September 30, 2016

The Battle Lines Are Forming Between Strategy and Creativity

September 30, 2016

The Battle Lines Are Forming Between Strategy and Creativity

Step Change

And challengers are looking for solutions beyond Business as Usual (BAU)

The cookie-cutter days of strategic mediocrity are over. They’re not wrong; they just don’t have the differentiating power to help organisations stand out. Companies aren’t after 300-page digests that give them all the reasons for why they are where they are — they want real strategic choices made with spark and creativity. 

So is the answer ‘strategy out’ or ‘creativity in’? It seems like the battle lines are forming.

Traditional ‘optimisation’ strategy tomes crafted by consultancy add-ons to large accounting firms just seem too out of touch with this digital age. So how do we bridge the strategy and creativity divide? And not just ‘insight-observant creative strategy’ — we’re talking true ‘choiceful’ business strategy, answering the real question of beyond BAU, “Where do I apply scarce resources for maximum leverage?”

This is the battle playing out between the old and the new, according to the Sydney agency Step Change.

The acquisition of niche, creative expertise has been the main strategy driving many traditional, professional services firms. Deloitte demonstrated this attempt to reframe their offerings through their acquisition of The Explainers and MashUp. PWC sold their strategy business to IBM in 2002 and has spent the last 14 years rebuilding this capability.


Step Change’s strategy has been to integrate the essential parts of the major challenges that challenger businesses face, benchmarking what success looks like then integrating capability in these areas. 

Traditional doesn’t cut it anymore — BAU, head counts, and reporting lines have led traditional businesses on strategic tangents and offered little to no real value creation. The new way? Solving business challenges through a true collision of strategy and creativity — integrated and core (pictured above).

“Strategy meeting creativity is the core of our business. It’s this unique intersection that sits at our heart. The elements of strategy, story, scalability of marketing, breakthrough creative, digital connection, and leadership and culture all bonded together through the lens of the challenger,” explains Ashton Bishop, CEO of Step Change.

“As fragmentation and forces of disruption mount, we’ve been focused on integration and coordination from a cohesive IP foundation. The must-have capability for us was digital connection. But not just any digital connection — we needed someone who can collide strategy and creativity in a way that offers value and insight.”

Enter: Robert Steers, Step Change’s new appointment as Head of Digital.


As the former Head of Digital Marketing and CRM at Deloitte, Steers grew the global consulting firm’s digital capabilities and played a major role in their global digital transformation board. Steers, who had previously led his own agency in Sydney, said it was exciting to move away from the traditional and play a role in building the digital capabilities of a fast-growing, innovative business.

“Digital should be where strategy and creativity meet. Digital is not optional. It’s a core, strategic function that’s just as important as finance or human capital,” Steers said.

“Our clients want coordination and agility. Traditionally, performance is assessed monthly or quarterly; now it needs to be benchmarked and analysed in real-time. We want to give clients access to capabilities and advice in a way that isn’t constrained by old-fashioned thinking or traditional methods.”

So traditional professional service firms are bolting on creative offerings, and Step Change is coming the other way, focused on the collision of strategy and creativity at its core. It might be a case of Goliath services for Goliath clients, and David services for Challenger clients. But it will be interesting to see how both offerings unfold.

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