Creative businesses in Brazil are putting their stamp on the global map. AlmapBBDO are a stellar example of this statement, not only in their award-winning work but also their generations of leaders who have taken the company from strength to strength, navigating change in their stride. As in all parts of the world, Brazilian markets and consumer behaviour continue to change rapidly under new technology, trends, and globalization, making it even more challenging and exciting to remain relevant, fresh, and engaging. To prepare for the future in this climate, it’s vital to educate and empower the next wave of creative leaders in Brazil with the mindset and skills to analyze complexity, understand the hearts of a new generation of consumers, and find creative solutions that turn these changes into an opportunity for long-term business success. 

We speak to Michael Conrad, President of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, along with Marcello Serpa, former Creative Director at AlmapBBDO, and Luiz Sanches, Creative Director AlmapBBDO and Berlin School alumnus, about the importance of educating and empowering the next generation of creative leaders in Brazil.



Why is it important to look within the company for the next leadership generation? 

MC: Just like in sports, a company is only as strong as its bench-strength. Surprisingly often, companies look outside their business to see who is qualified to take over in future, instead of grooming leaders who are familiar with the company’s values and DNA. This risks the company’s future and its creative integrity.

MS: When I prepared to leave AlmapBBDO, everybody was noticing huge change in the industry. To be honest, I could have reached out to someone external from the digital space, like Google or Facebook. But I remembered that in media, the quality of the work you produce still comes down to the creative idea. Instead of finding someone with the full technical background, I wanted to go with someone with a background of creating beautiful work and stories who could inspire creativity in others. So Luiz was the right choice in the end.


LS: I think of leaders like pilots in a big plane. If you don’t let someone else pilot while you’re still in the air, then when you get out of the plane, nobody can fly. That’s not sustainable. Marcello gave me the opportunity to pilot the plane while he was still there. Having his knowledge and consulting was invaluable. It allowed me to make mistakes. The whole process was at a cruise altitude. If we hadn’t done it that way, I wouldn’t have been as successful at leading the agency when he left. 


Why is it specifically important to empower creative minds?

MC: By their DNA, creative people have the desire to see change and disrupt the status quo. With the right tools, they thrive in analysing complex scenarios and are more comfortable developing alternate strategies, even through change and disruption. Therefore, they can create alignment and have the ability, overtime, to oversee implementation.

MS: One very important characteristic for any creative business leader is not being afraid of challenges. Creative people can see possibilities of challenges beyond just numbers and risk. I think you need to have a little of that irrational creativity in order to jump into a challenge and not be preoccupied with the consequences. If you’re too rational, you’ll never jump! And I saw this was not the case with Luiz.

LS: For me, the Berlin School was fundamental to this. Every time I stepped in to the classroom, I could see more clearly, and I had the confidence to make changes to the way we worked when I returned to Brazil. The EMBA was a cycle of stepping away from my environment, looking clearly, and not being afraid to implement big change. And I think that’s actually what I’ve been doing since then.

What is the benefit of learning in a diverse, global environment?

MC: As industries and companies evolve, developing diverse leadership enables businesses to consider new perspectives and this, in turn, leads to creative work that speaks to a global audience.

MS: Studying away from Brazil has played a very important role in my life. I lived Brazil until I was 18, when I moved to Germany to study. Coming from a very emotional, passionate country to somewhere where the culture is so rational and functional was a shock at first. But this balance of opposites really influenced who I would become as a leader.

LS: When we don’t step out of your comfort zones, we simply repeat the same processes and never take the time to shift the process. Before the Berlin School, I was always learning on the job. This was the first time I was doing something that I was totally unused to. But it was a great experience; the global network I built, the classes, and getting out of the context of work to think about my direction. 

What is the biggest challenge facing Brazilian creative businesses in the digital era?

LS: The way people consume content has changed and we need to find a way to remain part of that. During this kind of change, you need to remember to extract from the core of company’s values, keeping the standards of creativity. You need to take the time to understand the differences happening in the clients’ businesses and in consumers’ lives to understand the core values that remain, but package them in a totally different way. 

MS: In Brazil, we have a voice and reverence that is very strong nationally, but it doesn’t travel so well because we are isolated. That is the challenge when putting our work on a global stage. But the biggest obstacle is dealing with uncertainty. Nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen in the next five or ten years, where we’re not even sure what jobs are going to exist in the future. But in times like this, education is fantastic. If you’re in a classroom full of people who have the drive to investigate and understand the changes that are happening you’re going to be so much more prepared to change yourself. When you surround yourself with forward-thinking, curious people, you can be ready, and, in turn, your company can be ready for your next move.



 Read the Portuguese edition of this interview as published in Consumidor Moderno, Brazil's dedicated print and digital publication, focusing on quailty research and insights in retail and innovation.

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