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Creating a Culture of Security

Marsh Middleton, Business Director at Responsive Digital Inc.

— March 21, 2017 — Business
Marsh Middleton is the Business Director at Responsive Digital Inc., a digital production house that offers expertise in video services, web, design, and development. He spoke on his company's open culture, its effective brainstorming techniques, the importance of trust, and the value of taking the time to unplug when it comes to reigniting creative inspiration.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Responsive Digital Inc.?

I’m the Business Director here at Responsive Digitial, which was founded about six years ago. We started out operating from inside of a garage in South Africa. Eventually we started building a network of clients and grew from there.

Culture is really important to our company, so we invest a lot of time into ensuring that the work environment is positive for everyone. We try to meet frequently and ignite some inspiration in everyone as often as we can.

Now, we’ve expanded from Cape Town and have a offices in New York. We also plan to have more offices in London and LA in the future.

How does your team generate great ideas? Do you have certain rituals to make creativity happen?

Creating a culture of security and encouragement is very important when it comes to creative thinking. If people are fearful of sharing their ideas, they’re not going to be able to bring the best that they can offer from a creative perspective.

What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them?

I think the biggest barrier is trust. From an innovative perspective, it's important to have trust in those you’re working with, as well as to show your clients that they can trust you. To overcome this, we think of it as a kind of long-term partnership or relationship. You have to continuously prove yourself to maintain a level of trust.

How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and insights?

We do a lot of external research, so we use resources like Trend Hunter and others. We also look at a lot of peer-based sites that have gotten acclaimed rewards so that we get a full understanding of what’s happening around us.

We try to look to different resources so that we can curate the best of what we’ve found so that we can apply to our own needs. We also communicate with out clients to see what their opinions are, which can be really helpful and save on time.

Do you have specific rituals for resetting to be creative?

To be creative, we normally try to not have more than three people in a room when we’re brainstorming. If we need to do a creative deep dive, we find it’s best to maintain an unbiased outlook by having three people, but when there’s more than that, we find it just becomes a crowd, which can be overwhelming and counterproductive.

What are some examples of things you can do to create a culture of innovation?

You need to facilitate teamwork and maintain trust among employees. To do that, we do a lot of team building activities, which can really help people to feel more comfortable with one another. From there, we’re able to share great ideas and be more mindful of that task that’s at hand within the company.

We do Monday morning staff meetings, share within the company on every level, and constantly collaborate with one another to ensure that we’re maintaining that culture of innovation.

What do you think your industry will look like in 10 years?

Our industry changes the world in a sense, so I think there will be a lot more niche networks and it will be totally data-driven. The Millennial generation and the way that they engage with our industry will really influence it in the future. AI will become second language and at a certain level, we’ll surpass the digital transformation age and go into a new age where AI will help us make different decisions at a very high level.

At a granular level, we’ll still be developing and the content that comes from creators will be even more important because human emotion simply can’t be replaced. You’ll see a lot of different mediums arise in the industry too.

What’s the most unconventional thing you have done to get creative inspiration?

Completely switching off and just retreating from all stimulus, to a place where it's just you, your thoughts, and your creativity. Sometimes you need to do a digital detox to give your mind space and not be distracted.