The 1-2 Punch Every Creative Agency Needs

Four boxing gloves in an upwards swinging motion.

Written by Jessica Hartley, VP of Strategy

Two of boxing’s most fundamental punches are the left jab and the right cross—together known as the 1-2 punch.

In my case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I compare inclusion to 1, left jab, and diversity to 2, the right cross. The jab sets up the cross, and the impact of the cross (widely known as the power punch) is its ability to make it more challenging for an opponent to recover, therefore setting the fighter up to land more punches. To this point, I believe that inclusion sets up diversity to deliver more superior team performance. With a strategy for inclusion, diversity can bridge varying perspectives that help teams and individuals arrive at solutions more efficiently. This enhances business growth and innovation.

Working in brand communications and strategy at Instrument, and as a woman of color in creative technology, I wholly support Creative Director and entrepreneur Kat Gordon’s 3% movement manifesto “diversity = creativity = profitability.” In light of The 3% Conference that’s happening this week in San Francisco, I begin from Gordon’s POV during a recent Portland MiniCon to further the case for diversity and inclusion as a vital element of creative companies. I believe this 1-2 punch is especially relevant in creative fields which require non-linear problem solving and sets up a competitive advantage for those who implement it.

Diverse collaboration helps creative companies win

Having the best talent is incredibly important, but it’s not the complete truth. Gordon believes that the most destructive words to the future of creativity is, “Doesn’t matter who does the creative, as long as they’re good.” Harvard Business Review and many other academic journals have noted that the key to innovation and growth isn’t about getting the smartest people together in a room. Diverse collaboration helps companies win, and diverse leadership and management helps teams and individuals win. Homogenous groups can be blind to differing views whereas diverse groups, through debate and discussion, can arrive at key insights and pain points with which to create solutions—faster. The value of having diversity is that it helps an organization see where it has blind spots and to refine its perceptions.

The most destructive words to the future of creativity: 'Doesn’t matter who does the creative, as long as they’re good.

Being comfortable with the familiar (the “I know a guy, who knows a guy” method especially) will result in lazy hiring. Leaders must be careful to not continuously hire themselves. Teams must be mindful of unconscious bias—the territory where perceptions affect decision-making and where like-mindedness can inadvertently become homogeneity. Not being aware of biases can cast candidates with different backgrounds and problem-solving methods as unfit, culturally or otherwise.

Consumers are diverse and brands want to mirror their consumers. Agencies therefore must mirror their clients, who are increasingly more discerning about asking creative partners for work that reflects the real, multicultural marketplace. In the digital space, Instrument has seen a growth in clients asking for sites and platforms that are more accessible for viewers with visual or hearing impairment. And with language localization, more people around the world can read and understand what brands put forth. A diverse team is vital to client satisfaction and growth.

Inclusion is how diversity thrives

Best-selling author and speaker Bob Goff recently spoke at a conference I attended. What he stated about inclusion really stuck with me: “We invite people into our lives, work, parties … and we don’t always take the time to make them feel welcomed, that they belong there.” In the workplace, it can be difficult to think about creative innovation when employees are challenged with a sense of belonging.

Inclusion is a fundamental pillar of company culture. It’s seeing differences in each person and embracing those differences as a good thing.

Inclusion is a fundamental pillar of company culture. It’s seeing differences in each person and embracing those differences as a good thing. Inclusion, through professional management and training, sets up each individual to be able to contribute and succeed without artificial barriers. One barrier that’s common is judging an employee negatively because of a faulty stereotype. i.e. leadership qualities in a man may be perceived as negative in a woman.

Inclusion also starts with the self. If individuals feel the odds are stacked against them and they’re not receiving support and understanding, they’ll doubt their own ability and worth. In a recent article from ELLE, “Selma” director Ava DuVernay speaks to ”valuing yourself and the people around you” as a must-have to even give the fight for equality a fair chance. As an individual, do you hide the differences or contrasts in yourself or do you value them and put them forth?


The 1-2 punch of diversity and inclusion delivers superior team performance. It bridges varying perspectives, uncovers pain points and stimulates creative innovation. Ultimately it’s a competitive advantage for your organization. Don’t wait for your clients to ask, diversify your talent, instill a strategy of inclusion and poise your organization for success.

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