Why strategy is the most creative discipline

McCann Worldgroup’s Harjot Singh

McCann Worldgroup’s Harjot Singh


Introduced for the first time this year, the Creative Strategy Lion aims to celebrate the idea behind the idea, how strategic planning can redefine a brand, reinvent its business and influence consumers or wider culture. Harjot Singh, chief strategy officer for McCann Worldgroup, was on the committee of industry experts that helped develop the new Award category.

I have learned that the only way to get clearly defined answers is to ask clearly defined questions. It is also one of the first rules of being a very useful and valued strategist.

I love asking questions. Especially obvious ones. Often, if not always, the questions that seem obvious bear answers that are anything but obvious. One such question for me is ‘What is creativity?’ and I enjoy asking this question to everyone, especially everyone in our business – clients, creative directors, business leaders, strategists, interns, digital savants, CEOs, hipsters, head-hunters, jury presidents and cab drivers.

Last year I was on the Creative Effectiveness jury at Cannes Lions and during the course of our debate to determine the Grand Prix, I heard and wrote down one of the most compelling explanations of what creativity means – creativity is about finding hidden opportunities by perceiving the old in new ways.

In a business like ours where strategy, at its core, is still about creating, claiming and delivering value through differentiation, this description of creativity is therefore also the most articulate explanation of why strategy is the most creative discipline in our business.

The inaugural Creative Strategy Lion is meant to make us all deliberate on this narrative – appreciate it, applaud it, learn from it and scale it.

And rightly so; as our business landscape evolves, the distinction between strategy and creativity has progressively become less clear.

The principles of strategy and creativity converge because we’re all looking for new ways to set the foundation for growth in ways that offer surprising, creative breaks from conventional thinking to address the way in which seemingly classical marketing challenges now present themselves.

At its core, every effective strategy is based on a creative idea informed by the brand’s point of view and the meaningful role it seeks to earn in peoples’ lives.

While not always instantly and directly measurable, creative strategy is evident along every brand action, engagement and exposure and it needs to be appreciated and evaluated as such.

In a new world order, where intuition and rigour are equally critical in affecting success, the Creative Strategy Lion is meant to provoke us all to appreciate, rethink and reimagine the role of creativity in the strategy-making process.

Harriet Palmer