Peak Transformation: a perspective from the Lighthouse

To commemorate the launch of Campaign’s new monthly magazine, our founder Kathleen and CEO Daren were asked their views on transformational talent. The excerpt below is from the full ‘Transformation’ article that can be read here on the Campaign website.

Vision alone is not enough to transform a business. Many a marketer and business leader have been sold a vision that is not matched by the meaningful ability and investment required to deliver transformation on the ground. The industry is awash with tales of companies seeking talented individuals to drive a shiny new agenda, only to baulk at making the structural changes and investment necessary to deliver. No creative leader can drive transformation without buy-in from the chief executive, while shareholders regularly take exception to any short-term decreases in share prices. Across the board, agencies and marketers have been burnt by briefs for transformation that turn out to be anything but.

Kathleen Saxton, founder of The Lighthouse Company, says the key question for marketers to ask is: is this a real and genuine transformation? She adds: “Transformation is the new authentic, in that many businesses are talking about it but few are actually delivering it.”

According to Saxton, transformation requires a fundamental pivot in the business to a new product or service – the rest is simple evolution or digitalisation. “What you see in certain sectors, such as publishing, is that businesses are trying to make better what they already have rather than focusing on true transformation,” she points out.

For while technology has driven the demand for transformation, the fact is that successfully delivering change remains about people. This may be uncomfortable for those industry leaders who are not equipped with the skills or desire to drive a significant change in the business. Yet on the › flipside, the growing pool of traditional agency chiefs and creatives who have successfully landed at the likes of Facebook and Google reflect the fact that the core skills of creative leadership remain in high demand.

But such leaps of faith are not for everyone, as Daren Rubins, chief executive of The Lighthouse Company and former chief executive of PHD UK, points out: “The horrible truth is that a third of the people that will come out of the industry over the coming years will find themselves asking what are they going to do next. No-one thinks this will happen to them.” He divides the industry into those that crave the future and those wedded to the past – and believes that those who hanker for the “good old days” will always struggle to re-engineer a business so it is fit for the future.