, we get together.
During the summer, we had some lovely Leadership meetings in Regents Park and even managed to have a little picnic afterwards where more of the team (that were happy to) came along.
Digital has over-formalised the informal
Calendars have gotten very full because even the quickest meeting must be scheduled in, but the move to fully remote working has also brought the team a lot closer in a weird way – I now know what part of London everyone lives in, as it’s become a thing to get together with team members who live locally to you and grab a takeaway drink together. South-west London crew is the best, but I am biased…
We’ve also become a team of ‘walkie talkies’ – catching up, mentoring and giving feedback whilst having a nice stroll through the local park.
How have you and your team stayed connected over the past months?
We switch to Slack pretty early on, and now use it heavily - in fact, we rarely use emails now for any internal stuff as we have a bunch of channels going on there. We’re even starting to use Adobe less and less too because there are tools like Figma and Google docs that make collaboratve designing so easy and quick.
We use emoji’s on our Slack status’ so the team know what kind of mood we’re all in – if there’s a rain cloud we know to check-in to see if you’re doing okay.
We’ve gotten really creative with technology and found new ways to deliver information such as turning our project planning boards into adventure game inspired ‘Quest maps’ – Miro is amazing for that as you can really immersive in it.
We’re still working in the same place at once – just virtually
We have huge white walls in our office that we would brainstorm and hang our work on. We can’t do that at the moment, but we’ve recreated that way of working quite easily in Miro. And on the plus side, we have saved a lot of trees with a very sudden drop in printer usage and post-it note consumption…
We even designed a nightclub on Miro to mimic a messy team night out
Different links would take you to different parts of the club that had to be unlocked step by step as the night went on. It was crazy because we all congregated in our usual spaces, just virtually. The virtual girls toilets were hilarious (lots of bitching and smoking) and we had people dressed up and pretending to serve drinks in each of the bars etc.
We’ve learnt to stay flexible in the way we collaborate
Staying active has been very important this year, so we have had fitness classes together and have tried to do our bit for charity by completing a ‘1000k in a week’ challenge. Some of us ran, other cycled, but all to raise money for Lewisham Hospital – a place close to our hearts as our team member Liam’s mum works there. Just between our friends and family, we raised £5k in 4 days to help buy adequate PPE for her department.
Has it been manageable overseeing creative work whilst at home?
We introduced something called ‘FAMs’ (Friday Afternoon Meeting) to round off the week, where we all grab a drink and catch up as an entire company, something we only did before at the beginning of the week with MMMs (Monday Morning Meetings). At FAM, we go around all 50 of us and answer a different question every week, something like “what are you most proud of this week?”. It would be impossible to make this happen IRL, but now it happens every week and is something we all really look forward to.
If you knew you had to work from home for another year, would you be happy?
No. I’d like a balance. 1 or 2 days a week would be nice but I’m a social creature and love being in the office, I like the high 5’s, smiles as you walk past someone and random chats
We always play (quite loud) music in the office and I really miss that as that doesn’t work with being on videocalls all day. Perhaps someone could create a stereo system that can’t be picked up by laptop microphones…
I believe that 60% of my leadership skills come from reading between the lines and I miss getting to use it! We’ve been creative and adaptable but having an office, a base, a work-home is still very important to me. As soon as it’s a possibility, I think there will be a big shift back into town.
What do you miss about not being in the studio?
I miss warming up into the working day, and getting inspiration from sporadic conversations rather than scheduled ones
When you work in a creative space you can’t be switched on 100% of the time – and that’s what WFH requires. I think we’ve all become too productive for our own good, but it’s still really important to be creative, even if that now feels like a waste of precious zooming time.
I think we’ve all become too productive for our own good. Constant connectivity isn’t viable for creatives.
What is one positive that has arisen from the past few months?
I think 2020 has been a great year for the more introverted folk (I don’t love using that term as I don’t think it’s as simple as one or the other but it’s the best way to describe what I mean here…) – I’ve seen lots of the more ‘quiet people’ gain new levels of confidence because digital communication is more approachable and accessible, it’s somehow not as daunting as standing in front of a room full of onlooking eyes.
The screen has forced democratization of team meetings – everyone’s Zoom square is the same size and we all take up an equal amount of space
It’s been nice to see a shift in who contributes during meetings. Those members of the team who previously found talking in meetings daunting are now speaking up a lot more. And those that still find speaking on calls challenging can engage through the chat on the side and can still be heard or share ideas and perspectives. Sometimes the side-chat is better than the person talking!
Will you be changing the manner in which you work in the future? Ie. split between home and existing studio, finding smaller space for part time working, or short term lets even?
Before lockdown 2.0 hit, we had begun to head back into the office a bit. Not at full capacity but around 6 or 7 people in at once, and that was really nice. I’m hoping past Christmas that we can keep ramping up and start to see even more faces in real life.
The future will likely be a blend of old and new ways
video-calls and digital collaboration feel so natural now. Even back in the office, I’m sure we’ll continue to use these newly found and loved tools
Any opportunity where we can meet with each other, we jump on it, but we’re aware that people are still cautious about the commute so for now, we’re continuing to remain flexible whilst leaving it up to everyone to determine for themselves.
Learn more about Kieran, Bow & Arrow and their fantastic work here.