Triumphant Youth

Ah, the bright eyed, idea-spewing confidence of youth. You may not be able to buy it. But you can hire it. Simon Forster, Creative Director at brand and packaging design agency, Robot Food, shares his views on getting the most from young talent.

We’re in the ideas business. So we’d better not run out of them. To keep creativity flowing, you’ve got to experiment, collaborate, get involved with what’s happening culturally, share discoveries. And hire young talent.

That’s not to say good ideas are the preserve of the young. But the newbies among us sometimes have the upper hand. Think about it. Someone fresh from university is blissfully unaware of traditional industry boundaries. Their prejudices haven’t been forged by groupthink. They haven’t yet had their edges dulled by ‘the way things are’.

Creative spirit. Bravery. Ambition. Whatever you want to call it, it’s something we all start out with. And while it doesn’t ever leave us, it does evolve into something equally valuable over time. Experience and wisdom.

I’m the oldest at Robot Food, at the grand old age of 36. Founded on some good experience and a shed load of blind ambition, our business has evolved into a well-oiled creative machine with a strong strategic backbone. As we continue to develop and grow, it’s clear that the rebellious drive that kick-started us now underpins our solid structure. It also gives us our edge.

Nobel Prize-winning writer, Samuel Beckett, said, “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” To us, the best work environment is one where everyone feels confident to experiment and often fail. Without this kind of encouragement, mediocrity is the best we could hope to achieve. The agency that’s generous about mistakes is the same agency that inspires brilliant ideas. Let’s face it, you learn as much from cocking up as you do from striking gold.

We have what resembles a traditional agency formation, but when it comes to ideas, every voice is equal. It’s this level playing field that attracts the best young strikers. Two of our youngest designers have recently scored big wins on our latest projects. Both of them, barely 20 years old (and haven’t seen even one Karate Kid movie or The Goonies), and are about to see their work on supermarket shelves. What impressed the client? Their work was original. The approach was fresh and with a little guidance and encouragement, they delivered for the team.

I’m not really into football, but this analogy is perfect, because it’s through teamwork that we can all lean from and inspire each other. Of course it’s a business like football, that needs a manager, a solid, experienced midfield, a strong and reliable defence, but it’s amazing how fearless, nimble and inspirational a junior can be if they’re allowed to play a key role for the team.

In return for this encouragement, comes wins, more confidence, and worthwhile experience. Not forgetting a lot of whooping, high-fiving and the occasional triumphant dance through the studio. The result is a stronger business and genuinely great working environment.

At Robot Food our team members know they’re the masters of their own destinies. The day will come when one or two of us hit 40. What we lose in dewy skin-tone will be more than compensated for in wisdom. But just in case age gives our creative confidence a knock, our young guns will be there to make sure we behave. Or not, as the case may be.