Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Where are the thinkers this time around? and where did they go?

It’s possible that I am giving this too much thought, but there is no denying that we are on the crest of another golden time for the Industry. Looking at the New Media Age Top 100 Agencies list there is definitely money around and that all important feel good factor is back.

There should however be lessons learned from last time and looking around, I’m not completely sure that they have been.

At the time of the last boom many of us had entered the industry from related industries between ’96 and 98, but we had also experienced the recession of the early 90s and our plans and aspirations were tempered against that economic background.

The team I joined has now passed into Internet folklore but the main thing that made Bluewave great was that there were a core group of people who had a lot of enthusiasm, complimentary skills and each was a thinker. We spent hours (after hours) sitting with a pint in one hand whilst we conversed, discussed and argued about what was going to happen and how each new invention or trend was going to fit into our overall business model. It gave us a sense of team which was pretty formidable but also gave each person an equal stage on which to put their thoughts and make their points.

The sad thing is that a lot of those people have now left the industry, either through choice or disillusionment through the lean times of 2002 / 2003. You cannot blame them really, but my point is that the industry is poorer for loosing them, and doubly poorer because in their stead are a group of people whose main criteria for being there was that they were young and work cheap. Things have picked up again this year and the same people have been promoted, but do not have any experience of how things were when it was going well. My observation is that very few them are ‘thinkers’ in the same way that the first generation web wizards were. I agree with an observation made on Alex Barnett’s Blog that ideas are cheap, but unless thought has been given and the idea conceived, there is no opportunity to implement it well.

Whether the Web Design industry realises it or not, it has lost a lot of thinkers. Using the same example as above, others of those thinkers have gone to software companies, which is also a loss, as software companies (with possibly the exception of Sun) have no interest, other than in selling software.

What I find myself wondering is what it would take to lure back those who have left, and whether we are going to see gatherings of thinkers in services based companies emerging through this new golden age, or whether it is going to be purely about churn and doing what was asked of you, rather than what will work best.

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