That’s simple to the point of being simplistic. It overlooks the fact that organizations are different because they interpret the world differently. Transformation depends more on those in the agency who welcome the newcomers than the newcomers themselves.
This is to say that we need to think about this transformation above and beyond people changing jobs in this industry. Organizations are accounts of the change that is happening around them. They are sense-making tools. Their ability to adapt – and absorb – changes around them take way more than a simple hire. How they adapt and absorb depends on the already existing organizational structure and dynamics, which in turn emerged from the need to most efficiently and adaptively interpret the world around them. When those interpretations start to fail more often than they succeed, organizational change happens. Or not. In any event, it’s the question of slow, laborious, and highly managed process that spans to all and every department and their interrelations – and not of the HR department alone, as we are too often led to believe.
A digital agency that was building websites, and then platforms, and then ecosystems, has an inherent and strong revulsion for anything that has to do with advertising. A newly hired “traditional” person mentions brand behavior, and the organization scoffs at it as unmeasurable. That person pushes for a brand story, and the organizational culture pushes back. The same goes for traditional agencies: unless a “digital” person has a strong and unflinching support of a CEO, she won’t last long. Even with this support, it’s a daily struggle. And that’s the fact.
Case in point: saying that “user experience and engagement are the new art and copy” is an attempt – if you grew up in a traditional agency – to interpret the world through the concepts that you are familiar with and that make sense to you. For people who are outside that interpretative framework, this makes absolutely no sense, simply because they have never interpreted the world through art and copy.
Trying to find the answer in “ideas” that “transcend” execution, media and technology neither helps our understanding nor brings an insight. If digital teaches us anything, it is that there are no ideas that are separate from their executions, and that the best ideas are about how to execute, how to design technology, and how to transform the media. They are not what, they are how. And who comes up with the how? Well, you guessed, it – it’s the organizations, traditional and digital. Media, creative, stories, tech, software and experiences are not all one and the same simply because they are generated by organizations that make sense of the world differently.
In this context, a solid organizational consultant may be a better bet than a newly minted title (Chief Digital Officer? Chief Innovation Officer?) that's supposed to signify how transformative an agency is.