Internal awards schemes help build a creative culture

We spend a lot of time looking at ways to foster creativity, the essential ingredient that makes good design great.

It is good news, therefore, when we happen upon a scheme that appears to work consistently.

This is the case with Coley Porter Bell’s annual Blue Sky award. CPB staff are invited to submit a proposal for a project they are passionate about, which could benefit themselves and the company. The author of the winning idea is given £2000 and two weeks’ paid leave to develop the concept, with a view to realising it in six months.

Simple? Well maybe, but when the winner’s quest is to write a novel – as is the case with account manager Tom Byam-Cook, whose idea won last week – the feasibility of the project and its value to the consultancy is not as obvious as the successful bid by creative director Adam Ellis to launch ice-cream van brand Scoop on the back of last year’s Blue Sky win.

It will be impressive to see Byam-Cook pull it off, given the number of budding novelists who have failed without time constraints. But we may see the birth of a new genre as a result.

CPB has made a leap of faith in backing Byam-Cook, and a commitment to writing uncommon in a consultancy with packaging at its heart. The management is meanwhile confident that there will be huge publicity value in Byam-Cook’s efforts. We wish him luck.

WPP-owned CPB isn’t the only group doing this kind of thing. At the other end of the spectrum is independent consultancy SAS, with annual reports and digital communications among its offers. Last week it celebrated its 2006 Design Idol winner, gleaned from presentations of actual projects to a panel of external judges and scored in Strictly Come Dancing style.

Whether as bold as Blue Sky or more like Design Idol, such schemes help build a creative culture, while having fun. Design Week’s 2006 Creative Survey, published next week, will offer more thoughts on the subject.

Lynda Relph-Knight

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